Mouthing Off: “Let’s Go Back to the Waltz”.

Let’s go back to the waltz
Take me back to the waltz
Let’s journey back to the past
Back when the world wasn’t
Turning so fast
When the tempo was slow
In the long, long ago
How I yearn
How I long to return
To the golden days of the waltz.

(Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. 1962)

There’s a gaping generational divide in the world of restaurant gastronomy. Those who began dining in the mid-to-upper echelon in so-called chef’s restaurants in the recent past know very well the Food Network, the TV cooking contests, tasting menus, food on social media and small plates with their prettified arrangements on the dish. Those of us who cut our culinary teeth in the latter part of the 20th century watch the kind of restaurants we cut our teeth on diminish in number. We wonder why chefs should become celebrities and the culinary equivalent of real estate developers or fashion-designer houses. The newer generation of diners don’t only go to sate their appetites, but to pay homage to a chef and to say that they have been there, wherever “there” is. It’s also hard for veteran diners to understand this because chefs use to stick to their knitting and make supreme efforts to go out of their way for their clients–or, as the French like to say, “faire le maximum.”

With tasting menus and small plates, meals have become whirligigs in which historicism, a sense of place, and respect for the integrity of a product are often out the window. How we got here and where we might be headed is what we will be paying attention to. For the time being, though, we sense, if not winds of change, then slight breezes. From time to time we read that there is to a small extent a turn away from tasting menus and that a small-but-growing number of chefs are embracing classic techniques and variations on classic dishes, starting restaurants that reflect this. If you’re wondering if and where this becomes truly significant, give this site a click every now and again.

Robert Brown

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