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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20 Culinary Questions with Washington, D.C., Food Writer Nevin Martell

IMG_8718Nevin Martell may be a New York native, but he’s made himself very much at home in Washington, D.C., over the last decade, and he definitely knows how to dine like a local. A freelance food and travel writer, Martell is the author of the recently published travelogue-memoir Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. He is a sucker for foie gras and truffles and has been an OpenTable member since 2007 — as well as a super-adventurous eater since birth. He says, “Traveling the world, I’ve gotten stoned on kava in Fiji, eaten tree frogs in the Dominican Republic, and noshed on grasshoppers in Mexico. In the spirit of adventure, I’m always willing to try anything. I’ve always wanted to eat on Easter Island, so if anyone is looking for a culinary story on the most remote point in the world, let me know!” You can follow his gourmet exploits at NevinMartell.com and on Twitter @nevinmartell

1. What are some of the best qualities of the Washington, D.C., dining scene? Over the last several years, D.C.’s restaurant scene has started growing at an explosive rate. New eateries are popping up every day and everywhere. Despite the fierce competition, the dining community remains tightknit, supportive, and highly collaborative. That goes for the food writers in town as well.

2. Any restaurants at which you’re something of a regular? It’s hard to become a regular when you’re always trying new restaurants and eating out on assignment. However, I have become a common sight at G by Mike Isabella, La Mano Coffee Bar, and Republic.

3. If I come to D.C., where must I dine? Rose’s Luxury, Rasika, Little Serow, Toki Underground, and Blue Duck Tavern. A sandwich at Woodward Takeout Food or Stachowski’s is highly recommended. If you’re willing to drive, The Inn at Little Washington, Bryan Voltaggio’s VOLT, and The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm are all worth the trip.

4. Last best restaurant you dined at? The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. Tarver King is equal parts chef and artist, so his food is as beautiful and creatively constructed as it is delicious.

 5. Restaurants you’d most like to try but have yet to — anywhere? In reality, this wishful list is hundreds of restaurants long. However, here are some highlights: The French Laundry, Alex Atala’s D.O.M. in Sao Paolo, Sushi Mizutani in Tokyo, L’Arpège in Paris, Momofuku Ko in NYC, and Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon.

6. Favorite city for dining outside your own? New York City. Also, Clinton, New York, because that’s where my mother lives and I have the softest spot in my heart for her cooking.

7. Destination dining cities you’d love to visit? Tokyo, Casablanca, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

8. What’s your overall favorite type of cuisine? This is the Sophie’s Choice of questions for a food writer! I can’t possibly pick a single cuisine.

9.  Small shared plates, tasting menu, or app/entrée dessert? I love to simply let the server know my preferences and let the chef go to town.

10. Dish you can’t resist ordering when you see it on a menu? Sticky toffee pudding.

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Tweet of the Week: A Delightful Halloween Treat from The French Laundry

Fairytales can come true. It can happen to you — if you follow The French Laundry on Twitter. Even though it was Halloween, this was no trick. Thomas Keller’s legendary dining mecca released a full day of reservations on OpenTable, and a bunch of fortunate and fast foodies seized the opportunity. Congratulations to everyone who scored a table; you are definitely in for a treat!

Tweet of the Week-TFL



OpenTable Diner Reviews Reveal Top 100 Wine Lists

corks-blogAs the grape harvest continues at the nation’s vineyards, we are pleased to announce the 2013 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Restaurants with the Most Notable Wine Lists. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 15,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Featuring talented sommeliers and lists to impress any oenophile, the winners span 27 states and include Canlis in Seattle, The French Laundry in Yountville, California, and Veritas in New York City. Home to the nation’s most renowned vineyards, California accounts for 21 honorees, followed by Maryland with eight winners and Florida, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington with five apiece. Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas restaurants each boast four winning restaurants. Michigan and Nevada both claim three winners. Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, and Tennessee each have two winning restaurants. Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin restaurants are also represented. American fare restaurants had the greatest number of winners, followed by those serving Italian and tapas/small plate cuisines.

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