Ruth Reichl

Despite their similar age, Ruth sees radical differences in what Kerry and Chris believe a restaurant owes its patrons.

on Sep 26, 2012

The one moment when the chefs pursue a parallel path is when they are apologizing. They’re both mature enough to know that an apology is all about the other person, and their dishes show certain similarity. Each offers us something soft, sumptuous, luxurious and delicate -- and it works. Serve me either one of these dishes? I’ll forgive you almost anything.

Then we get to the thank you, and we’re right back to differing world visions. Kerry’s bronzino is unsurprising, technically adept, familiarly delicious. Chris’ tripe is something else. This is tripe so soft and sensuous it would make a tripe-lover out of the most fanatic offal-phobe. It is, hands down the best tripe I’ve ever eaten, and I know this: Wherever she is, Grandma Rosalie is smiling.

Finally we come to the letter to themselves, and we’re almost back to the beginning: the difference between these two could not be more pronounced. Kerry’s out to please his patrons, sending out easy bliss. This is the least challenging food you could possibly offer an American audience. It’s the dish every chef puts on the menu for the salesman from the midwest, the man who cringes at eating adventures. Then along comes Chris, offering us his heart on a plate in a slightly different form. Most Americans recoil at the notion of eating sausages made of blood, but pow! bam! that’s what we’ve got here. Chris plops that big brown sucker onto the plate next to a naked pile of pork-poached oysters. It’s not pretty, but it’s a joy to eat and an extremely bold move.