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Vongerichten's Next Move


FunnyJohn
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Wonder how this new venture will fare in the current economy?
More than that, how will it launch when JGV takes most every weekend off?

Last Friday's WSJ had a profile of JGV at home in Waccubuc (Westchester Co) NY:

This is Mr. Vongerichten's weekend home, which introduced something new into the chef's life: a weekend. For 35 years, he worked six days a week. But since buying this traditional house about two years ago, Mr. Vongerichten says he spends most weekends here, arriving Saturday morning and returning to the city Sunday night.

<snip>

Professionally, Mr. Vongerichten isn't slowing down. In addition to running eight restaurants in New York, including his Michelin three-star-rated flagship Jean Georges, he and Mr. Suarez have opened six restaurants in recent years. Despite the economy, they plan to open 10 more next year. "Some things have been put on hold, but overall what we have in the pipeline now is happening," Mr. Suarez says.

The story also has a video of lunch preparation.

ETA: In the NYT and WSJ during the same week? Somebody's publicist is earning their bacon.

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Does a clear distinction any longer exist between someone like Vongerichten on the one hand and Rachael Ray on the other?
IMO, yes. Jean-Georges can become Rachel Ray. Conversely, Rachel Ray could not become Jean-Georges, she just doesn't have the chops. I'll write up a meal from Jean-Georges later today, but it goes without saying that before being a one man corporation, JGV was one of the most talented chefs in the United States, and has worked in / ran Michelin starred restaurants on multiple continents.
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I think his empire is great if it subsidizes the flag ship restaurant. Their lunch menu has to be one of the greatest deals in the restaurant world, and whether or not its deserves its stars its definitely a great deal. I've had some pretty good meals at Perry Street too.

One thing that I like about his is he's said in interviews that he knows his other restaurants can't be Jean Georges.

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In the early to mid '90's my wife and I had three meals in one week at Emeril's on Tschoupoulitas (sp?) street in New Orleans. One of these was sitting at the "food bar" in the rear where Emeril served you personally. Another dinner had ten of us at a round table and a 12 course blow out dinner. The third was my wife and myself for lunch the afternoon after the blowout dinner.

All three were incredible.

We went back the next year. And the next. And the next. Even flying to New Orleans ONLY to eat there.

At some point Emeril started with the TV Food Network and commuted to New York for his show. At some point he also started opening other restaurants. Today there are many of these. None have anything in common with his original when he was in the kitchen, behind the "food bar." That restaurant, then-to this day-is still one of the absolute best restaurants to ever open in the United States. It was THAT good. It is also, today, not the same. He is no longer on the other side of the counter, no longer in the kitchen. No longer caring about every single dish that is sent out. Emeril's today is an industry that has little in common with the NOLA original that he sweated his life for.

I expect Jean Georges to be the same.

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At some point Emeril started with the TV Food Network and commuted to New York for his show. At some point he also started opening other restaurants. Today there are many of these. None have anything in common with his original when he was in the kitchen, behind the "food bar." That restaurant, then-to this day-is still one of the absolute best restaurants to ever open in the United States. It was THAT good. It is also, today, not the same. He is no longer on the other side of the counter, no longer in the kitchen. No longer caring about every single dish that is sent out. Emeril's today is an industry that has little in common with the NOLA original that he sweated his life for.

I expect Jean Georges to be the same.

I hope you are wrong, but fear you are right -- everyone has to know their limits (didn't Dirty Harry say that?). Anyway, even if this venture results in a watering down of the Vongerichten product, it still might be a plus for the food world.
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I can't help bu thing of the depressingly mediocre meals I had PuckDonald's in Denver. Perfectly competent meals but the fact that there might be a Chef-God involved with the operation was evident only from the liberal use of Wolfgang's surname.

And, not to be a snob or anything, but the rubes in the secondary markets don't know the difference (he sniffed).

