Everyone's a Critic
You know the old saying “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”? Well, I’m convinced that’s because everyone considers themselves a bit of an expert. And being an “expert gives you unstated permission to critique the world around you. Let’s just face it...flaws and mistakes are unacceptable in this day and age. After approximately 200,000 years we should all be perfect by now, right? That’s why plastic surgery is so popular, high SAT scores are so important, and Top Chefs should know the exact time it takes to cook risotto. Frankly, I was even surprised that the last one was proved false last night but that’s not to say that I don't find the “restaurant challenge” a bit unachievable.
For anyone who has ever tried to run their own businesses, myself included, the “restaurant challenge” stirs up bad memories. Bringing all the elements together, working with a set deadline, dealing with the unexpected “surprises” and doing it all without appearing frazzled is not an easy task. And, come on, isn’t this task the definition of “Too many chefs in the kitchen”?
What surprises me is the judges complete lack of understanding. Nothing less than perfection would do...maybe the judges are forgetting their opening missteps. Perhaps someone needed to remind Tom as he critiqued Tre’s oysters of Adam Platt’s statement about his new Craftsteak in NY: ”The lobster I sampled was dull (it’s served in the shell, swimming in an opulent lobster broth), and not worth its $55 price tag.” And Padma should reread the Library Journal’s review of her cookbook Easy Exotic: ”Most are standards, and the text, while well written, would seem to be of little interest to anyone other than supermodel groupies. Not a necessary purchase.” Even Daniel Boulud, though hard to find a completely awful review, has had an unhappy customer now and then: “We have a pretty positive attitude so we still had a wonderful time and I think the staff were overly helpful since we were not snotty about it, but for $500, it was totally not worth it.” I would also like to point out that all of these professional endeavors happened with the help of experienced publishers, sous chefs, wait staffs and managers not to mention months of preparation, editing and planning.
So, do I think the judges were correct in allowing a do-over? Absolutely. The “restaurant challenge” is an impossible task that involves many things these chefs have yet to experience (hence the award money to start their own restaruants...many are simply executive or head sous chefs in other’s establishments...not the same as entrepreneur, just ask Rocco) and a complete lack of time to properly address issues that will inevitably come up. Every recipe needs “shaping” and a level of comfort with your wait staff is essential...so is the time to know all their names. The little things are what ruins a restaurant experience, just ask the blogger who thought she was eating off the back of Billy Idol...?Andrea, even you have bad days...