Watch Your Tongue Young Man…

So….It has come to my attention that a certain “fellow restauranteur and Chef” (I use the terms very loosely by the way) has begun to talk a little smack about the old man here in Winnetka. This “child” has recently opened in a space previously occupied by an old friend and mentor of mine in Highland Park. The gentleman that I refer to as a friend and mentor is a talented Chef that I was lucky enough to work for at Cafe Provencal in Evanston waaaaaaay back in the day. Shortly after my time in France and somewhere in between a slew of very talented and well-known Chefs I was able to land with him for a time. His cooking is every bit as good as any other Chef I worked under either here in the states or abroad. I don’t like to mention names directly as I’ve learned it is not always the best practice, however, the info I just laid out will be enough for any foodie to go on especially on the North Shore. Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that I am also lucky enough to have his former Chef de Cuisine Miguel working with me in Winnetka. This guy is an absolute gem. I’ll blog about him in detail in the coming months to be certain.

Getting back to my friendly, loose-lipped neighbor, I hear through the grapevine that this sprout, this arrogant upstart, has mentioned in passing to those I know well in the industry that he has a certain lack of respect for my cooking. I’ve not been able, thus far to ascertain in what regard he lacks respect. I can only assume that the logical choices would be either style or execution. The grumblings I’ve heard thus far are a bit primative but strangely consistent which leaves me to believe that there may indeed be a bit of truth to the rumors I am hearing of this boys practice of spouting off and show of disrespect.

Son, let me say this, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Pulp Fiction, ” Well allow me to retort” My first inclination at this point in my career would be to simply dismiss you with a half-hearted, and lack luster “go fuck yourself”. But alas, something else comes along with the feeling of security and satisfaction in my work that only comes with age and the “chops” one earns with time logged in their own kitchen.  That something is the ability to stand behind my cuisine and execution of same. Not so much a need to do so but rather a responsibility.

For you see, Ass Head, the ability to open a restaurant, sustain life for 5 weeks AND still retain the ability to talk shit about a Chef’s cooking that you don’t even know (let alone me knowing who the fuck you are), is a special talent.  A talent in fact, bestowed upon only the most rare of God’s culinary luminaries. They (and you) are known in the industry as “Chefus Jagoffikus”  or loosely translated “Stroke Chef”. This term has been translated in a number of different ways over time, but for the sake of decorum I will leave it at that.

I mean after all I don’t really know your silly ass and I am, for all intents and purposes, a gentleman. Now unlike “Chefus” here who feels it is appropriate to bash a fellow area businessman in a fragile economy while having been in operation himself for an amazingly stellar month and a week, I prefer to keep things civilized. By civilized I mean I will not speak poorly of his choice of a rib eye steak cooked on a fucking hot hunk of salt on your table. Perhaps the kitchen is too busy to finish the dish before it arrives at your table. Which sounds to me a lot like “fuck you, finish it yourself”. (Of course I am speculating here). Nor will I  speak with any disregard whatsoever about the lump of shit in a gratin dish topped with merengue that masquerades as some sort of bread pudding. Clearly a ground breaker in and of itself. Certainly you will hear not a peep from me about the oysters graced with….now listen closely…watermelon caviar. That’s right folks, watermelon caviar. Not only can this guy cook but he has discovered and retrieved, from a strange unknown world, a watermelon that lays fuckin eggs! Alert the media! The boy is working with one of a kind flukes of nature here. You will forgive me I’m sure if I refuse to be impressed until our young, testosterone ridden hero unveils his discovery of a line cook that gives birth to veal!

Shit! See, I fear I may have overstepped the boundaries of correctness once again. I’m sorry. (sob… pause for effect….)

