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What Is A Chef?


monavano
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I love the work in progress.� Little blurbs like "Who's Folding The Napkin"

"Is the Chef in Tonight" are wonderful and hopefully will keep some from resting on their laurels. And for once I feel Washingtonian is right on as to what is going on in restaurants.

No offense meant to the former team, but this "reorganization"� was long overdue.

I was going to mention the "Toque-A-Scope" (although, I would have called this "Toque Toque....who's there?). It is remarkable that Carole Greenwood was in every night. The upside of control, so there you go!

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I was going to mention the "Toque-A-Scope" (although, I would have called this "Toque Toque....who's there?). It is remarkable that Carole Greenwood was in every night. The upside of control, so there you go!

With the constant bombardment restaurants get for charitable donations including appearances by the chef/owners plus family obligations and business related appearances like book tours, why is it so important that he/she is there every night? The chef de cuisine is there every night. Roger Vergé was once asked who cooked when he wasn't there. His answer was "The same person who cooks when I am there".

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With the constant bombardment restaurants get for charitable donations including appearances by the chef/owners plus family obligations and business related appearances like book tours, why is it so important that he/she is there every night? The chef de cuisine is there every night. Roger Vergé was once asked who cooked when he wasn't there. His answer was "The same person who cooks when I am there".

It was just an observation, Mark. Perhaps a useless comment even. I don't care who cooks my food, really......

Edited by monavano
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With the constant bombardment restaurants get for charitable donations including appearances by the chef/owners plus family obligations and business related appearances like book tours, why is it so important that he/she is there every night? The chef de cuisine is there every night. Roger Vergé was once asked who cooked when he wasn't there. His answer was "The same person who cooks when I am there".

The Toque-A-Scope was my favorite feature in the section. When you go to a restaurant known for its chef, I think it's fair to know whether or not the chef will be there. When an establishment is named after its chef, you're certainly setting up an expectation, true or not, that the restaurant revolves around that person.

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The Toque-A-Scope was my favorite feature in the section. When you go to a restaurant known for its chef, I think it's fair to know whether or not the chef will be there. When an establishment is named after its chef, you're certainly setting up an expectation, true or not, that the restaurant revolves around that person.

Not in agreement here. That's what the Chef de Cuisine is for, to execute the Chef's dishes correctly and consistently.

And Mark, I had thought Paul Bocuse said that. Thanks for the correct version.

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With the constant bombardment restaurants get for charitable donations including appearances by the chef/owners plus family obligations and business related appearances like book tours, why is it so important that he/she is there every night? The chef de cuisine is there every night. Roger Vergé was once asked who cooked when he wasn't there. His answer was "The same person who cooks when I am there".

So why does the chef ever come to the restaurant at all?

Nobody said anything about cooking. It's about showing up for work.

"Oh, but part of the job is going out and doing PR for the restaurant!"

"The chef has spent a lot of time training his assistants (what are their names again?) to act in his absence."

Yeah, right. Try spending a few weeks in my shoes and you'll see otherwise. What a crock of shit is being fed to the dining public by these absentee chefs.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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If Rox is around, apparently so.

Don't paint me as a meanie. Ask yourself what your wine program would be like if you were gone on a regular basis - it wouldn't be the same. I'm not saying "don't tinkle," but we all remember the Citronelle in Baltimore...

... actually, we don't.

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Gone on a regular basis is much different than off for a night (or two).......back on topic, the food & wine section of now attracts my attention every month, whereas six months ago it never crossed my mind.

Far more educational, informative, and entertaining, even if I don't always agree with the reviews or articles position.

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Don't paint me as a meanie.  Ask yourself what your wine program would be like if you were gone on a regular basis - it wouldn't be the same.  I'm not saying "don't tinkle," but we all remember the Citronelle in Baltimore...

... actually, we don't.

True,,, but we all still have to understand the hardest part about being the "chef" is to teach his cooks how he/she wants them to cook. His or her style, that in itself is the hardest part of the job!!! You try teaching someone how to cook from a completely different country, let alone teaching them the difference between speck and prosciutto... Thats where the chef comes in..hahah.. I agree more than 2 days you lose focus, i take 2 days, sometimes 1, after 2 days i cant wait to get back to the stoves, hell thats where im comfortable. Not doing PR....

