This movie is beautifully storied and filmed. The timing of its release comes at a point when specialness has all but left the contemporary food scene (more on that later). Also, I love that it calls out some noted thieves and hacks that continue to capture the press and minds of so many sheep (more on that later…)
Chef Tower is so pivotal in the development of modern American cuisine that it’s hard to fathom what we wold be cooking had he not come along. Yes, his personality can be brash and arrogant but so what! Too often the public demands that people (artists) live up to an unrealistic puritanical view of steadfastness in this American life. Greatness hardly ever embodies that.
Also, it does a good job of showing how ruthless and short sighted restaurant owners, the public and critics are. It took a huge pair to take over that disaster called Tavern on the Green but I’m pretty sure if a bit more time, money and effort was put into play, we could have had a version of Balthazar in the park (as opposed to the cafeteria cuisine is almost always has been). C’est-la vie.
On the contemporary food scene and loss of specialness. Today it seems every restaurants M.O. is to offer a little bit of bullshit from every culinary trend thats hitting the bloggosphere. Pot stickers meets hummus sashimi meets kimchee meets pastrami sandwich meets ramen meets miso salmon meets the uber destructive avocado toast….blah blah blah. I can’t stand it any more-not everything is supposed to be available everywhere. Too many liberties are taken by chefs and owners that they have no business taking. So much of this American restaurant vernacular are these limp dick posers that have never done any kind of a deep dive into the origins of what they are cooking and it continues to drive me to drink.
On the thieves and hacks. So in many of the early scenes of Chez Panisse kitchen you see Mark Miller in the background cooking. He, as all my mates know, is one of my major mentors and one of the most important chef’s this country has put forth. Many was the day at the Coyote he would regale us with stories of Alice being passed out under a prep table after a 4 day coke bender. She couldn’t cook her way out of a plastic bag was thought by many. It was nice to see validation to all the stories I’ve heard on the big screen. Yet she still is held in such regard by so many people. Tragic yes but I love how she is finally called out in this movie.