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I can sum this entire discussion up by recalling something I heard about ten years ago on Car Talk. One of the Tappet brothers (not sure if it was Click or Clack) wondered aloud when "all the SUV drivers are going to wake up and realize that they're riding around in minivans." <Insert cackling laughter here.>

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I can't help bu thing of the depressingly mediocre meals I had PuckDonald's in Denver. Perfectly competent meals but the fact that there might be a Chef-God involved with the operation was evident only from the liberal use of Wolfgang's surname.

And, not to be a snob or anything, but the rubes in the secondary markets don't know the difference (he sniffed).

I've said the same about The Source - above average Asian food but nothing to get excited over, add in the inflated price, they can kiss my little yellow ass. After looking over Spice Market's menu I get the same feeling.

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I've said the same about The Source - above average Asian food but nothing to get excited over, add in the inflated price, they can kiss my little yellow ass.

The Source's own website says this: "Upstairs, guests can enjoy a menu that features modern interpretations of Asian dishes."

And this: "The upstairs, Asian-influenced menu includes dishes such as Crispy Suckling Pig with black plum puree; Steamed Wild King Salmon “Hong Kong” style with baby bok choy; and Lacquered Chinese Duckling with wild huckleberries and chow fun."

So what, exactly, about a decidedly upscale restaurant claiming to offer an "Asian-influenced menu" with "modern interpretations of Asian dishes" ruffles your feathers enough to say what you said? I find your ire misdirected and your comment unfair.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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The Source's own website says this: "Upstairs, guests can enjoy a menu that features modern interpretations of Asian dishes."

And this: "The upstairs, Asian-influenced menu includes dishes such as Crispy Suckling Pig with black plum puree; Steamed Wild King Salmon “Hong Kong” style with baby bok choy; and Lacquered Chinese Duckling with wild huckleberries and chow fun."

So what, exactly, about a decidedly upscale restaurant claiming to offer an "Asian-influenced menu" with "modern interpretations of Asian dishes" ruffles your feathers enough to say what you said? I find your ire misdirected and your comment unfair.

Cheers,

Rocks.

I don't think Asian food needs modern interpretation. From my standpoint, it's dumbing down the food for people who don't know anything about Asian food to feel better about themselves. If you believe what you said, why bother going to Present, Nava Thai or Hong Kong Palace? What's the difference between The Source and PF Chang?

What part about a $40 over-fried fish should I applaud? At Present, that same $40 bought us a fish that fed 7. At The Source, I didn't bother finishing the fish.

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I don't think Asian food needs modern interpretation. From my standpoint, it's dumbing down the food for people who don't know anything about Asian food to feel better about themselves. If you believe what you said, why bother going to Present, Nava Thai or Hong Kong Palace? What's the difference between The Source and PF Chang?

---> X <---

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I don't think Asian food needs modern interpretation. From my standpoint, it's dumbing down the food for people who don't know anything about Asian food to feel better about themselves. If you believe what you said, why bother going to Present, Nava Thai or Hong Kong Palace? What's the difference between The Source and PF Chang?

Yep, if it wasn't done in the Ming Dynasty (the Manchus are soooo nouveau) it's clearly "dumbing down." Cause that's how Wolfie (and J-G) bones -- dumbing shit down for American diners.

On the other hand, the self-esteem surge I experience after dinner at the Source is better than junk and cheaper than therapy (while dinner at Nava Thai makes me feel sad and lost).

(Thinks me: I see a false dichotomy.)

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Huh? Do you feel the same way about French, Italian, German, American, Cajun, Creole, etc.? :rolleyes: From your other posts I would say no...

When someone has mastered a cuisine, then maybe he/she could start reinterpreting it. The best analogy I have is in the art world. Picasso was a great painter and then he pioneered cubism. If Puck can make great Asian food, then he can go hog wild in reinterpreting it. Unfortunately I haven't had Puck's personal cooking but I've tried his restaurants and they're not great.

I like great food, it could be authentic or it can be creative, but it has to achieve greatness. If you think Puck and his empire or JG and his empre can create great food, you should go eat there. In my opinion, they're just above the average Asian you can find here in DC.

