It was with great sadness that I read of the impending closure of the best restaurant in the world. Many’s the time I’d stop by after work for a couple of fruit-leather beetles and a grilled reindeer heart. That was some good eating.
But nothing stays the same in this world, does it? Chef René Redzepi (“Red Zep” to his friends) made it work for two decades, what with great word-of-mouth among the uber-wealthy and not paying the help. A man just gets tired, that’s all.
What’s the most you ever paid for a meal? Four of us once went to a chi-chi place in Louisville, and the check came to just under $800. I came out thinking, “OK, not doing that again.” The food was excellent, sure, but $200 a pop seemed a betrayal of my rural roots. I could imagine the dismay of my Mom, who would balk at the cost of pretty much anything on a Wendy’s menu.
By contrast, the best restaurant meal I can remember was at a pizza place in Chicago, now defunct. The bill for three of us that night would not get you a glass of water at the Noma, the best restaurant in the world.
But at that level – three Michelin stars, three thumbs up from Elon Musk (who recently purchased an additional thumb) – it’s not about the price. I wonder if it’s really even about the food. It’s about creating something so rarified and inaccessible (and hopefully edible) that people who partake of it can feel the same way. It’s why certain people buy new Lamborghini’s when a used Honda Civic can perform exactly the same function.
Maybe by now you’ve seen The Menu. It lampoons this very thing: Food as high art, artisté chefs who despise their patrons. In it, Ralph Fiennes rephrases an observation about haute cuisine that sums it up nicely. Don’t remember the exact line, but it goes something like this:
No matter how exquisite the meal when going in, it always comes out as …
Well, you get the picture.