Failing stars

by Daniele Cernilli 01/30/17
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Stelle scadenti

I don’t know why but for some time now I’ve been getting bored with haut cuisine and those chefs who thanks to their Michelin stars have become media stars. Maybe I’m getting old but I have no patience to watch chefs hamming it up on TV and leaving their subordinates to run their kitchens. The media attention may make them a celebrity but, at least for me, it raises a lot of doubts. The first that comes to mind is: why doesn’t anyone mention how expensive these haut cuisine restaurants are? For example, to have a meal at a restaurant where Cracco or Bottura is the chef can cost, wine included, even more than 300 euros a head. And why doesn’t anyone point out that these restaurants with two or three stars are frequented more than often by people more interested in the status gained by being seen there than the cuisine itself. At the risk of sounding populist, I would like to point out that many famous restaurants in New York offer a lunch menus at a price reduced or just one serving at a more than reasonable price. Another doubts is: are we sure that it is a good thing to give so many young people the illusion that they can become a great chef or work in an important restaurant? And what is the real turnover for one of the ‘top’ restaurants in Italy? What real potential to these places have in creating jobs? Over the years I have been to many such establishments and more often than not they were half empty, with the exception of those in prime locations in the city or tourist resorts. Maybe this explains why so many chefs go on TV or end up doing ads for mineral water, potato chips and bouillon cubes. These are all products you would never find in their kitchens and they get a visibility that cannot be matched by quality ingredients, local produce and other good things. A third consideration: Is it really acceptable to broadcast a cooking shows that seem as violent as a prison or military boot camp? For sure this probably drives up the ratings but it is not objectively a good thing. And what’s worse, I have seen nothing in the press or from a union criticizing this. Of course, not all top chefs are like this. Those who exercise their vocation with true commitment, without seeking to become a phenomenon but only to do their best are not part of the category I have tried to describe. Even better are those who seek to create a local economy around their restaurant, who buy produce and ingredients from local farmers and livestock raisers and who hire locally. These are chefs who attract customers to out-of-the-way places who go there just for the food and not to be seen. Restaurants like Caino in Montemerano or Niko Romito’s Reale in Roccaraso or Salvatore Tassa's Colline Ciociare in Acuto, to cite a couple of examples. Unfortunately, many others are exaggerating in the other direction and it would be nice if they would take a good and honest look at themselves and what they’re doing. The same could be said for the host of food critics, mostly self-proclaimed, who all they do is exalt these chefs.





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