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Have you eaten at a JG restaurant?

[i'm sure he has. Nobody's questioning Eric's dining credentials]; it's his sanity that's in doubt. :rolleyes: I have various issues with his arguments, not the least of which is his broad brushstroke of "Asian food," but I have to choose my battles and I'm not choosing this one. At least not yet.

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When someone has mastered a cuisine, then maybe he/she could start reinterpreting it. The best analogy I have is in the art world. Picasso was a great painter and then he pioneered cubism.
I find this logic faulty. I think some people consider John Williams as a great movie composer or "mastered" composition, but all he has done is reinterpret Holst, Wagner, and Grieg (and others I can't think of right now). Or, people consider JS Bach great, but he was unappreciated during his lifetime and wasn't rendered a great composer until Mendelssohn conducted/reintroduced his works.
I like great food, it could be authentic or it can be creative, but it has to achieve greatness. If you think Puck and his empire or JG and his empre can create great food, you should go eat there. In my opinion, they're just above the average Asian you can find here in DC.
And I'm sure others will, greatness, such as an appreciation for "great" art is allllllllll subjective. However, if you go by pure economical measures, they aren't doing too shabby in the great-department, huh?
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And I'm sure others will, greatness, such as an appreciation for "great" art is allllllllll subjective. However, if you go by pure economical measures, they aren't doing too shabby in the great-department, huh?

You have 370 posts and you haven't figured out that the "rich=talented" argument is a pretty sure loser?

This isn't about commerce, it's about art. Unless you think that the Cheesecake Factory is art. (Not that I disagree with your larger point, but I'm just sayin')

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The idea that Jean Georges or Perry Street serves food that is on the same level or just above a DC asian restaurant is not really credible to me. DC is not really a great place to eat asian food, and I really don't think that any DC asian restaurant I've been to is anywhere close to just below 3 Michelin Stars or 4 NYT stars. I haven't eaten at the Source.

I do agree with Goodeats that JG or Puck are good businessmen.

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I've said the same about The Source - above average Asian food but nothing to get excited over, add in the inflated price, they can kiss my little yellow ass. After looking over Spice Market's menu I get the same feeling.

Don -- Maybe you could combine this thread with this one. "Bassist with Splenda?" sounds like the correct title for it.

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[i'm sure he has. Nobody's questioning Eric's dining credentials]; it's his sanity that's in doubt. :rolleyes: I have various issues with his arguments, not the least of which is his broad brushstroke of "Asian food," but I have to choose my battles and I'm not choosing this one. At least not yet.

Vong in London. Actually, a part of my point is that Asian food is comprised of many countries and many cuisines. It's rather insane that any one chef can claim to have mastered all of these cuisines. As for reinterpreting food, I say don't mess with something unless you're going to improve it (which begs the question, how can you improve something unless you've mastered it?) So, has Puck or JG improved the food? In my opinion, they haven't.

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Not to mention, the point of view of these chefs is deconstruction, both along technique and flavor-combination lines. When it works is (usually) when one of these guys applies one flavor combination to a different technique. When it doesn't work is when they try to dumb down (through over-refinement or avoidance of extreme flavors) a dish of the same technique and flavor combination as a "native" dish. Or when Bobby Flay is involved.

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Please show us where Wolfgang Puck made this claim.
Or Jean-Georges, for that matter. To echo Jake, J-G's flagship is decidedly NOT an asian restaurant. I understand Vong and Spice market to be fusion, in the puck vein, but I'd guess that if you asked J-G what cuisine, if any, he has "mastered", it would be alsatian. Also worth noting that JG spent a large percentage of his career in Asia.
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Please show us where Wolfgang Puck made this claim.

If he hasn't mastered the cuisine, then what business does he have to reinterpret it? Would people have accepted serial composition by Madonna?