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True,,, but we all still have to understand the hardest part about being the "chef" is to teach his cooks how he/she wants them to cook.  His or her style, that in itself is the hardest part of the job!!! You try teaching someone how to cook from a completely different country, let alone teaching them the difference between speck and prosciutto...  Thats where the chef comes in..hahah.. I agree more than 2 days you lose focus, i take 2 days, sometimes 1, after 2 days i cant wait to get back to the stoves, hell thats where im comfortable.  Not doing PR....

....someone has to cook while the chef isnt there...., if the food is consistent than the chef must be doing his job..

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Don't paint me as a meanie.  Ask yourself what your wine program would be like if you were gone on a regular basis - it wouldn't be the same.  I'm not saying "don't tinkle," but we all remember the Citronelle in Baltimore...

... actually, we don't.

Ask our friend Tom Power about the Citronelle in Baltimore. :lol:

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I feel out of the loop here. Was there a Citronelle in Baltimore? It seems that when chef's start to open multiple locations they loose focus or become overwhelmed. I agree that it takes talent to teach other people to cook, but being a part of the kitchen is an essential motivator.

Was Tom Power the chef there?

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I feel out of the loop here.  Was there a Citronelle in Baltimore?  It seems that when chef's start to open multiple locations they loose focus or become overwhelmed.  I agree that it takes talent to teach other people to cook, but being a part of the kitchen is an essential motivator. 

Was Tom Power the chef there?

I was a sous chef at the Citronelle in Baltimore for about 6 months before I became the chef of Michel Richard's restaurant in Philladelphia.

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So why does the chef ever come to the restaurant at all?

Nobody said anything about cooking.  It's about showing up for work.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Warning!! Disturbingly Sentimental and Truthful Post to Follow

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 I took a Red Line Train part of the way to 1725 Wilson Boulevard to a meeting that never took place.

On Saturday, September 15, 2001 I saw 1725 Wilson Boulevard for the first time.

On Monday, October 15, 2001 I gave my possibly future landlord a non-refundable $50,000 check, each dollar represented by a corresponding reactively protectively thickened skin layer on my kneecaps.

On Thursday, November, 15 2001 I took possesion of the keys to 1725 Wilson Boulevard.

On Wednesday, December 12, 2001 I began demolition. I could afford a plumber, an electrician, a painter, an exhaust hood, a grill, a range, and a single double-door refrigerator, and tongs.

On an impossibly memory-lost day in either February or March, 2002, Ray's The Steaks served its first meal--a steak sandwich (yes, that is correct)--not necessarily to the public, though.

On Sunday, October 6, 2002--some six months later--Ray's The Steaks became a Seven-Day-A-Week Restaurant (from six days a week, Monday through Saturday) in a desperate bid to stay afloat. The kitchen was me and a dishwasher to help, Monday through Saturday. Sundays I washed the dishes too. We did 35 covers that first Sunday (at that point we averaged 40 covers a night weeknights and 55 covers weekends) and I left two racks of glasses and one flat of silver for the dishwasher the next day. I left at 4 AM, too tired to even dream about the nanoLAB.

On Sunday, June 29, 2003--nearly a full year and a half after opening, The Washington Post published its review of Ray's The Steaks, instituting a reign of incorrect-capitalization terror that plagues me to this day.

On Tuesday, March 9, 2004, Mr. Chris Sadler begins a Ray's The Steaks thread on egullet.com, a fact unbeknownst to me as I did not have internet connection until June 2004. Also posting that day was Mr. John Wabeck, whose support was as close to love as any man has a right to feel--or at least that is how it felt at the time.

On Monday May 31, 2004, after twenty months of seven-days-a-week, Ray's The Steaks became a Six-Day-A-Week Restaurant (Tuesday through Sunday), so I could spend Mondays with a girlfriend who, wisely but with some small regret, dumped me four bravely and gruelingly endured Mondays later.

On Saturday, January 22, 2005 my dishwasher-cum-trusted assistant grilled his first shift at Ray's The Steaks.

