The age of the diva chef who acts like an opera or a rock superstar has been with us for quite some time. One of my first Philadelphia eating place jobs became a busboy gig on the Barclay Hotel on Rittenhouse Square. The chef, at that point, became a soon-to-be-well-known local TV chef who later became an international celebrity. His tirades inside the Barclay kitchen blanketed acting out with butcher knives and screaming f-phrase invectives that filtered out into the ocean of white linen-blanketed tables where there were always businesses of hatted women.
I thanked my lucky stars then that I became just a lowly busboy and out of the chef’s firing variety. I was no longer one of the haggard-searching, psychologically overwhelmed down waiters, wounded from Chef’s verbal bullets. But, in truth, Chef turned into like a mad king because you in no way knew what would dissatisfy him or when or how he might lash out.
“Chef is having an awful day,” the maitre d’ could announce, as though describing an intellectual affected person in a clinic isolation ward. In those days, I ought to recognize why a real artist like Cezanne or Picasso may throw his paintbrush towards the wall or maybe smash a canvass or, however, I couldn’t wrap my mind across the similar type of emotion spent on creating meals gadgets. Food is something you consume rapidly; it is never supposed to be an artwork shape. Art, after all, is something that lasts, not something that winds up in the human stomach, in toilets, and in city sewers. Food isn’t art, and a chef, no matter how first-rate, isn’t an artist.
Working a the Barclay Hotel had its perks. In the eating room, I met lots of Philadelphia’s movers and shakers. (Years later, at the same time as a waiter at John Wanamaker’s Crystal Tea Room, I met Margaret Hamilton, the witch from The Wizard of Oz, whose coated face still conjured up pics of munchkins and swirling broomsticks). Then, one day, Philadelphia civil rights pioneer Cecil B. Moore, a flesh-presser recognized for desegregating Girard College, grew to become to me (in between long puffs of his cigar) and said, “Boy, get me every other glass of water.”
Right, I changed into a boy. However, Mr. Moore’s use of the word “boy” that afternoon was regarded to have special importance. In reality, I had a fantastic impression then that Mr. Moore went round to all of the eating places on the town and made it a point to name all the white boys “boy” because he changed into the dead set on making emotional reparations. No doubt Mr. Moore turned out to show a point approximately civil rights, and I fell into his firing variety.
I barely observed the chef there in Wanamaker’s Crystal Room, which shows that he turned into maximum honestly now not a diva but extra of a chef line cook dinner, a mere first amongst equals. The Crystal Room’s biggest draw becomes tea sandwiches and soup, an object with approximately as many elegant atmospheres as the standard giveaway in homeless soup kitchens. The Crystal Room chef still wore the classic tall white hat, although you’d in no way capture him walking across the eating place shaking palms with VIP diners as the “creator” of mind-blowing minimalist dishes.
Today while a well-known chef walks among diners, he shakes fingers like a politician even though his creation has already disappeared into scores of digestive tracts. When I met movie star chef Wolfgang Puck a few years ago at a press event in Atlantic City, there has been a lot of fanfare you’d have the concept that an ex-president changed into in the room. As fellow newshounds clamored to consume Mr. Puck’s present-day advent—flat-iron steak with peppercorn sauce and blue cheese butter—I located little difference among Puck’s arrival and a “regular” beef kebob observed in most Asian eateries. I didn’t dare provide my opinion to the starstruck reporters who ate with gusto and who didn’t seem to have any food troubles at all, not like the % of reporters I traveled with to Israel a while ago.
During that Israeli tour, one journalist claimed she might want to consume gluten-unfastened meals handiest; others said she should devour the best kosher meals even as a third turned into a strict vegan. The food problems surfaced from our first actual meal while the gluten-loose creator began bombarding the waiter with questions. Would he list all of the gluten-free menu items? At one restaurant, the vegan author was a personal investigator. “Is this definitely vegan, or is it pescetarian, proletarian, or is it lacto-ovo-vegetarian?”
“Let me see,” the server said, disappearing into the kitchen to check with the chef.
Sometimes strengthen calls needed to be located to restaurants to ensure that vegan and gluten-free dishes had been to be had. Unfortunately, our press coordinator is now not prepared for those food issues. She nearly had a meltdown when the ritual became especially taxing at a tiny sandwich keep outdoor of Tel Aviv. All expectations of grabbing a quick chunk at the patio of this captivating eating place before our bus headed to Masada ended when the server commenced taking orders. Once more, the excruciating menu evaluation among the foodies became an ordeal akin to dental surgical treatment. The server, who did now not recognize what gluten-loose became, had to accept an on-the-spot lesson, and even then, she struggled to apprehend the concept.
The server wound up checking with the kitchen numerous times in the course of the 25-minute ordering technique, at the same time as the foodies stored converting their minds the moment they spotted something “purer” on the menu. Finally, when they canceled their orders because they determined they weren’t hungry after all, our excursion guide had had it. “We spent twenty-five minutes using that poor server loopy, and in the long run, we walked out,” she said, shaking her head. But because the excursion progressed, matters concerning meals were given worse in preference to higher.