Or Jean-Georges, for that matter. To echo Jake, J-G's flagship is decidedly NOT an asian restaurant. I understand Vong and Spice market to be fusion, in the puck vein, but I'd guess that if you asked J-G what cuisine, if any, he has "mastered", it would be alsatian. Also worth noting that JG spent a large percentage of his career in Asia.

My meal at Vong was quite good and it was not heavily Asian influenced, IIRC. I'm not knocking on J-G's flagship, just his Spice Market brand.

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If he hasn't mastered the cuisine, then what business does he have to reinterpret it?

This is a specious statement, and if it weren't five freaking thirty in the morning and I'm a bit late for work already, I'd come up with some analogy, like how driving an armoured Suburban is not really different from driving a Spec Racer Ford, but it'll have to wait. Hopefully someone can pick up my slack by the time I get home tonight.

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If Puck can make great Asian food, then he can go hog wild in reinterpreting it. Unfortunately I haven't had Puck's personal cooking but I've tried his restaurants and they're not great.

Chinois on Main has continuously been serving great "Asian fusion" cuisine since 1983. It was the second restaurant that Wolfgang Puck opened in Los Angeles, after Spago, where he offered his creative interpretations of Italian food. Prior to that, when he was in his 20's, he was the chef at Ma Cuisine, where he brought L.A. to it's knees with his modern California-French food. But since he hadn't necessarily mastered all of classic French cuisine, nor Italian, and grew up eating and cooking in Austria, by your logic he should only have been making schnitzel and spaetzle. Traditional is great if it is well done, and stick to that if you prefer it. Your broad-brush condemnation of Puck and JG who are creative geniuses seems to be tangled up with envy and resentment about their business and marketing successes. Offering informed critiques is not the same as being judgemental.

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It strikes me that a knickers are in a twist over a few words bashed out by a publicist on deadline. I suspect, if asked, that both JG and Wolfie could recognize that there are indeed many countries in Asia, and name many of them; do respect and delight in un-reinterpreted Asian food; would claim neither to have mastered or or to have comprehensively re-interpreted the many moods of Asian cuisine.

I think they both just enjoy messing around (at an ethereal level) with Asian stuff. If you like it, you like it. If you don't, you don't. But it's neither a criticism of or an assault on The Real Thing nor (and this is the subtext I'm getting) imperialism by the forces of culinary colonialism eager to bring Christianity, capitalism and French technique to the heathens.

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Chinois on Main has continuously been serving great "Asian fusion" cuisine since 1983. It was the second restaurant that Wolfgang Puck opened in Los Angeles, after Spago, where he offered his creative interpretations of Italian food. Prior to that, when he was in his 20's, he was the chef at Ma Cuisine, where he brought L.A. to it's knees with his modern California-French food. But since he hadn't necessarily mastered all of classic French cuisine, nor Italian, and grew up eating and cooking in Austria, by your logic he should only have been making schnitzel and spaetzle. Traditional is great if it is well done, and stick to that if you prefer it. Your broad-brush condemnation of Puck and JG who are creative geniuses seems to be tangled up with envy and resentment about their business and marketing successes. Offering informed critiques is not the same as being judgemental.

I can only critique from personal experience. I can tell you my Chinois experience in Vegas was pitiful and my experience at The Soure wasn't much better. As far as I know, Spago has 2 michelin stars whereas Chinois has none. Maybe he has mastered Italian cuisine? The fact that LA swoons over his food really is of little relevance.

Puck and JG are great businessmen and they have been successful. I neither envy nor resent them (your suggestion that I do brings an unncessary personal element into this discussion. If anything, I'm little bit protective of my native cuisine and don't want every jackass who has a wok to start thinking they can make better Chinese food). Are they creative? I suppose they are and I have no reason to dispute it.

The only question I have is a theoretical one. Should someone who is not a master of a cuisine reinterpret/reinvent it?

Let's take rap stars as an example. Rap music is considered music. Rap is an interpretation of music which is enjoyed by many (but mostly young Americans). Some rap stars are creative geniuses and have great business and marketing successes. Do you think rap music is as good as classical masterpieces? Classical music has stood the test of time and so has traditional Chinese food. You think 1,000 years later people will still be eating Puck's recipes? You think 1,000 years later people will still listen to rap?