On Wednesday, February 15, 2006, I am planning my first putative trip further than a 45-minute drive from 1725 Wilson Boulevard, since well before this saga started, but am not really sure where to go or if I will actually be able to.

Why indeed, Don, why indeed?

Do you really think it's about cooking or showing up for work?

Edited by Michael Landrum
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Warning!!  Disturbingly Sentimental and Truthful Post to Follow

On Sunday, October 6, 2002--some six months later--Ray's The Steaks became a Seven-Day-A-Week Restaurant (from six days a week, Monday through Saturday) in a desperate bid to stay afloat.  The kitchen was me and a dishwasher to help, Monday through Saturday.  Sundays I washed the dishes too.  We did 35 covers that first Sunday (at that point we averaged 40 covers a night weeknights and 55 covers weekends) and I left two racks of glasses and one flat of silver for the dishwasher the next day.  I left at 4 AM, too tired to even dream about the nanoLAB.

On Saturday October 5, 2002, myself, my wife and my friend ate at Ray's for the first time. We were the only people in the restaurant for almost 45 minutes. I had the sirloin with blue cheese crumbles (a fact that I remember after almost 3 years)...haven't been able to get a damn reservation since. :lol:

Take the day off Michael, take two days...they are well deserved. And one day the three of us will be able to score a reservation and show up again and inhale your wonderful food.

Edited by Escoffier
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Warning!!  Disturbingly Sentimental and Truthful Post to Follow

Do you really think it's about cooking or showing up for work?

Michael,

There are probably few people reading this thread who were unaware of your long and tortuous road to success. It was hard-won and well deserved. Most of us can't wait for your new place to open. (Uh-oh, is this the start of a new CHAIN? :lol: ).

While I certainly can't speak for anyone else, particularly Mr. Rockwell, I can tell you that the road to Perdition is paved with the bodies of people who rested on their laurels.

Take your much-needed vacation. Indeed, take all the vacations you want. Just ask yourself how long your establishments will continue to pack 'em in without any hands-on input from you. Just sayin'.

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While I certainly can't speak for anyone else, particularly Mr. Rockwell, I can tell you that the road to Perdition is paved with the bodies of people who rested on their laurels.

And I can say that anyone resting on laurels never earned them. No Apollo, maybe a preening thief in stolen Hermes--at best.

Once caught, my Daphne stays mine:

All but the Nymph that should redress his wrong,

Attend his passion and approve his song.

Like Phoebus thus, acquiring unsought praise,

He caught at love and filled his arms with bays.

--Waller

(Waller's other great poem, by the way, in case anyone's wondering what happened to the real me, is about a guy who desports himself wearing a girdle on his head--written in 1645!! "Ode to a Girdle"--"That which her slender waist confined/Shall now my joyful temples bind!")

Edited by Michael Landrum
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Today's sous-chefs, chefs-de-cuisine, chefs-de-partee et. al. are tomorrow's executive chefs. In a well-regarded restaurant, I feel confident that the meal I'm ordering is as the executive chef envisioned.

It's really fun, however, to get to know some of these folks and allow them to experiment with you, try out their own variations. The chefs who get completely excited and want to set their culinary passions loose for your benefit are people to keep an eye on and take advantage of their generosity of spirit.

I'm every chef's dream diner. I've been properly educated by professional restaurant friends of mine as to what really goes on in the kitchen, how the flow of a busy evening unfolds, and I have almost boundless patience because I understand how it all works. I am also sympathetic to the feelings of service workers who are expected to be "on" at all times. I also tip well - a minimum of 20%, and I would really have to be pushed to my breaking point to do less than that. I'm happy with almost anything that is presented to me because I'm always curious about foods that I'm unfamiliar with, and since I can't cook, I'm really just awfully pleased to get a superior meal cooked for me. It is my worst indulgence, but such a pleasant one.

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(Waller's other great poem, by the way, in case anyone's wondering what happened to the real me, is about a guy who desports himself wearing a girdle on his head--written in 1645!!  "Ode to a Girdle"--"That which her slender waist confined/Shall now my joyful temples bind!")

Is anyone else here picturing Michael grilling steaks with his girlfriend's waist-cincher on his head? :lol::huh::)

The mind boggles.

