I’m blaming it all on Julia Child. Don’t get me wrong, I love Julia and her “Just a piiiiiiiinch of salt!” as much as the next person, but she’s the one who opened the doors to cuisine. She appeared on TV and told us we all could cook.
Advance to warp speed. Reality TV: Chopped, Top Chef, Iron Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, the Food Network and Bravo. We watch, like a train wreck, as chefs expose themselves to public humiliation. Each dish is described and dissected to the audience who cannot taste it themselves. We must rely on the judges to talk directly to our palates.
How does this relate to the restaurant world? Suddenly customers perceive themselves as the judges. In the recent past, diners would fear making special requests, lest they insult the chefs. Chefs were reveared, and even feared, for their wealth of knowledge and expertise. Now the customers know better, because they have been educated by their TV screens.
Each menu produced by a great restaurant is a labor of love. The ingredients are ment to harmonize flavor, texture, and color. With realty TV tainted eyes, patrons now see the menu as a list of ingredients to be bastardized as they see fit. Has it become a sign of weakness not to design the food themselves? They want to practice their artistry of flavor combinations, but in the public eye, rather than in their own kitchens. If the chef obliges to create their dish for their own consumption, the customer has taken up invaluable time by both the server and the kitchen. Incredibly, they even sometimes complain once they’ve eaten their OWN creation!
Jon Stewart, in an interview with an Iron Chef, summed up the effect reality TV has had on his own household. “It has installed in (my kids) the idea that if I prepare a meal for them that they don’t like, I can be sent away.” Hopefully, our local, talented chefs don’t feel the same way.