What is acceptable food?I have been lucky enough to have lived all over the United States: California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida and the Caribbean. The thing that bothers me most is not the difference in the cuisine, but the difference in what is considered acceptable fare.
In California and, I imagine, New York, fresh product is “a must” to please the customers’ palates. I use California and New York as reference because they seem to set the standard for the rest of the country. I do understand there is a time and place for some frozen products.
Let’s talk quality. If you have to use a pre-made product, please take the time to find a wonderful artisan creation to sell to your customers.
This is where it gets tricky. I now live in a place where actual quality is not necessary or important. What seems to be important is the illusion of quality. Fancy written menus promise food that when it arrives is nothing like the menu depiction. I now realize that in some parts of the country, it is more important to have a well written menu than the talent to execute it or even honest ingredients.
Example: I went to what is purported to be a fine dining restaurant with my wife. The dish I ordered came with whipped potatoes. Now for me, this conjures up fluffy, pillowy potatoes; what I got instead was soupy slop on a plate. Note: if you are going to use white pepper to be posh, please taste before serving.
Now without setting off on a long rampage of places where this happened recently; I ask the question, why do we allow this to go on? Is it that we do not care anymore, or has this just become the norm and now we accept it?
For me, certain things are unacceptable. When I order a dish with Vidalia onions, I expect Vidalia onions. If they are unavailable or not in season, change the menu. I do not mind paying for good food, and I accept the fact that every restaurant can have a bad night, but blatant lying on the menu has to stop.
We as chefs should call them on it when we are out dining. By doing this we can stop the madness. It is not fair to chefs who spend the time to find just the right ingredient to make their dishes perfect.
To those who say what the customer doesn’t know won’t hurt them, shame! You are a chef, you know better, and you should care. It is why the owners hired you.