Thursday, 15 December 2016

The insight of pâté

Ordering the pâté in a restaurant is an interesting thing to me. It tells me a lot about a chef and the empathy within the business. This has nothing to do with ingredients or preparation. It has to do with toast.

All too often I get to the last few bites of the dish, and more often than not there is not enough toast left. The last few mouthfuls are scraps of toast, piled way too high. It is a little bit frustrating but it also tells me whether any actually ate the dish before putting it on the menu. Not tasted it, but ate it. Start to finish. Sat down like a customer and finished the whole thing.

More often than not dishes like this get tasted, and then plated in a way that looks nice. However, the ratio is a total giveaway of whether they’re thinking life chefs or like customers. Another classic example is sending out a sharing plate with five of whichever item on it. Each one alone tastes very good. The plating of five looks generous and attractive. However, for sharing it is one of the worst numbers – how often are there ever five guests at a table? Nothing divides well into it, and so you sprinkle in a tiny bit of awkwardness into the dish, and into the meal.

Restaurants aren’t the only businesses guilty of this. Coffees only cupped by roasters, but never brewed and drunk to the bottom of the cup or pot by the same QC team. Espresso that is enjoyable for a single sip, served as an overwhelming and unnecessary double from a naked portafilter.

The bar on which an espresso machine sits can easily become a divide between us and them. We stop thinking and acting, eating and drinking, ordering and paying like our customers. The single taste is an assessment of a single moment, and we’re all trying to offer a lot more than that.

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