I'm a Chef Who Walked Away From a Dream Restaurant. Here's Why



… in spite of the immense press we received, we remained mostly empty, often cooking for just a handful of people each night.

How did that happen?

I’m imagining Ari listening to the 1992 - 1999 NIN discography as he wrote that piece.

Not sure why the ridicule in the responses above. The chef seems to be making an honest attempt to reckon with the dangers of obsessively pursuing excellence in one’s career. Dangers that I imagine exist in many professions other than cooking (investment banking and corporate lawyering come to mind).

Or maybe we’re all too hip and cynical for earnestness these days…


Driven people are the same in any business. Burning out is not unique to the cooking profession. (Try corporate law or finance, or the fashion industry, or the entertainment industry.)

What is difficult is the feeling of failure when one decides to step back. I wish Taymor luck and peace in his future endeavors.


In some ways, it is a refreshingly honest piece about the psychological turmoil one may experience while chasing greatness (or at least critical acclaim in one’s profession), maintaining it (when all others are like “who the fuck is he?”) and then being snubbed by the dining public.
OTOH, he achieved so much that others only dream of, and then either could not handle it or blew it, so why should anyone feel bad for him?

Calling off that project didn’t leave him unemployed. He just decided against opening a second restaurant.


I didn’t get a sense from the article that he was asking for anyone’s sympathy.

Sometimes accomplishing your life’s dream quickly and at a young age is the absolute worst thing (in a first-world way, of course) that can happen to you. JMO.

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Because it reads like a sob story and that we should all feel sorry for him that things didn’t work out at Alma. Working hard, especially for a small business owner, has been around since the beginning of mankind. Ask all the immigrants who open up small businesses to provide a better life for their families or chase the american dream. Do you think they’re working 40 hour weeks and taking vacations every quarter? And none of them are getting accolades from Bon Appetit or the James Beard Foundation yet they keep working and working and working.

I’m glad Ari didn’t resort to drugs or alcohol to cope with his struggles, but give me a break, life is hard and you’re not alone.

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I was speaking w/ someone recently who made millions in an industry (not food-related) dating back to the 1970s. He said that, in the 1970s, you could be a small business owner and make it big in his industry and that, nowadays, a single person doing so in his industry would be virtually impossible.

I recall Mario Batali making a comment about this a few yrs ago:

The narrators describe a New York that was dirtier, bloodier, raunchier and less gentrified than today — but also an easier place for a talented young person to gain a foothold.

Batali says in his sound bite that opening a restaurant was easier in 1993 when he debuted his first restaurant, Po.

“You didn’t have to have a rich daddy or an investor or put together a team or anything like that,” he says. “It’s sad to watch the cost of business push the real individualist entrepreneurs out of the game.”

Yes, the problems are, in very broad strokes, not new. But I do think the circumstances have changed considerably…

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Read this Eater SF article.

This is a typical “build or buy” scenario for any business owner; it is simply far cheaper to buy someone else’s failed dreams (ex: Pok Pok LA) than build your own dream from scratch.

As paranoidgarliclover said, I didn’t read this as a sob story or as a plea for sympathy.

I took it as cautionary tale about the pitfalls of allowing the pursuit of accolades, riches, adoration, whatever to become all consuming.

Not sure what the hard work of generations of immigrants has to do with anything. Would you agree that, given the opportunity, they would have spent more time with their families, on vacation, and tending to their health and well being? I imagine they would have. That’s all Ari is suggesting: To not sacrifice your life for your work.

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Sometimes “Building a great company” can count for all 3. :frowning:

Actually they did, eventually, and he’s still there. Did you read the whole piece?

You know damn well what I meant.

I understood what you meant, it just seemed like you might have stopped reading halfway through.

I don’t see that he thinks anyone should feel sorry for him. It’s a cautionary tale, not a sob story.

I don’t really make it a habit of reading people’s diary and after 3 paragraphs and a quick scroll through the rest that’s how it felt so I couldn’t finish it. I hope he survives this rough life of his though.