New Yorker: Fascinating Piece on Damon Baehrel

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“The morsel was delicious, though it was difficult—and would continue to be, during the next four hours—for an amateur and glutton like me (in fact, for anyone who is being honest with himself) to tell whether my appreciation, fervent as it often became, had been enhanced by the description of the work and the ingredients that had gone into it. The tongue is suggestible. New words register as new flavors. As numerous blind wine tastings over the years have demonstrated, you taste what you want to taste.”

Thanks for that. It’s really interesting that this guy isn’t content to just create very unusual (and unusually appealing) food. He has to also make it seem even more sought after than it would be anyway, considering the size and location of his operation, and the scarcity of the raw materials. As if there’s a restaurant myth arms race: I’ll see your El Bulli and raise you a Noma, and I’ll do it in a hollow tree stump, blindfolded.

Had you heard of the guy before? I hadn’t.

At a certain point, one has to draw a line between a chef who is running a restaurant, with all its tedious arithmetic of supply, demand, and cost, and instead is hosting elaborate private dinners, by appointment only. It’s this distinction, or perhaps the failure of the food press and rankings mavens to make it, that riles other restaurateurs.

Seems like that’s the crux of the story. He’s hosting occasional private dinners in his home for as many people as he can serve with the limited amount of Noma-esque ingredients he can prep. If he didn’t pass it off as a restaurant, would he be able to charge enough to make a living at it?

I had to check to be sure this wasn’t a Borowitz Report.

“More sap?”