It’s rare for me to criticize a restaurant in writing for various reasons. For example, the restaurant might have had an “off” night, the article might be irrelevant to readers in other cities, or it’s plainly not worth my while.
I am, however, taking time to write this because the issue lies in the bigger picture:
Celebrity chef restaurants.
Note: portions are smaller than they appear.
4 bites of hamachi $15
There are chefs that are promoted to celebrity chef status purely for their talent and hard-earned achievements. I’m willing to be on a waiting list or to plan my trip around a meal because I have no doubt that it’ll be worth every dime and second. A few household names are Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller, Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, you know the drill.
Spot prawn cocktail $11 ($9 / lb at the market)
Then, there are those that regard their celebrity status first and are chefs second. They became famous for their charismatic stage presence and so groupies flock to their restaurants and merchandise. It’s only a matter of time until they have no control or even idea of what their restaurants are serving.
Gordon Ramsay immediately comes to mind. I refuse to step foot in Flay’s gaudy grills. Wolfgang Puck stands at the bottom rung because the only times I’ve eaten at his “restaurants” were out of dire desperation i.e. at an airport and post-clubbing in Vegas. Oh actually, I was very impressed by Mario Batali’s restaurant, despite my initial skepticism, so he’s spared from this category.
Sweet and sour eggplant $7.5
Still, there are others that rely on their pedigree to strive for celebrity status. While that’s all fine and dandy, please do not neglect your craft that brought you here in the first place. Don’t forget that at the end of the day, it’s not about filling seats with curious diners. The game is to keep your guests coming back and wanting more.
7 potato gnocchi $10
So… if you want moderately attractive but rather bland food, tweezer-tiny portions and in turn, nonsensical prices…
if you crave obnoxious named cocktails like the New Fashion that are ironically prepared with little finesse…
Black Cod, as seen on TV $18
if you enjoy watching the celeb chef rub shoulders with select, star-struck guests while he disregards the rest…
or if you hanker for an overall sense of disappointment, simply visit your nearest Top Chef Canada contestant’s restaurant. You can even catch the show as it airs from their bar while you eat.
Be sure to plan ahead for your next stop because after dropping a stupid amount of cash, you can bet you’ll still be hungry. (My friends and I headed to a nearby cocktail bar to conclude our evening).
Why am I writing this? Partially because I’m disgruntled by this recent dining experience but in actuality, I took such pretty photos that it’d be a shame not to post them somewhere.
That said, I do know better than to judge a restaurant upon its initial stages and I technically should give a place slack. I am not discrediting the hard work and dedication that restaurants and chefs put into their establishments. In fact, it’s greatly commendable and I’ll likely return for a second try at another opportunity. This is just my personal reaction to the meal and does not mean yours will be the same.
Regarding writing negative reviews: I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Apparently, I also offend people when I only write about my positive experiences, so there you have it. Take it with a grain of salt.
What have your experiences at celebrity chef restaurants been like? I’d love to hear them all.
13 Best Things to Eat in Austin Right Now in the Fall of 2013
Belated Austin Restaurant and Bar Openings Plus an Olive Dessert Just Cuz
The Best Croissant in Paris, Look No Further