Whose Dish is This?

I’m feeling in a pretty tough spot right now. It’s difficult for me to keep this blog focused on the daily adventures of a chef because I’m not sure I am a chef right now and I worry that my writing will reflect the fact that I’m not doing too much cheffy stuff.   I hesitated to post this and I hope I don’t bore you.

I have an admission to make.  I’m hooked on phonics.  I’m getting help.

Back in July Steve Barnes on Table Hopping asked if a restaurant or its chef owns a specific dish.  I had thought about commenting on that topic but could not really come to a conclusion in my feeble mind.  If a restaurant has a signature dish, and the new chef continues it, it belongs to the restaurant.  If a chef arrives at the restaurant with his/her signature dish then it leaves with the chef.  For me the gray area is when a chef develops a dish while at a restaurant.  Since the chef is being paid to develop menus and specific plates then I lean only slightly towards the restaurant owning the dish exclusively.   Can the chef use the same dish at another restaurant?  The topic came up in my head because there’s a picture of a dish on Sperry’s website described in this week’s Times Union review of R & R Kitchen and Bar.  Same chef, same dish, two locations in Saratoga.  I don’t know when Chef Bowden developed the dish, but my conclusion is that there’s co-ownership. As much as the restaurant invested in the chef to develop menus, the same chef has invested time and effort, often away from the kitchen on his or her own time, even prior to actually developing the physical dish in a specific restaurant.  I’ve done that before, had an idea for a dish but never made it until I was in the right kitchen.  One pet peeve I do have is when restaurants continue to show photos of a chef’s work that is no longer available.

While I was chef at a Saratoga restaurant I was asked to develop a version of tuna nachos. Never again.

On days I go to see my therapist I’m generally quite stressed.  I like going, and I look forward to my appointments.  The stress isn’t due to anxiety leading up to a visit, it comes afterwards, following some tough stories told, and the feelings that go along with telling those stories.  I swore off alcohol on Sunday, at least for a month or so, and by Wednesday (therapy day) evening I had a real hankering for a few fingers of whiskey. I didn’t have any, and I’m glad for that small victory.

I take the sandwich density laws very seriously.  Hence, I find almost anything on a proper bagel is silly.

I just read through a recent batch of recent Saratoga County restaurant inspections.  There’s no excuse for the number of violations some places have. No excuse.

Posting and sharing on Facebook does not make you an activist.  Going out and actually doing something related to a cause makes you an activist.  The key word there is active.

The restaurant business has too many users and not enough mentors. too many bosses and not enough leaders.

If you’re over 40 and still wearing knee-length cargo shorts, stop.

I often observe in public men’s rooms that an alarming number of men leave without washing their hands.

When I was at The Wine Bar and we would have a pizza with sausage on the menu we would make our own fresh sausage with ground pork, fennel seed, coarse black pepper, and salt as a base recipe. It was cheap and easy to make. Why then in the name of Charles Darwin would pizza joints use that creepy rabbit poop looking pellet sausage or the pre-cooked sliced sausage that ends up looking like pepperoni jerky?  Use fresh sausage and put it on raw so the fat melts and flavors the pie.

Calling it authentic doesn’t necessarily result in good food.

If someone has a physical injury or illness it’s understandable why they cannot work. If someone has a mental illness people can’t understand why they’re unable work.  It’s easy to say “I’m having bunion surgery, I’ll be out of work for 10 weeks.”  However, “I’m really depressed and have no interest in my work, my family or my friends and getting off the couch is a real struggle” is generally replaced with a more plausible reason.

Just because it’s produced locally does not mean it’s better.  Yes, I’m saying that local can often be overrated and over appreciated.  Also, using local ingredients does not make you a better cook, being a good cook makes you a better cook. Good cooks use the best available ingredients., local or not.

I’ve started composing dishes. No particular reason, just practice.  The significant part of that is I want to do it, and seem to enjoy doing it again.  I’m even developing and testing recipes.

Judge me as the man you know me to be, not the man you think I am.

I’ll be back.

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5 thoughts on “Whose Dish is This?

  1. Great write up. I feel if a Chef creates a dish there should be dialogue between the owner and Chef on how they want to approach it. For me having many dishes all over the cap region with out one ounce of acknowledgement, doesn’t make me like many owners.
    Hence why I opened my own place. Now me being an owner, if I ever hire one of these quote unquote chefs and they create in my place I would allow them to take whats theres or I have the ability to recreate the dish and make it mine. Either way if you create it for a restaurant it should be spoken about when you leave or at least acknowledge the Chef on your menu.

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  2. Ground pork shoulder, salt, red pepper, roasted fennel seeds, dry Spanish sherry. Why would anyone make sausage? Beats me.
    Physical ailments versus psychological complexes come from the old time worn body/mind split, non?

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  3. *The restaurant business has too many users and not enough mentors. too many bosses and not enough leaders* – I love this line but I think it applies to most businesses – husband works in a non-profit and says the same thing all the time.

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  4. Take a look at PMQ or Pizza Today and you’ll quickly realize that 99.9% of pizza operators are primarily concerned with running a profitable business. The food doesn’t matter. They could just as well have ended up owning a car wash. I haven’t had a great NY style slice in 30 years.

    I completely agree on using the best ingredients local or not. I also don’t buy the carbon footprint arguments. Profit in national/international food distribution is driven by efficient logistics and transportation costs. It’s really tough for produce driven to the farmers market in a van to compete with that. If the stuff at the farmers market is better, I’m inclined to ignore the larger carbon footprint.

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    • There are too many factors involved in distribution to determine the exact footprint left by product reaching it’s final destination, so I really don’t pay too much to any argument one way or the other. I do like the quality at farmer’s markets.

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