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Years ago, before the advent of the American celebrity chef, I was sitting outside the restaurant 'Po' in NY at dinnertime with a friend of mine, talking to a big red-headed bearded guy. My friend, who was in the biz, after introductions, mentioned that this was the chef of Po-Mario. I was shocked! 'So if you're the chef, who's cooking?', I asked. He told me her name, and I asked if the quality suffered without him in the kitchen. He gave me a look (a 'whatever' look)'She's as good as me, and the food is as good as mine, if not better', came his response. If you train people who are skilled, and determined to produce great meals, etc., the quality should not suffer.

I remember eating at Napa in Vegas and Jean Louis was cooking in the expansive. open kitchen. I think that helps justify the high prices, as seeing someone famous cooking your meal is part of the entertainment value. And whenever he cooked at Pesce, my friend who was the sous chef there would call us and we would rush over there to have a meal cooked by him-even though we knew him.

So I think it works both ways. I'm sure people are happier when they know the chef's behind the stove. Especially since EVERY chef is now a 'celebrity chef', and I'm surprised Michael that you didn't name your former dishwasher-who is without a doubt a celebrity dishwasher. (No sarcasm intended)

Personally, I never like to leave my place in the hands of anyone other than myself or my wife, and we only serve tapas. But, Michael, you failed to mention all the other things you probably had to do, also, like sweep and mop the floor, clean/fix the toilets, water the plants,catch the pests, deal with suppliers, deliveries, salespeople, creditors, power outages, broken equipment, etc. And that's just to be able to stand behind the stove and cook. Yikes!

Edited by Miami Danny
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I try to be at my restaurant most of the time and in fact I am most of the time.

We are opened 5 lunches and 6 nights a week and it represents a certain number of hours.

Some times you get sick ( I have a ear infection),you do a charity event or you have vacation.For economical reason I cannot afford to close my restaurant for several weeks.

What I know is the fact that even when I am in my kitchen I don't cook everything;but it is true that being around I can check everything coming out of the kitchen.

We are like a conductor be sure that the music is played well.

I agree it si our duty to be in the kitchen or our restaurant but sometimes (rarely) we cannot be present.

I don't pretend to be in my restaurant every night but I am there at least 5 nights out of 6 and all lunches.

Sometimes when I go in the dining room people ask me for a cup of coffee,more bread or the check!!! :lol:

If I could I would close the weekend and have a normal life; I can't but I do my best to respect my customes.

Gerard pangaud

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I try to be at my restaurant most of the time and in fact I am most of the time.

We are opened 5 lunches and 6 nights a week and it represents a certain number of hours.

Some times you get sick ( I have a ear infection),you do a charity event or you have vacation.For economical reason I cannot afford to close my restaurant for several weeks.

What I know is the fact that even when I am in my kitchen I don't cook everything;but it is  true that being around I can check everything coming out of the kitchen.

We are like a conductor be sure that the music is played well.

I agree it si our duty to be in the kitchen or our restaurant but sometimes (rarely) we cannot be present.

I don't pretend to be in my restaurant every night but I am there at least 5 nights out of 6 and all lunches.

Sometimes when I go in the dining room people ask me for a cup of coffee,more bread or the check!!! :lol:

If I could I would close the weekend and have a normal life; I can't but I do my best to respect my customes.

Gerard pangaud

(Assuming that besides Gerard Pangaud, Tom Power, John Wabeck, Michael Landrum, et al., are lurking on this thread) my question is this: isn't this the price you pay to be self-employed, to run your establishments as you see fit, to expand and fulfull your vision and, OH BY THE WAY, to escape Cubicle Land with its concomitant Pointy-Haired Guy?

I'm not denigrating your work by asking this, but isn't this the fate of ALL successful small business people who have found their life's work? Those among us who have chosen the 9-5, Monday thru Friday with Federal holidays off, plus sick leave and accumulated annual leave, not to mention the pensions, give up an awful lot of autonomy for this "privilege." I just wonder who is happier in his/her work?

(Before anyone starts throwing the rotten tomatoes, I also realize that life as we know it couldn't exist without people willing to work in Cubicle Land and keep the wheels greased and society functioning. And that an awful lot of truly meaningful and extremely important things are done on a daily basis under these circumstances.)

