Imagine my surprise when I tuned into The Times last week to read, “A question that I’m constantly asked by people who know that I spent more than five years as The Times’s restaurant critic is what my most memorable meal was. It’s impossible to single one out. But a dozen or so experiences indeed eclipsed the others, and they included an evening at Alain Ducasse at the Essex House…”
So there in black and white a great critic of the Times listed among his best meals one that I had almost entirely cooked as a sous when I worked the stove for Monsieur Ducasse. Though before I had the opportunity to feel any pride Frank Bruni quickly detailed why a meal like that could have contributed to his current condition.
In what was a telling moment about that review I wanted to reach out for the arm of Monsieur Ducasse the moment he told me they where on course seven. “Course seven, and this is the first time you mention his name?” I said. “He will see what he wants to see,” he said to me, adding, “…I am confident”.
As Frank Bruni pointed out, none of us should have been as confident about what we were doing, what we were eating, and what we were serving as we were.
Now we are here. The critic and the cook suffering the same fate, nearly the same ailments. Our lives are intertwined in ways no other artists and critics are, genetically, on a molecular level, and permanently. Our intimacy transcends every desire to be so intertwined, yet by your hand and mine we have nearly ruined each other.
So it would seem that having arrived at this point we would conspire to work together to improve our ways, to offer healthy alternatives, to remind people of the cost of huge portions of butter and sugar, of fat and alcohol. In short to learn from our mistakes, and to promote change.
Alas it seems that this is unlikely to be the case, though some cooks will lead, and some critics will follow, for both too many desire above all to be popular. As is too often the case what we have learned will be ignored. As I write this mansions dedicated to serving mounds of meat are being built, and extolled throughout the land by the very people trusted to be critics of such folly.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -George Bernard Shaw