The basics are, in fact, not all that evident or simple. I seem to learn this lesson over and over again and each time it surprises me anew. It is especially shocking when it surprises me like that because my core belief about creating great food is to perfect the basics of classical cuisine and then step aside and let the ingredients do the rest. But how we get to simple clean great food varies across platforms. In a small restaurant with 50 seats the primary focus is paying attention to every ingredient on every plate which requires focus and rigor but it’s still a 50-seat restaurant with one primary focus. And if you do this well, frankly you can charge whatever you need to achieve this simple clean elegant food goal.
And yet, we all have this notion that you simply can’t make institutional food taste really good. We all know this to be true so we, as diners, lower our expectations and the cooks among us just shrug our shoulders. It’s not that institutional or mass-produced food is bad, but rather that it is a lot more than 50 seats worth of food coming in a few orders at a time. And by the sheer volume it’s simply a lot more food to execute perfectly well. Additionally, a mass-produced meal always comes with a secondary- an annual awards ceremony with a tight timeline and a far tighter budget, a wedding menu that needs to please 250 guests, or 25,00 athletes riding the length of California on a fundraising ride, diners who are are exhausted and starving and need to be fed quickly. Those meals serve secondary purposes in addition to being tasty so the focus is spread out.
The same techniques apply to a single high-end fancy meal as they do to mass produced food and those techniques are worthy of a reminder and our attention — The basics are not all that evident or simple in any venue. This is achieved through focused attention to details and flawless execution, no matter the venue or the purpose of the meal.
Good food, every meal, every day.