I remember leaving Paul Bocuse one night in Lyon after a great meal, and the maitre d' offered up a small scroll as we left our table. It was a copy of the evening’s menu. My dad asked why the gift? The host replied that they were losing so many menus to petty theft aimed at scratching the memento itch that they decided to make copies and gift them to patrons. Genius. That was 30 years ago and the idea is now pretty standard around the world in upscale restaurants with customers who see their meal that night as the "experience of a lifetime."
I thought of this yesterday as I perused Grant Achatz’s excerpted blog post wondering what to do about the incessant snapping of pictures, setting up of mini-tripods, recording of menu recitations, and so on at Alinea. Check out the posts/comments on that Grubstreet link and you will see some pretty irate ‘diners’ who see it as their birthright to behave like spoiled brats in restaurants where most folks are simply trying to enjoy a meal. That being said, the genie is out of the bottle. I love trolling the web and seeing pictures snapped by civilians of food in restaurants for many reasons: it helps me decide where I want to eat and restaurants should be thanking their lucky stars for all the publicity.
My take on how to make everyone happy: simply provide pictures of the nights food offerings on a website so that those of us who would want a keepsake snap of one of Grant’s iconic offerings might share it with others. Handing out a card to guests with the info on how to grab the files would be simple, and the restaurants are documenting the food anyway, aren't they? Line cooks and chefs are incessantly snapping photos of plates these days . . . why not kill two birds with one stone?
Lastly, Grant sympathizes with anyone who has had a camera shoved in their face when they least expect it. Well, recently I was a little queasy on a plane ride to LA and had someone shooting a video of my obvious discomfort on their iPhone! I wanted to kill the dude. I know that there is a perception out there that people in the public eye “know what they signed up for” and I am sure Grant knows that people taking pics of his plates is the sincerest form of flattery, but at a certain point, you gotta draw a line.
So last week I wrote a blog post about the events at the Minneapolis City Council meeting regarding food vendors. I was at a funeral and couldn’t be there, and I found some great online reportage regarding the meeting and quoted the piece I found, citing the source as well. An editor at msppmag.com reworked the piece so we linked to the story but lost the reference to our rival, and then a working day later a corrected editor's note was added. I got a peek online at the "controversy" this created and was really impressed at the essence of the conversation, which centered on the new space that online thoughts reside in. When do you attribute and when not to? Is a comment on a post as sacrosanct as a by-lined column when it comes to attributions? My feeling is that if someone else writes something and you clip it, you are obliged to say so and give attribution. We should have italicized the bullet-point summary of the City Council meeting and made it clear that information came from Chuck Terhark. The reason I cited Terhark’s piece from Metro was because he was the one who had the quote from a local restaurateur that I found fascinating. Anyway, the whole point is that our own system got in the way of us attributing something properly and we fixed it. Mea culpa.
This just in . . . fatty food is bad for you. In fact, its like cocaine! I knew it. For some of us this is like finding out your wife and your college girlfriend both use the same perfume.