Since now's the ideal time to consume copious amounts of shore food, it's only natural that I've come across a good share of recipes for freshly steamed lobsters served with drawn butter or wok-fried crabs tossed in garlic sauce. But I've got a confession to make: Although I frequently cook and eat the fruits of the sea, I've never actually prepared live seafood. Why? Because I'm slightly afraid of getting pinched by monster claws (anyone seen Annie Hall?), or ending a crustacean's life in a way that's less than humane. Do you feel the same?
Should a diner expect to find a renowned chef in the kitchen the night he pays a visit to an acclaimed restaurant? That's the question molecular gastronomy superstar Grant Achatz poses in his latest guest post for the Atlantic. Achatz, the mastermind behind Chicago restaurant Alinea, addresses the concern, reassuring diners that they shouldn't be too disappointed when the chef isn't in the kitchen the night they dine. He argues that a star chef's absence from a kitchen can actually be beneficial for the chef, his staff, and even the restaurant's guests. The chef has an obligation to tend to other aspects that will make the business successful, and the ever-present obligation of the kitchen will only hinder creativity. Because the second-in-line chef de cuisine feels excited at the prospect of leading a kitchen, he may execute at a higher level than the chef. Achatz writes:
All these activities pull the chef away from the kitchen and therefore the food, but ideally make the restaurant, the brand, and hopefully the overall guest experience better. The diners gain access, the business is financially rewarded, and the employees benefit from freedom and resources not typical in an average restaurant.
While I agree with these points, I believe that this condition only applies in avant-garde dining, where the kitchen staff are exceptionally trained. What do you think: are you disappointed when a celebrity chef isn't in the kitchen of his own restaurant? If so, can you sense a difference in taste?