Learning a new style…

I think that every 4 star and up chef has experienced a change in thinking when it comes to keeping his/her restaurant alive during these tough economic times. Many chefs I speak with turmoil over how to reduce costs while maintaining quality/integrity. Sure it’s easy to spend money to look good, but if people are no longer willing to pay top dollar for all the intricate details, what’s one to do? Quality chefs refuse to sacrifice. It’s true, Jerry has told me on a number of occasions now, “it’s easy to look good as you go out of business…”.

During this economic down-turn, I have witnessed a change in dining habits. People are looking for value. Looking for a 4 star experience at a 2 star price. “You can always trade down.” Do I really need to spend $50 for that 8 ounce bottle of PX Sherry Vinegar? Non-sacrificing chefs may say “yeah, I do”. Others may say “I’ll create dishes that don’t use it.” That is the boat I am in. I am re-learning the trade. Re-thinking how my flavors work. I am spending less time getting what I want and more time wanting what I got. I am fortunate to work at a place that has a loyal following and is regionally famous. It’s me that has to fit into this mold if we are to continue to be successful. 33 years in business means there is a lot of tradition here. Suffice to say that this place is “steeped” in tradition. How does a chef like me that strives for innovation work in this type of environment? A place who’s known for it’s 16ounce prime rib with horseradish sour cream and twice baked potato? I’m a survivor, and this means re-inventing myself. I will have to learn to pay homage to tradition, but at the same time satisfy my own drive for innovation. After all, Chicken Picatta has already been invented (and enjoyed here for over 3 decades…)

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