Nearly everybody has gotten their underwear in a bind over tasting menus recently. Food critics around the country are teeing off on chefs and deriding their tasting menus as being long, boring, and repetitive. In general not being what, or the way, they want to eat. New York Times food critic Pete Wells put it thus “…when I face a marathon of dishes chosen by the restaurant, I often feel the same trapped, helpless sensation.” Really?!
Dear Miss/Mr Food Critic, let not your heart be hardened. As I see it Adam Smith said it best in “The Wealth of Nations” when he talked about division of labor, specialization and free markets. People will pursue work that is in their best interest, like making a two dollar beignet. Customers can feel free to pay for that work, or go to his/her competition down the street and eat a seventy-five cent doughnut.
Well I’m sure he meant to say that, and probably did somewhere in the 5 volumes that make up the book. But I’d be Lance Armstrong-ing if I said I read the whole thing. But as there was no television or X-box 360 back then people liked to get a certain amount of heft for their reading dollar or “pound” as it were, and this book gave the people what they wanted in spades.
The only issue I have with critics bitching about tasting menus is that they are paid to write about food they’ve eaten. My dad used to have a saying when I’d ask him how work was he’d say to me “I’ve got to be somewhere for eight hours a day.” Dad was being modest as he was usually there a minimum of twelve hours and oftentimes more. In the summer near the heat treating machines the temps would be in the 120+ F range all summer long.
So now I ask you Miss/Mr Food Critic, when your ass is tired from having to sit for a whole four or five whole hours in a padded restaurant chair, your face has been stuffed with foie gras, truffles and fine wines… How bad is it really? Your palate exhausted and you think to yourself “I could use a break.” Well guess what… people in hell could use ice water.
Go to a tasting menu only restaurant or don’t go it’s really up to you. The good ones will stay and the bad ones will fold but in the end food critics should write about food they have stuffed in their pie holes, not bitch about having to do it. It’s a tasting menu you’re going to experience, not working a twenty hour shift in a salt mine.
There are people out there really busting their asses for a living, like the chef’s doing tasting only menus. When tasting only chefs/restaurants are doing good work say so. If they are doing poorly in taste/service/execution then say that as well. But don’t come crying to me when your editor tells you to try the new tasting menu at Per Se, I’ll tell you the same thing my father told anyone that bitched about a cushy job. “My heart is pumping piss for you.”