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And what if the reinvention creates dishes that brings you great happiness and pleasure? Should they not be created just because the mastermind behind them is not a master in that cuisine? Take Restaurant Eve and Komi's gnocchi. Comparable to Frank Ruta's little pillows of heaven, yet created by an Irish and Greek guy? Does that automatically make them lesser than what you find a Palena? I personally don't think so.

(Thank you all for the entertainment in this thread over the past few days. :rolleyes: )

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Let's take rap stars as an example. Rap music is considered music. Rap is an interpretation of music which is enjoyed by many (but mostly young Americans). Some rap stars are creative geniuses and have great business and marketing successes. Do you think rap music is as good as classical masterpieces? Classical music has stood the test of time and so has traditional Chinese food. You think 1,000 years later people will still be eating Puck's recipes? You think 1,000 years later people will still listen to rap?

Or, let's take classical music -- You may have noticed that Wagner and the music of his era is very different from, say, Vivaldi. While there were undoubtedly a few reactionaries running around the symphony halls hollering "if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it," Wagner and his contemporaries nevertheless -- dare we say -- reinterpreted the music handed down to them (as had generations before), not abandoning the past but building upon it, ensuring that the music remained vital and varied.

I agree that there's no way to improve upon a a good General Tso's Chicken, but it's possible that the same ingredients could be put to other uses.

I wonder what would have happened if the first Chinese chef to introduce those new-fangled peppers from the recently discovered Americas had been confronted by an atavistic horde telling him: "you're not a master, you damn well better cook that stuff the same way great-grandma did."

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Or, let's take classical music -- You may have noticed that Wagner and the music of his era is very different from, say, Vivaldi. While there were undoubtedly a few reactionaries running around the symphony halls hollering "if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it," Wagner and his contemporaries nevertheless -- dare we say -- reinterpreted the music handed down to them (as had generations before), not abandoning the past but building upon it, ensuring that the music remained vital and varied.

I'm sorry to be a pedant, but there were more than a few reactionaries criticizing Wagner & Company ... click.

You may now continue.

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Or, let's take classical music -- You may have noticed that Wagner and the music of his era is very different from, say, Vivaldi. While there were undoubtedly a few reactionaries running around the symphony halls hollering "if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it," Wagner and his contemporaries nevertheless -- dare we say -- reinterpreted the music handed down to them (as had generations before), not abandoning the past but building upon it, ensuring that the music remained vital and varied.

They were all masters of western music. None of them attempted to improve Asian music (which in my opinion, needed lots of improvement). I didn't say all things should stay the same (if I did, then I shamefully retract such statement). I said let those who really know their craft be at the forefront of making changes.

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I said let those who really know their craft be at the forefront of making changes.

It is undoubtedly true that the best noodle dish makers work on some streetcorner in Bangkok or Guangzhou or Hanoi. Any chance they have any desire to "be at the forefront of making changes"?

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It is undoubtedly true that the best noodle dish makers work on some streetcorner in Bangkok or Guangzhou or Hanoi. Any chance they have any desire to "be at the forefront of making changes"?

Do you know the Legend of Din Tai Fung http://dintaifungusa.com/en/en_story01.html? He made great dumplings first before he put more esoteric stuffing inside the dumplings. As for Gen Tso's crap for food, it is a dish that pleases many American palates yet it is undoubtedly crap for food. I dare say the sales of Gen Tso's crap for food far surprises the food served by all of Puck's and JG's restaurants combined (but as Waitman already pointed out, economic success does not mean greatness).

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I'm sorry to be a pedant, but there were more than a few reactionaries criticizing Wagner & Company ... click.

You may now continue.

And then there were the purists who booed Bob Dylan when he went electric.

This whole discussion has been prompted by a premise that is based on snobbish pretensiousness.

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