Since their opening, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester County, N.Y., and its head chef Dan Barber have received just about every accolade the culinary world has to offer. Well, now some exhaustive intrepid reporting has divulged a not-so-pretty picture of the actual day-to-day protocols. I must say, I had the pleasure of dining here early on and it was a remarkable and very pricey experience. No complaints. But these revelations do turn me off. Blue Hill at Stone Barns Told a Story Too Good to Be True, Former Employees Say - Eater
Wow! Just skimmed. Very explosive will read in full when I get a chance
Deja vu all over again.
Yes, I recall that story. Well, we’ve always known the restaurant business to be a wild mix of good, bad, ugly & beautiful…
It’s almost like an industry that lionizes a single individual as the auteur of what is, in fact, a massive collective effort will naturally attract and reward sociopaths.
Ramsey, Kubrick, Welles…
Wait, what industry are we talking about?
Not really what the auteur theory is, but okay.
Basically, it’s the premise that a single individual is the primary ‘author’ of a piece of art. It’s what leads people to say a film is a DIRECTOR’S film, even though someone else physically ran the cameras, hung the lights, wrote the script, etc.
And it’s what leads folks to say that restaurant is about THE CHEF, and reflects on his (almost always ‘his’) skills/vision alone.
This assumption can be correct or not to various degrees depending on the film or restaurant in particular. But it CERTAINLY gives these individuals constant reinforcement that their opinions, wants, and emotions are the ONLY ones that matter, because they are extraordinary and pursuing greatness. Giving rise to abusive situations as the article describes.
Except that not all directors are auteurs.
I did say that the description can be correct or not depending on the work (or, I would have thought obviously) the director//chef in question.
I have worked in the film industry for close to 30 years. I have met directors that bought heavily into this model, and others who were dismissive of it. What side of the line they fell on had very little to do the eventual quality of the film.
I CAN say that those who acknowledged and welcomed collective contribution without coating everything in a thick glaze of their own ego were almost always more pleasant to work with.
I suspect this is true of kitchens as well as film sets. And, really, any creative-led enterprise.
I’m sure that’s true, but whether or not a director is considered an auteur does not give much indication about how pleasant they are to work with. Woody Allen, for instance, is reputed to be generally collaborative and open to the input of his crew. And I think he qualifies as an auteur. Conversely, David O. Russell - not what I would consider an auteur - sounds like a pretty terrible guy to work with.
Woody Allen might not be the example you want to cite.
Other suggestions welcome.
He’s talked about trying to work on his temper in the kitchen in docs and interviews. It’s time to stop just talking about it, Dan.
I don’t like Dan Barber blaming the ‘French kitchen’ model as an excuse. There are tyrants in every type of restaurant kitchen. It does not mean you have to pass it along…
I seem to remember J Kenji Lopez-Alt did a whole thing (or at least, has spoken/written on more than one occasion) about his loathing of the French model and how it normalized abusive working conditions and abusive management style. I believe he ran his own Bay Area restaurant Wursthall (which he has since left under what I hear are very good terms) in direct opposition to this model.
It’s nice knowing that at least SOME talented people don’t find it necessary to be assholes.
Lopez-Alt’s involvement with Wursthall was apparently pretty short. It opened in March 2018 and by the time of the MAGA hat kerfuffle less than a year later he was out.