Notes from the Week in Toqueland (February 2 – 9, 2018)
Greetings, Citizens of Toqueland,
Hope you all had a good week.
Personally, I’ve been immersed in the exciting, stressful, and ultimately exhausting enterprise of planning a book tour–did my first telephone interview (3 weeks before publication); wrangled two chefs and a restaurateur for a television story; planned a few bookstore and cooking school events on the road (details to follow); and generally imposed on about two dozen friends and colleagues to do everything from speak to moderate to cook to host to donate food and alcohol. It’s not easy for me to ask for things but fortunately I live at the crossroads of two professions–cooking and writing–that (most of the time) maintain their traditions of camaraderie, and many people (you know who you are) have made it easy for me.
As I’ve found the time to keep tabs on what’s going on in 2018, here’s what caught my eye this week. This post isn’t as well-honed or chock-full of pictures and links as I’d like it to be–hopeless perfectionist that I am–but I’m trying to keep to my commitment of sharing here at least twice weekly, so hopefully the info is worth the typos! Here you go:
“You Can’t Treat Your Carrots Better Than You Treat Your Employees”
Last weekend, Ms. Toqueland and I caught up with our friends Loren Michelle and Hervé Riou, a chef couple whom I met on the research trail for my book; Loren cooked for Barry Wine at the late, great Quilted Giraffe and currently owns Naturally Delicious catering; Hervé was chef of the Edwardian Room at the Plaza Hotel, among other gigs over the years. We had dinner at Fausto, Joe Campanale’s new restaurant in the beloved former Franny’s space in Brooklyn where chef Erin Shambura is turning out rock-solid Italian food, including perhaps the best meatballs I’ve ever had. (I ordered a second round without consulting with my table-mates, prepared to down them all on my own if necessary.)
Hervé is an old friend and fellow toque of Eric Ripert, who needs no introduction here as the executive chef of three-Michelin-star Le Bernardin.
Hervé is also trustee of the L’Academie Culinaire de France. He and Eric both came up in some pretty tough kitchens back home; Eric’s time working for the famously demanding Joël Robuchon is well-documented in his memoir 32 Eggs. Hervé trained in a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Laval, France.
As we all know, brutality is as much a part of professional kitchen lore as Escoffier and consommé, reminisced about and romanticized by whisks and writers, including me. It makes for good war stories and great copy, and those who defend it will tell you that–as boot camp does for soldiers–it creates good cooks.
But is it really necessary? Is there no other way to prepare somebody for the nightly pressure cooker of a service, or extract what you need from them during that service?
Eric and Hervé are convinced that there’s a better way, and they’ve created a Charter of Conduct that they want to see signed by as many US-based chefs as possible and proudly displayed in as many American kitchens as are willing for all to see and abide by (it’s featured at the top of this post).
Hervé sent me the charter after the weekend and I got him and Eric on the phone (separately) this morning to kick it around with them a little. They make persuasive pitchmen for the value of this modest-looking document that might have more power than a first glance suggests.
Of his motivation for the campaign, Eric said, “When I see on television, still today, some British chef promoting insults and verbal abuse and bullying in kitchens, I’m like, Wow, the job is not finished to create an environment where talented people can blossom without fear.”…