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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Foodspotting: Does Foodie Photography Make You Lose Your Appetite?

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has kicked off its new (pre-digital) food photography exhibit called “In Focus: Tasteful Pictures” around the same time that everyone is talking about the rise of diners obsessively photographing their food; some are even videotaping their dining experiences. Chefs, beyond Grant Achatz, and including Ludo Lefebvre, are getting upset that food isn’t being enjoyed at the proper temperature — and that the photography is slowing down service.

Do you photograph your food when dining out? Are you irritated when others do so? Is videography taking the documentary portion of dining out too far? Tell us what you think here or on Facebook.

How to Take Foodspotting Photos (Unless You’re at Alinea)

PaprikaFrom the “Not-Exactly-Breaking-News” files, food photography is rampant at restaurants, thanks to, first, Flickr, then Twitpic, and now Foodspotting. The act of creating food porn, as a lot of people call it, while eating out has become more acceptable, even though it annoys some diners. I admit I’ve done this a few times — but very surreptitiously and only to let a friend see what she’s missing. Cruel, I know.

The New York Times details the rise of food photography’s popularity and also provides a practical guide from blogger Andrew Scrivani to taking the best food photos on the fly. If you don’t want to offend your fellow diners, at Bon Appetit, BA Foodist Andrew Knowlton list three simple rules for taking food pics on the sly. Whatever you do regarding foodie photography, don’t do it at Alinea, lest you incur the wrath of the great Grant Achatz.