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I wonder if it may have been more apt for him to name his book 'Happy Out of the Kitchen'...

"Washington, DC: I celebrated my birthday last week at Central (delicious by the way!). About half way through our meal, in walks Mr. Michel Richard himself and was seated at the table next to us. Do chefs often dine at their own restaurants?

Tom: Most chefs don't have the time (or the inclination, I'd guess) to eat in their own dining rooms. They're probably cooking, after all!"

And a later poster:

"I see him several nights a week dining on the patio at Citronelle. I generally walk or drive by around 9:00 pm, and he may be seen sharing a bottle of wine with several friends.

Tom: Hey, I want that job!"

During my sole visit to Citronelle last year, Chef Richard was out on the patio the whole time, enjoying wine with friends. (My meal made me sorely wish he had been in the kitchen instead, or at least taken a table closer to the pass.) Isn't this a bit unprofessional? If you're the namesake chef (and your cookbook and signature plates adorn the entrances to your restaurants), shouldn't you be in the kitchen more? Or, if you are going to be out of it, maybe work the tables a bit instead of drinking with your buddies in front of everyone? This is one of the most expensive restaurants in the city, after all.

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I rather imagine that Chef Richard has worked hard enough, and for enough years, that he should be able to relax without feeling like he has to work the room. Isn't the executive chef in charge during service?
I believe that it was Chef Richard himself who, when asked who cooks when he is not at Citronelle, stated "the same person who cooks when I am there."
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I rather imagine that Chef Richard has worked hard enough, and for enough years, that he should be able to relax without feeling like he has to work the room. Isn't the executive chef in charge during service?
His restaurant is named after him, people are going there to have his food -- I just don't think it looks good to be out front having a good time when the kitchen is open, not at a restaurant of this caliber. Would you go to Eve's tasting room and not be disappointed if Cathal was at the bar with his buddies instead of at the pass? It's simply unprofessional, IMHO.
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Apropos of Heather, I believe that David Deshaies is the executive chef of Michel Richard Citronelle. So, strange as it may sound, Michel R. hanging with his mates and/or patrons at Central or Citronelle is equivalent to the other Michel hanging with his mates and/or patrons at Bistro du Coin.

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Apropos of Heather, I believe that David Deshaies is the executive chef of Michel Richard Citronelle. So, strange as it may sound, Michel R. hanging with his mates and/or patrons at Central or Citronelle is equivalent to the other Michel hanging with his mates and/or patrons at Bistro du Coin.
If they were the same type of restaurant, you'd have a point. Citronelle is no bistro.
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If they were the same type of restaurant, you'd have a point. Citronelle is no bistro.
So I guess M. Richard should be home watching "America's Got Talent"? David Deshaies is the executive chef. Michel Richard is the owner. Just as R.J. Cooper is executive chef at Vidalia, while Jeff Buben is the owner.
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His restaurant is named after him, people are going there to have his food -- I just don't think it looks good to be out front having a good time when the kitchen is open, not at a restaurant of this caliber. Would you go to Eve's tasting room and not be disappointed if Cathal was at the bar with his buddies instead of at the pass? It's simply unprofessional, IMHO.

I'm wondering, was the food not up to your expectations or were you dissappointed in any way? If you did not know he was enjoying some wine with his friends, would you have guessed he wasn't in the kitchen?

My point is, and I'm guessing you enjoyed the food, that if his chefs put out a Citronelle level meal, then he indeed IS doing his job. He is the CEO more or less, not full time chef.

If you read the Washingtonian, you may recall a couple of articles in which several big name kitchens were called and asked it the chef was in. Most of the time the answer was "no".

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So I guess M. Richard should be home watching "America's Got Talent"? David Deshaies is the executive chef. Michel Richard is the owner. Just as R.J. Cooper is executive chef at Vidalia, while Jeff Buben is the owner.

