The Future is Now

In today’s NY Times, there’s a fierce, provocative review of Per Se, written by Pete Wells, and Thomas Keller’s iconic, three star Michelin restaurant, where dinner is as much as $1500 a couple, doesn’t fare fare well at all:

This may seem to be an isolated subject–after all, so few people go to the restaurant–but it’s a review as iconic and meaningful as its subject matter, and it will be as influential as Ruth Reichl’s notorious review of Le Cirque in 1993.  In that review, she criticized the way women were treated and how regulars are favored to a degree that makes ordinary customers get far less of an experience at the same price.  That review changed the way women are treated in NYC restaurants and helped pave the way for service-driven models like those of Danny Meyer.

This new review of Per Se will have comparable influence.  You can say goodbye to long tasting menus that cost $500 a couple.  You can say goodbye to the use of cheap, idiosyncratic menu items that generate revenue, but are inferior to better stuff.  EG: Halibut or flounder?  Wild mushrooms or matsutake?  Choice beef or prime?  Chefs won’t be able to rely upon their name brand so much any more.

As the country has become more knowledgeable about food, and how to cook it at home, with ingredients once reserved for chefs now available to ordinary consumers, people will expect restaurants to reflect the change in  tastes.

In countries where food is part of identity, and where people can cook, the restaurants tend to be ingredient driven and, when really good, to be, “Almost as good as what we have at home.”

That’s where we are headed: That the food in restaurants needs to be almost as good as it is at home.  And the restaurants that try to top that?  Yesterday’s news.


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