I’ve always liked the term starving artist. The idea of a talent so gifted and committed to a vision, that he or she doesn’t care about anything else. They would rather starve. In their paint-splattered, plaid shirts, and ever-worn skinny jeans, they then sell out by creating work that people actually want to buy.
I mean if many people want to buy it, certainly it can’t be that good.
The struggle of conformity to mass appeal is just as relevant in the artistic world of cuisine. And we all bitch about it from time to time, how certain people don’t get our work. How we just want to cook “our” food. How the restaurant across the street banging out the 400-cover Thursday night's food sucks. We create a subclass of eater whom, as a gifted and disciplined chef, we are somehow above.
From hungry football fans to drunkards wobbling out of the nightclub; from police cadets, and firemen, to cowboys, and maybe one day, Indians. Our competition at this stage of the game, always finds itself cooking for, well, the village people.
Blue aprons. Cooking for the blue-collared.
It drives most of our chefs crazy to be both physically and metaphorically out of their comfort zone: craftsmen without their normal tools, artists not working in their preferred medium. Painting and chiseling for those they may not even respect. And through the tension, a new, familiar question arises.
Do you cook for the diners, or judges?
The underlining theme to every challenge is to cook “appropriately” for the invited special guests. And yet, maintain an individualism and signature of authorship.
And as a chef, both on this show and in reality, you have to cook for both. They have a delicate, symbiotic relationship.
Food that doesn’t sell not only loses money. It is a loss of life.
You don’t read too many restaurant reviews that exclaim the brilliance of a chef, but the absence of an audience. Show me a critic passing out the highest number of available stars, and I’ll show you a booked dining room.
The two camps may not always be on the exact same page, but they’re always in the same range.
And here, where the deer and the buffalo roam, or maybe more like the snake and the cactus, it is no different. The campers who can best articulate and execute food for ranchers and make the judges swoon with restaurant quality dishes, will prevail.
Last week, we heard masters like Robuchon and Boulud wax about the reconstruction of a bearnaise, a familiar, and haughty, noble sauce. And tonight, just as important perhaps, we hear the ranchers' amazement at just how much that halibut dish tasted like a club sandwich.
Sometimes ranch dressing can be art...
I enjoy reading your blog, it's very informative. I have to ask, what's the deal with ceviche this season? It seems like every episode so far involves at least one chef making a ceviche.
Usually your blogs are my absolute favorite of the bunch. This one sounds like it was written while you were drunk. You ok? Not trying to be mean, I'm really not, this was genuinely very difficult to follow!
Fun perspective as always! I think if the cheftestants thought of themselves as "employees" first they might approach the "my food" vs "the challenge" a little better. When you have your own place you can design your own menu but when you work for someone you do THEIR menu and wouldn't dream of fussing about it. THink of it as a a job. "My job is to cook this shoe leather for a group of roaming minsterals..." THEN bring your own touch to it. I think the most successful person addresses the challenge, then adds a little flair.... kinda like a certain spikey haired chef we all loved! :)
Your blogs are always so fun to read and informative. Will the "real" Richard Blais photo please show up? Which photo is you.. NOW? Last week's photo was confusing. I could not tell if that is what you look like now? ..or was that an older photo? You look so different in the photo last week. Both are nice.. It is just confusing..
Your blog just gets better and better. Thanks for not giving a moment by moment account of the show, but rather taking us deeper into your insight of what is happening to the chefs as well as the viewers. Perfection!
This is kind of irrelevant to the most recent episode out in the desert, which I think was sort of a disaster.....lol. I watched a rerun of your season the other day, and it was the wedding wars episode, in which you turn the win over to Stephanie because you thought she killed it by making the cake. That was probably one of the most gracious things Ive seen happen on reality tv, not to mention during a competition. You and she were my favorite contestants, and it was because of your attitude and disposition towards your profession, your colleagues, and the competition itself. I favor Kevin Gillespie this season, and its for the same reasons I loved you and Stephanie.... He comes in, does his thing, knows what hes doing, and gets it done. No " I, I , I's", and " me , me , me's" , during challenges or at judges table. Your blogs are great, if you ever get outside the 4 walls of the restaurant aspect of the business, I think you could be a really insightful food writer. They should totally invite you on as a guest. Viewers, myself included, would be thrilled! Wishing you continued success, Laura
Richard, How long did it take to get your car prize from S4? You didn't trade it in to the Cash for Clunkers Program. LOL
Nice job with the blogs.
Thoughtful and thought-provoking blog. So many think the restaurant/chef endeavour is sexy and challenging - and it is, IF you are willing to give your life to it. For every restaurant that succeeds, there are 20 that fail and take vast amounts of money and personal/family time with it. Personal visions are sometimes best experienced at home. The customer rules with their dollar.
Richard, great insight once again!
It seems like the cheftestants who have talked the most about who to cook for or someone "not getting" their food are the ones that neither the judges nor the diners liked, and it was a rationalization. I'm thinking Eve, here. Todd English in Episode 2 doesn't get her flavor profiles? Compared to Michael V here- he served a dish that wasn't traditional for the range, but did it so well that everyone gave it props.
BTW- been wondering, do you think it does hurt someone's career to make the show but then be one of the first to go?
When I cook I cook for the people I'm serving but I do it my way. If you try to please eveyone you will go crazy because you can put 10 people in a room and their likes and dislikes will all be different.If I'm having people over, I'll try to find out if there is something that someone really HATES and I won't serve that or if I choose to, I'll have another entree for the one that hates the main dish. Cooking can sometimes be tricky, but I love it and the most satisfaction you can get is when everybody loves your dish!