Who Owns a Dish? A Discussion with Chef Stuart Lane of Spinasse

Who Owns a Dish? A Discussion with Chef Stuart Lane of Spinasse

On an episode of Chef’s Table, Netflix’s docuseries that follows prominent chefs, Grant Achatz recalls a discussion he had with chef Thomas Keller while he was a young cook at The French Laundry. Achatz had created a cantaloupe and caviar gelee dish for the restaurant’s tasting menu and chef Keller liked it and wanted to add it to the menu.

Before incorporating the dish into the menu Keller asked Achatz a question: “If this dish goes on the menu it becomes a French Laundry dish; are you okay with that?” Achatz said yes, as any young cook would, proud of creating something that his mentor deemed worthy enough of serving in his restaurant. The dish was added to The French Laundry’s tasting menu.

Every single restaurant dish starts as an idea from an executive chef or a line cook, who then works on creating that dish. In most kitchens, dishes don’t reach the menu until line cooks, sous chefs, or the executive chef taste the dish and add their opinions. It’s like editing a rough draft of an article. After everyone weighs in, the original chef or line cook that came up with dish makes changes based on the feedback and the process repeats itself. Once the dish is approved by all parties it’s added to the menu or run as a special for the night. That dish is the final draft, the one that gets published and added to the menu.

Except, in writing, finished articles usually include the name of the writer somewhere on the page. On menus, dishes are not credited to the cook who may have originally came up with the idea — instead they’re all lumped under the executive chef’s name. So, who really owns a dish? And in the case of signature dishes that become an important part of a tasting menu (a la Grant Achatz at The French Laundry) who can claim ownership?

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Menu Jargon Confounds Diners: Top Misunderstood Menu Terms Decoded

Top Misunderstood Menu Terms

Can’t tell shiso from yuzu? Don’t know a gougère from gochujang? You’re not alone. As culinary trends evolve (or stage a comeback), the terms diners are finding on menus can be confusing and impact how they order at a restaurant. A recent online survey conducted by Harris Poll revealed many diners believe some restaurant menus are more confusing than they need to be (29%), are concerned that ordering a menu item made with an unfamiliar ingredient will ruin their dining experience (56%), or feel they will be wasting their money if they don’t enjoy their meal (74%).

The survey findings also revealed several menu terms that more than half of diners do not know the meaning of, and inspired the OpenTable design team to work with illustrators to create a visual Menu Jargon Decoder to demystify the visualization, meaning, and pronunciation of confusing menu terms, including okonomiyaki, bibimbap, piri piri.

The survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll in March 2016 on behalf of OpenTable, found that an overwhelming majority of diners (91%) say they are more likely to order a dish they are not familiar with if it has additional menu features. Diners also indicated that the future for digital menus may be bright with more than half saying photos of the menu items (53%) or a glossary of menu terminology (30%) would make them more likely to order a dish they are not familiar with.

Additional findings include that nearly 2 in 5 (37%) of diners choose a restaurant based on how familiar they are with the items listed on a menu. When diners encounter a term they didn’t understand on a menu, most (67%) have asked the waiter to explain what it is, but some (42%) have asked fellow diners at their table if they are familiar with the term. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) ordered a dish with an unfamiliar ingredient or term as a challenge to experience something new. Men were more likely than women to do so (21% vs. 14%, respectively).

According to the survey, at least half of diners say they do not understand the following menu terms in ranking order:Continue Reading

Heroes in a Half Shell: 9 Unique Tacos for #TacoTuesday (or Any Day)

Tacos are so awesome that they get a day of the week – Taco Tuesdays. This means there are dozens of days a year when you’re practically required to down a taco (or five; we won’t judge). But why content yourself with shells packed with the usual suspects, like pollo asado or ground beef? Chefs are filling their freshly griddled tortillas with far more interesting ingredients – from duck and Wagyu steak to vindaloo sausage and grasshoppers (really). Here are 9 unique tacos you won’t find on the menu at your local Chipotle.

Johnny Sánchez, New Orleans, Louisiana
Remember make your own taco night? Your mom or dad would put all the components out on the dining room table and you got to play taco chef? Chefs John Besh and Aarón Sánchez have created a similar setup for this DIY dish. Starring fire-roasted amberjack served whole, it arrives with charred avocados, crispy sweet potatoes tossed in jalapeño vinaigrette, and more, so you can make yours just the way you like it. Make a reservation at Johnny Sánchez.

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Nacional 27, Chicago, Illinois
Hawaiian poke – raw fish salad – is having a moment. This secret off-menu taco features tuna poke dressed up with oil, red wine vinegar, ginger, and chipotle powder. It’s topped off with avocado and jicama salsa and served in a gyoza shell. Make a reservation at Nacional 27.

Unique Tacos

Sushi Garage, Miami Beach, Florida
The Far East meets South of the Border in this inventive taco. Chef Sunny Oh uses a perilla (sesame leaf) instead of the traditional tortilla. He folds into it minced toro, kizami wasabi salsa, and sushi rice mixed with crispy shallots. It’s both delicioso and oishii. Make a reservation at Sushi Garage.