Actually, I believe that he is the Chef -- at any rate that is how his website describes him -- which implies significantly more involvement with the kitchen than, for example, Mark Kuller's involvement in the kitchen at proof or Mike What's-his-name's involvement at Bar Pilar. And the fact that Richard cut his restaurant empire by half to became uni-coastal and focus his energies on one restaurant, raising its performance as high as he could certainly implies that Chef Richard feels his presense in or near the kitchen is important.

On the other hand, by dinner time, most of the genius work should be done and Michel should be able to turn over the manual labor of service to his brigade without quality suffering, and have a glass of wine with his buds.

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I'm wondering, was the food not up to your expectations or were you dissappointed in any way? If you did not know he was enjoying some wine with his friends, would you have guessed he wasn't in the kitchen?

My point is, and I'm guessing you enjoyed the food, that if his chefs put out a Citronelle level meal, then he indeed IS doing his job. He is the CEO more or less, not full time chef.

If you read the Washingtonian, you may recall a couple of articles in which several big name kitchens were called and asked it the chef was in. Most of the time the answer was "no".

There are two points, really -- 1) If you are going to be head chef at Citronelle, you should be in the kitchen more often. Look at Citronelle's website, for instance -- the first page has a quote from Robert Parker on how great of a chef Richard is; and just below it Richard's 2007 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef. The restaurant gives the impression that Chef Richard is behind the wheel. The menu is called "Chef Richard's Dinner Menu," his name and face are all over the restaurant -- why shouldn't he be in the kitchen more? And to be fair, this is a question that could be applied to several other restaurants. What makes Citronelle unique is the next point...

2) If you aren't going to be in the kitchen that often, have the professionalism not to be sitting around having drinks with your friends at the restaurant for all to see. I can't think of any other chef of Richard's caliber that does this as regularly as Richard seems to, but please inform me if it is otherwise. I can live with the illusion that many top chefs don't spend much time actually manning a station or even in the kitchen at all (and I certainly seem to prefer places where that is not the case), but have the tact not to flaunt it, especially when you are charging $155 a meal.

(And yes, my meal at Citronelle last year was really lacking considering the price. I have only been once, but I got the impression from my dishes and trying some others in our group that there is an over-reliance on sous vide. I didn't know who was in the kitchen other than the temperature-controlled water bath.)

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I have enjoyed all of my meals at Citronelle and M. Richard has not been in the kitchen for any considerable length of time during them. But, he is usually around. Often, he is having a drink. But, who cares? Everything comes out perfectly, and I assume that a large part of that is his watchful eye. I can not imagine why anyone would have a problem with him enjoying his own restaurants.

Citronelle, is - in my opinion - the best restaurant in this city and one of the best in the world. Watching the kitchen at work is amazing. One of the things that I have commented most about the amazing meal that I had there on New Year's Eve at one of the tables looking directly into the kitchen is the perfectly orchestrated performance going on in front of me. Never was either a scrap out of place nor an eyebrow raised by - what I believe to be - ridiculous last minute requests from some of the guests. And, M. Richard was not in the kitchen (other than when he was chatting with his family). He was circulating and making the guests happy. And, it works! Better than I have ever seen elsewhere. So, why should he change that?

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I'd prefer to see a chef having a drink regularly in his own restaurant at 9pm than at another random joint. At his own restaurant, he's still accessible to the staff and customers, and I've no doubt that he is observing the restaurant's flow and its patrons' reactions. This is a recognizable guy, and I'm sure he knows that.

In any case, I've always thought that much of the chef's oversight was in menu planning and prep. Hell, by 9pm the man deserves a drink, and if he's having it at the office, more power to him.

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I've always thought that the BEST possible thing that could happen in a restaurant is to have the owner/chef/indian chief hanging around in the dining room during service-maybe sitting at the bar, or having dinner, or having a drink with friends at a table. I don't know how many of you are in the business or have perhaps waited tables, but nothing gets the staff fired up more than having the chef/owner sitting at a table. This is the one time that you are most likely to get perfect service and perfect food because a sharp operator, no matter how relaxed or how much he is enjoying himself with a break in his own place, is looking at everything all the time. Those guys can't help it, it's how they are wired. While you are thinking, "wow, this tuna with special truffle enfused shark's fin and fois gras sauce is certainly delicious," the chef is looking at your food (and those of every table within sight) thinking, "that looks great!" or "that looks like warmed over shit and I am going to kill someone in a violent manner very shortly." When the chef is hanging out in a well run place, things are almost always better.