You fucking asshole. What did you think was going to happen? You clearly are a special breed of idiot if you thought I wasn’t going to get wind of this trash talk. There was a time when those of us coming up, trying to make our own name in a business made difficult enough by sheer attrition, had some respect for those that came before them. Well I guess that unspoken rule has been thrown out the window. Once again, no memo was issued so how was I to know the that the gloves are off? Damn, I need to get back in the loop. I suppose this is as good a way as any. I will pose a challenge my friend. When you have had a 15-year track record of successful restaurants from Glen Ellyn to Winnetka and a couple of spots in between, all self-financed (and sold off for profit each time by the way) then and only then will I allow you to speak of me with anything other than reverence. Keep in mind, I don’t rattle kid. So keep your head in the kitchen and your mouth shut and some day I might even respect you. No, on second thought, probably not. However, you may just learn to respect yourself enough to be careful not to speak poorly of those you do not know. Especially if that person can administer a culinary spanking by way of his own cooking the likes of which you could not begin to fathom. Better still, I will extend an open invitation to have you learn proper cooking in a real kitchen. My kitchen. A kitchen in which my cooks will make you their bitch.

Until then, I guess I was wrong, I will simply write you off with a half-hearted “go fuck yourself”.   Just kidding! I am after all, a gentleman.

8 thoughts on “Watch Your Tongue Young Man…

  1. Michael, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that this new restaurant attempts to rip off and “upscale” (as in higher prices) an already successful south HP restaurant run by a generous and talented chef. Keep it coming.

  2. Michael–

    Is it safe to assume you are talking about the restaurant in the former Mimosa space? I have not eaten there, but any food business that states “We bring the downtown Chicago atmosphere to the north shore without bringing the prices with us” and then charges $30.00+ for entrees is disassociated with reality. There is a great deal of difference in what you do, which is providing high end cuisine with wonderful service and an excellent cellar for a price consistent with the quality. I have not heard anything from friends that have been to the restaurant to make me rush over there.

    I, too, have wondered about the phase of “molecular gastronomy” and paying large amount for wisps of favored air. If you do the math, there must be a huge profit in these restaurants that have multi-course meals for $125 to $200 per person, but each course has 1 or 2 bites. Even with the finest of ingredients, when the unit costs are computed for the small amount served each individual, the profits must be enormous. Yes, the plates are artfully arraigned to minimize the impact of the micro-servings, but how happy with the end result is the patron? If I want small plates, let me go to a tapas restaurant.

    If customers, like the couple that you mentioned in the blog a few weeks ago, complain about your prices being too high, especially before a meal was served to them, then they don’t need to eat at your establishment, and you are better off without them. The arrogance of their plight without even the experience of eating one of your meals, is unbelievable. There is no excuse of a patron to be ignorant of your pricing structure with the internet available as a means of viewing the menu in advance. If, crazy as it might be, someone complained after the meal that he/she did not feel that they received value for the money, they have earned a right to express their opinion (although it would be better to keep it to themselves and just never come back).

    Anyway, ignore the yahoos and keep up the great work that you do. If they can’t appreciate a great meal, then fuck ’em.


  3. Kids – what are you going to do with them? Like unwanted kittens, drown them in a sack down the well. Or perhaps we should blame the parents for not teaching this twit good manners. As my then 3 year old (now 30’s) daughter once informed me – Dad, there’s no excuse for bad madders (manners). From the mouths of babes. Amen.


  4. How about some posts about your days at Le Francais or your time in France? Would love to read more about your dishes than the stuff that pisses you off.

    • Sorry Tim, this is not a blog that walks down memory lane. Anytime you are in the restaurant I would love to share all of that info with you live and in person. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your interest. There are just too many memory lane type blogs out there.

  5. Having grown up in HP (1954-1968), I can tell you how disappointing it is for me to see a once sweet little town turn into the overpriced, upscale elitist haven it’s become. I miss Gsell’s, Garnett’s, Fell’s, Chandler’s, Larson’s, Big-Z Burger, Green Bay Road School… and a small grocery store called Sunset… (sigh) but I digress. I just wanted you to know that I found mention of the young upstart and his new spot in an HP blog called “Patch” and left the following missive in a comment following a puff-piece posting heralding the arrival of his eponymous dining establishment:
    “Overpriced menu. Self-aggrandizing. And stop with the trash-talking other, more experienced and talented chefs, little Benny-boy.” A bit snarky, but I though he’d be able to relate.

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