Unique Tacos

Kuro, Hollywood, Florida
Chef Alex Becker didn’t want to use your average Angus in his tacos. So, he upped the ante by subbing in Wagyu instead. They’re brightened with spicy cilantro, soy shallots, and aji amarillo aioli. Guests can squeeze on some fresh lime juice to add an acidic pop. Make a reservation at Kuro.

Unique Tacos

Oyamel, Washington, D.C.
Trust José Andrés to come up with a taco that defies stateside convention. He piles a corn tortilla high with chapulines, which sounds dainty and delightful when you say it in Spanish. Before you take a bite, let us translate. It means “grasshoppers.” Let us reassure you though, the crunchy insects taste like what they’ve been sautéed with – shallots, chipotle purée, and tequila – more than anything else. Also, if you were in Mexico, downing a few of these tacos would be no big deal as they’ve been enjoying the little hoppers for centuries. Make a reservation at Oyamel.

Unique Tacos

Kachina Southwestern Grill, Westminster, Colorado
The kitchen crew found inspiration in Native American cuisine when they conceived the Mojave Navajo tacos. Rich duck confit, crispy duck skin, and Manchego cheese get a lift from pickled cactus and spicy sweet chipotle agave. In keeping with the theme, the taco forgoes a tortilla for housemade fry bread. Make a reservation at Kachina Southwestern Grill.

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Smoked, Baked + Fried: Stoner Munchies in Pot-Friendly DC, Denver + Seattle for #420Day

April 20th is practically a national holiday for herb enthusiasts. The date – 4/20 – is a reference to 4:20 in the afternoon, the time of day when smokers traditionally spark up. As several states and the District of Columbia move to legalize marijuana, stoners can now puff-puff-pass to their heart’s desire. As anyone who has ever indulged before knows, the practice often awakens the appetite, leading to blissful binges of epic proportions. To give tokers better options than Cheetos, Ho Hos, and DiGiorno, we’ve rounded up the best smoked, baked, and fried stoner munchies in the pot-friendly cities of Washington, D.C., Denver, and Colorado. [Ed. note: One need not partake to appreciate the deliciousness of these dishes.]

Denver

Smoked

Stoner Munchies

Ribs at Russell’s Smokehouse
Funnily enough, the Smokehouse was the nickname for our off-campus duplex during college. But we digress. These generously portioned dry rubbed ribs – your choice of beef, pork, baby back, or a combo – come with three sauces on the side, including a spicy varietal that’s a longtime customer favorite. Don’t forget to ask for plenty of napkins. Make a reservation at Russell’s Smokehouse.

Baked

Stoner Munchies

The Georgio at Pizza Republica
Honestly, if we were only allowed to eat pizza for every meal of the day, we wouldn’t complain. We love ‘za that much. The Georgia is a god amongst men, decked out with rounds of fennel sausage, char-kissed pearl onions, fried garlic, and fresh mozzarella. Just what we crave after a long night of partying – or the morning after. Make a reservation at Pizza Republica.

Fried

Stoner Munchies

Doughnut Sundae at Sugar Mill
Could there be anything greater than a doughnut sundae? Possibly, but who cares? When you’re in the zone digging into a doughnut sundae, nothing else matters. A sweet circle of glazed brioche comes with ice cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and candied nuts. Not included? A gym membership, which you’ll desperately need after you devour this dainty. Make a reservation at Sugar Mill.

Washington, D.C.

Smoked

Stoner Munchies

S’mores at Bourbon Steak
This haute s’more arrives hidden under a smoke-filled cloche, which the server pulls away to release a hazy cloud. You’re welcome to inhale, but, unfortunately, it has no mind-altering properties. Once the smoke clears, you’ll find marshmallow, toasted marshmallow ice cream, hazelnut graham streusel, and caramel and milk chocolate shards. Make a reservation at Bourbon Steak.

 

Baked

Stoner Munchies

Sticky Toffee Pudding at Convivial
Pastry chef Eva Kronenburg soaks dates in dark rum for a week for the base of this gloriously gluttonous sticky toffee pudding. The molasses sweetened mound is enhanced further with dark raisins and prunes. Served warm, the pudding sits in a pool of rum rich toffee sauce, while a scoop of maple ice cream on top slowly melts down the sides. A perfect meal ender for the stoner with a sweet tooth. Make a reservation at Convivial.

Fried

Stoner Munchies

French Fries at Blue Duck Tavern
It takes a full day to make these substantial sticks, which are definitely not your average French fries. Chef de cuisine Brad Deboy begins by steaming gold potatoes until tender and then mixing them until velveteen. The smooth spuds are set in a pan, cut into logs, dried overnight, and fried until golden brown for service. The Jenga tower of outsized frites comes with a spicy smoked pepper aioli. They sure beat the fries at the McDonald’s drive-through you normally scarf down after a smoke session. Make a reservation at Blue Duck Tavern.

Seattle

Smoked

Stoner Munchies

Catfish Deviled Eggs at Sazerac
There are deviled eggs and then there are smoked catfish deviled eggs. The fish is balanced on a peak of whipped yolks, garnished with pickled mustard seeds, and dusted with Spanish smoked paprika. Yes, it’s okay to eat these outrageous oeufs in a single bite. We won’t judge, dude. Make a reservation at Sazerac.

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