After all, big deal chefs don't get that way just because the can cook their asses off and have "vision." They get to the top because they are great business people and operators. Those guys spend as much time training a staff to do things JUST THE WAY THAT THEY WANT THEM TO BE as they do cooking or they don't become big deal chefs.

Sure, there are plenty of examples of places that are run, damned near every night, with the chef/owner in the kitchen and he sees every plate but in reality, that's not how the business works most of the time. Most people, even crazily dedicated chefs, can't work all of the time and, frankly, don't want to-so they hire the best and train like crazy until the folks that carry his or her banner every night care as much about the food going out and the service going on as the chef does. That's how you build a successful place. It's about delegation as much as it is about anything else. Sure, you had great ideas going in and you have input every day on the menu, ingredients, and the million other physical issues, but at the end of the day, it's generally going to be your employees who carry out the majority of the work.

So, to me, it's not such a big deal that the head guy is in his own dining room. Hell, it's his place and hopefully he's built it into something he enjoys just as much as his paying customers do. Besides, they can drink for free! That's a good enough reason for me.

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So, to me, it's not such a big deal that the head guy is in his own dining room. Hell, it's his place and hopefully he's built it into something he enjoys just as much as his paying customers do. Besides, they can drink for free! That's a good enough reason for me.
But he's not in the dining room, he's out on the patio, a whole floor away from the dining room. He can't see anything going on in the dining room.
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Although I am attracted, in part, to a restaurant like Citronelle because of the chef's fame (earned by skill and hard work), I don't expect him to prepare most of the dishes that I order. At that level, I do expect that he will bring a vision to the restaurant in terms of food, service, and atmosphere that is regularly executed and that justifies the price charged. In my experience, Richard meets that standard. I'm always happy when I see that a chef, an owner, and their staff enjoy their place of work so much so that they'll spend at least some of their off hours there. So long as they don't act obnoxiously towards their customers, I wouldn't consider their drinking or eating amongst customers on the premises as unprofessional conduct.

I knew one restaurant owner who not only did not offer shift drinks or discounts on food to his own staff but barred them from the premises when they were not working. That sent the wrong message, both to the staff who griped about the policy and to anyone, like me, who learned about the policy. I was always left with the impression that in some way, the owner did not like or trust the people who worked for him. Believe me, I know members of the staff felt that way. Although I understand your point, I think I'd rather see Richard on the patio occasionally than a chef or owner who avoids his own place. At least I know that Richard is available nearby, if a bit tipsy perhaps, to handle any situation that might arise.

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I can't think of any other chef of Richard's caliber that does this as regularly as Richard seems to, but please inform me if it is otherwise.

I can't think of many other chefs of Chef Richard's caliber. That said, on most of my trips to Bebo I've seen Chef Donna having dinner and out and about the restaurant's bar area. I haven't been bothered by it, in part because so many of us called on him to pay better attention to what was going on in his restaurant and not just his kitchen. Obviously not the same caliber restaurant, but like Citronelle, Bebo advertises another as Executive Chef. I'm not saying your gripe isn't legit, but I'm also glad Chef Richard enjoys what they serve at his restaurant. That said if you had a bad experience at Citronelle, your disappointment would be understandable based on expectations and price point alone.

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Alain Ducasse has 14 restaurants. If you ask if the chef is in the kitchen, the answer is yes (it's not Alain Ducasse).

Joel Robuchon, ditto

Thomas Keller, ditto

Paul Bocuse, ditto

Gordon Ramsay, ditto

Tom Colicchio, ditto

Laurent Tourondel, ditto

Jeff Tunks, ditto

Jeff Black, ditto

These are chefs, like Michel Richard, who have assembled strong, talented teams in the kitchen to execute their visions. Michel spends most days and many nights in the kitchen when he is not committed to charity events (ask any chef in town if they are bombarded constantly with charity donations) and book promotions. The chef (David Deshaies) or the executive sous-chef are there (both with 3 star Michelin training backgrounds). Not many other restaurants in Washington can say this.

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