“But the people cannot have wells, and so they take rain-water. Neither can they conveniently have cellars or graves, the town being built upon “made ground”; so they do without both, and few of the living complain, and none of the others.” life on the Mississippi – mark twain
with the dynamic of time, there is always change. some of it good, some of it bad, and other times sad. have you ever recommend a place or restaurant to someone and hear that they had a seriously bad experience? I saddened me to hear commander palace in New Orleans is, or has slipped so far from what it was, that being one of the places in the city where a lineage of great chefs and service had the Brennan family providing a sort of epicenter of where you could get an amazing meal with all the southern charm. was it a bad day? or is is bigger issue where overall, the place slipped where it is running more on reputation than amazing food and service it is known for?
I gave my brother a list of place to eat, yet, I mentioned to go to commanders palace to get a taste of what was one of the stalwart places in new orleans cuisine and history. what he got was simply overpriced, slowly served and a not so great food. he surprised me by taking a cooking class in his first trip to the city, and even the people teaching said, “the place has slipped in the past few years.”
probably the hardest business in the USA is the restaurant business, and the tale of commanders palace is not all that uncommon in the world where local great cuisine is simply “scaled across the country via licensing deals” and now chefs can be superstars and have restaurants with their ideas and concepts all over the planet. gone are the one great restaurant, or there was a chef in Paris, Christian Constant that opened like four restaurants with different styles of cooking on one street. today – quality and all the TV influences where every show is a bunch of judges critiquing every move, I think there was an iron chef idea that inspired all the copycats? but if you watch someone like a bobby flay versus most people – you see someone that really is a good chef that can create and do more. Emeril is a new Orleans great chef (I don’t know how much he cooks anymore) that created a brand for himself and great success. I should write him a letter, “what is going on with food today? what happened at commanders palace?” maybe i just was fortunate to hit the city at a special time with its food?
there was a part of traveling that led you to a cultural and interesting world before the ability to get anything from all over the globe to your home. you experienced, tasted, enjoyed the culture, cuisine, and traditions of a place. I think there is a tv show with Anthony Bourdain that does this in taking you to places all over and, “here is the food!” granted, he has a fixer there that knows the land and will steer him to the best local places – but food has become a lot like live entertainment. you take Disney casting and put servers and cooks in place and say, “follow this recipe and we will make lots of money.”
what is lacking is the life and depth of great food, service, and a place to eat it in. a genuine experience that is not staged, but very real. perhaps that is why I am bummed out with the news of commanders palace. it sounds like I could have sent them to any of the touristy crap food places in a city loaded with amazing food that is hidden away from the tourists.
c’est Lavie. I am ok if I have a bad experience with food, but when you send someone to a place that for years had a standard of excellence, I guess you can live for a long time with the reputation and milk the restaurant into the ground. or you can say, “ok, we haven’t been doing all that great…let’s try to get the luster back in this place and make it great again.”
I think many will give up. I do remember the most fun things we did in New Orleans was a friend of my ex-girlfriend was closing up his art gallery, so we got a brass band and did a funeral dirge through the streets holding up all the art like it was a coffin and we had Paul bearers that walked form the gallery to his house, where all the unsold art would reside.
it was amazing how many tourists simply followed along the route with us, oblivious to what was really happening. but we made a fun time out of someone having to close a business.
I just feel bad that I sent my brother to have a not so great meal. in a sense, I feel doubly bad, as when you did get to taste the food of Emeril, Paul Prudhomme, and the others before they were famous – you got a bit of the taste of heaven on earth.
today I wonder if the world of scale and licensing is going to destroy and dilute food the way Broadway plays are all about simply putting people on a stage to do commercial cue driven theater to make money while losing sight of the entertainment reality of “live” theater and performances?
that is my ramble today. a bit sad. I am ok eating a bad meal or two…they happen. but I fear we will soon have robotic chefs making actually perfect recreations of whatever recipe we program into it. the first robotic chef I saw freaked people out and they had to slow it down because it could work so fast…
I will grow my own food, pick what I need fresh off the vine, cook whatever meal I can – and while I will never be a great chef – I will cook good food. occasionally maybe even a great dish will happen. but to me – that process, and sharing it with friends and family are more meaningful than going to a licensed “experience” or themed space.
maybe I know how to do all the stuff behind the stage curtain too well – you see the illusion versus the depth of reality of eating the food of some great chefs before they were famous.
sadly – commanders palace was one of those places on the planet where I didn’t think you could really actually get bad food or service. but times have changed, or I haven’t adapted to thinking that you need to scale and license every great idea into a sea of “it’s sort of good, no?”
· I guess what is funny is that despite eating some amazing meals in New Orleans, the most fun I had eating there was my first time and show in the city. all my life the adventures of Huck Finn and the writing of mark twain fascinated me. I never had a po' boy before, but that was what the special was with a little hole in the wall deli. so I got a fried oyster one, a side and a bottle of coke, went and sat on the banks of the Mississippi river and ate lunch with god seeming to show me, “this is what mark twain was writing about…just a little bit more modern…and farther upstream from where the gulf was at the time he was here writing about it.” now, my 10 minutes are done, a bit sad today that i sent my brother to a place that is not where it was anymore...now i go design more systems to grow your own fresh food, year round, in your own space. heck, with fresh, you really can't beat the flavors with whatever you cook. have a great day.