The diva chef’s age who acts like an opera or a rock superstar has been with us for quite a while. One of my first Philadelphia restaurant jobs was a busboy gig at the Barclay Hotel on Rittenhouse Square. The Chef at that time became a quickly-to-be-famous local TV chef who later became a global celeb. His tirades inside the Barclay kitchen covered performing out with butcher knives and screaming f-phrase invectives that filtered out into the ocean of white linen-blanketed tables where there had always been agencies of hatted women.
I thanked my lucky stars then that I became a lowly busboy out of the Chef’s firing variety and no longer one of the haggard-searching, psychologically beaten down servers, wounded from the Chef’s verbal bullets. In reality, Chef changed into a mad king because you never knew what could dissatisfy him or how he might lash out.
The Chef is having a horrific day,” the maitre d’ would announce as if describing an intellectual patient in a health facility isolation ward. In the past days, I ought to properly recognize why a real artist like Cezanne or Picasso would possibly throw his paintbrush in opposition to the wall or maybe spoil a canvas. Still, I couldn’t wrap my thoughts around the equal sort of emotion spent developing food objects. You consume food at a speedy tempo; it was never supposed to be an art form.
Despite everything, art lasts, not something that finishes inside the human belly, in toilets, and town sewers. Food is not artwork, and a chef isn’t always an artist, irrespective of how top-notch. Working at the Barclay Hotel had its perks. I met many of Philadelphia’s movers and shakers in the dining room. (Years later, even as a waiter at John Wanamaker’s Crystal Tea Room, I met Margaret Hamilton, the witch from The Wizard of Oz, whose covered face nonetheless conjured up photographs of munchkins and swirling broomsticks). One day, Philadelphia civil rights pioneer Cecil B. Moore, a politician recognized for desegregating Girard College, grew to become to me (in among lengthy puffs of his cigar) and stated, “Boy, get me some other glass of water.
I became a boy, but Mr. Moore’s use of the phrase “boy” that afternoon seemed to have a special significance. In reality, I had the distinct influence that Mr. Moore went around to all the eating places in town and made it a point to name all the white boys “boy” because he was dead set on making emotional reparations. No doubt Mr. Moore became out to show a factor about civil rights, and I fell into his firing variety.
In Wanamaker’s Crystal Room, I slightly observed the Chef there, indicating that he is no longer a diva but an extra of a chef line preparing dinner, an insignificant first among equals. The Crystal Room’s largest draw became tea sandwiches and soup, an object with approximately as elegant an atmosphere as the usual giveaway in homeless soup kitchens. The Crystal Room chef nonetheless wore the conventional tall white hat, even though you’d by no means capture him on foot around the eating place shaking fingers with VIP diners because of the “creator” of impressive minimalist dishes.
Today, while a well-known chef walks among diners, he shakes palms like a politician, notwithstanding that his creation has already disappeared into ratings of digestive tracts. When I met superstar chef Wolfgang Puck many years ago at a press occasion in Atlantic City, there was so much fanfare you’d have thought that an ex-president would become inside the room. As fellow reporters clamored to consume Mr. Puck’s cutting-edge creation—flat-iron steak with peppercorn sauce and blue cheese butter—I determined little difference between Puck’s creation and a “regular” beef kebob in most Asian eateries. I didn’t dare provide my opinion to the starstruck journalists who ate with gusto and didn’t seem to have any meal problems, unlike the percent of reporters I traveled with to Israel a while ago.
During that Israeli tour, one journalist claimed she could most effectively devour gluten-free meals; another said she ought to consume the simplest kosher meals simultaneously as a third became a strict vegan. The food issues surfaced from our first meal while the gluten-loose creator bombarded the waiter with questions. Would he list all of the menu objects that were gluten-unfastened?
At one restaurant, the vegan author becomes a private investigator. “Is this surely vegan, or is it pescetarian, proletarian, or lacto-ovo-vegetarian?” “Let me see,” the server said, disappearing into the kitchen to test with the Chef. Sometimes, strong calls had to be made to restaurants to ensure that vegan and gluten-loose dishes were to be had. Our press coordinator was no longer prepared for those food issues. She nearly had a meltdown while the ritual became especially taxing at a tiny outdoor sandwich store in Tel Aviv.
All expectations of grabbing a brief chew on the patio of this fascinating restaurant earlier than our bus headed to Masada ended while the server started taking orders. Once again, the excruciating menu analysis among the foodies became a tribulation akin to dental surgical treatment. The server, who no longer apprehended what gluten-free became, had to take delivery of an on-the-spot lesson, or even then, she struggled to know the idea.