Monday, April 30, 2007

celebrity chef hangover

April 29

Wild Salmon, the restaurant formerly known as Tuscan Steak, Tuscan and English is Italian, is serving brunch, and its publicists and asked me to check it out, so I did with my friend Birdman.
Birdman is a loyal and good friend, and he's got class, too: He presented me with my 40th birthday present, a bottle of Armagnac made the year I was born, 1967. Ooh, baby.
Birdman drank Mimosas and I drank Bloody Marys, and we sampled a Bull Shot, which is vodka in beef bouillon, while eating selections from the raw bar, salumi, corn-and-crab soup, Wild Salmon Benedict (eggs Benedict, but with King, Sockeye and Coho salmon), salmon with truffled scrambled eggs, salmon-potato hash, apple cake and lemon panna cotta.
Our server was good-natured and chatty, and we learned that he had been at this restaurant, owned by Jeffrey Chodorow, for all four of its incarnations, and he shared with us his opinions of celebrity chefs.
You see, Chodorow hired Rocco DiSpirito to transform Tuscan Steak to Tuscan. I believe that was the beginning of their relationship that would end in tears and lawsuits with the simultaneous implosion of the reality TV show The Restaurant and the restaurant on which it was based, Rocco’s 22nd Street.
Chodorow hired Todd English for English is Italian.
Birdman expressed mild disdain for Todd English, whom he judged as overrated. I praised Rocco DiSpirito who, although he seemed to let his fame get away from him, was an inspired chef at Union Pacific who won the admiration of other chefs for his creativity. He then lost it on television, but what are you going to do?
Our server said that, in fact, English acted as a consummate professional, working in the kitchen and letting everyone else go about their business, while DiSpirito seemed intent on telling everyone else — waiters, baristas, bartenders — how to do their jobs.
Wild Salmon's chef, Swiss-born Charles Ramseyer, is comparatively low-key. The former chef of Ray’s Boathouse & Cafe in Seattle came out to say a cordial hello, but he clearly would have preferred to stay in the kitchen.


linecook said...

maybe chef ramseyer was busy taking care of the kitchen . Hewas not on a cell phone delegateing work. He was actually maybe on expo , or on the line , or makeing sure everthing is running well.He is a real chef .try to go downstairs and see the size of that kitchen . You should were his shoes for a day and tell me how much time you have to go up stairs and mingle with you two .

linecook englishisitalian crew

Bret Thorn said...

Linecook, I don’t mean any disrespect to chef Ramseyer. He came across as an honest, hardworking chef who enjoyed his job, which is making sure that the kitchen runs effectively. It seemed to me that his coming out to say hello was done on the instruction of his publicists.
That brings up an interesting problem for chefs, though. Theoretically, an executive chef stays in the back-of-the-house and lets the outside world take care of itself. But in this age of celebrity chefs, the potential for greater recognition (and fame and money) is out there. Plenty of cooks would be more than happy to reach Ramseyer’s level, and that’s great.
Others dream of being the next Todd English or Rocco DiSpirito. To do that you need to have a certain presence in front of a camera (great looks help, but aren't required, as Mario Batali has proven). That presents great opportunities for chefs with the right combination of skills, but it can also result in the sort of misunderstanding that we just had.