Many chefs think that they can open deeply memorable restaurants with profound emotional depth and remarkable flavors. You might say that these folks are the novelists of the culinary world. However, the great restaurants, like the great novels, are few and far between.
More chefs, especially within the past five years, when celebrity became associated with an essentially working class profession, are keen on using their restaurants to tell their own very personal stories. These are like memoirs. A few memoirs give us insight into hidden lives, private experiences, shameful events, and profound resiliences. The problem with most memoirs is their unbelievable indulgence, among many of their authors, and a lack of adequate observation of things outside the self.
And aren’t most restaurants that serve food from other countries a lot like reading a book in translation? Rarely as good as the original.
It seems that the best books are the ones that show us events, inner and outer, in which the writer is the camera or recorder rather than the self-celebratory object. You can readily say the same for chefs and restaurants: The food should inhabit the imagination of the guest; the guest should think about the food.
It would be lovely if chefs had insight into what they do best as individual practitioners of a profession defined by working class values. Leastways that’s what I learned from reading Ozzy’s book about his life in northern England.