“Restaurant Politics” is devoted to the practice of gastronomy and how various aspects of life and society affect it. Unlike the large majority of culinary websites devoted to restaurant reviews and gastronomic travel, “Restaurant Politics” is also concerned with gastronomy as a cultural phenomenon from many aspects: its esthetics or artfulness; what economic aspects bring to bear; change and innovation; and the use and role of language or the ways in which people write and speak about gastronomy and portray it in the mass and on-line media.
As a practical means, “Restaurant Politics” is pro-consumer; i.e. the diner and the food buyer. In this regard, our emphasis will be on the unusual and noteworthy often presented in our soon-to-added unique listing “Restaurants of Integrity” in which we present in a continuously changing way restaurants that are diner-centric; i.e. those that for the most part offer choice and diner autonomy; meticulously-prepared and well-conceived cuisine; value for money; and use of products that are the best of their kind and emblematic of the restaurant’s region. It is our answer or antidote to “commodity dining”; i.e the dictatorial chef-centric, costly, unromantic, formula restaurants that populate the several rank-order, number-to-a-name “world’s best” lists
“Restaurant Politics” will itself be a paragon of integrity. There won’t be any monetizing; outside contributors will be dedicated amateurs (in the true sense) who are serious gastronomes indulging in international restaurant-going uniquely for the love of it.
Our coverage will be international with emphasis on gastronomic activity in the East and West coasts of America, Western Europe and Japan. We will endeavor to present our content in unique, engaging and readable ways (No bite-by-bite dish-droning here). Because “Restaurant Politics is on the World Wide Web, we won’t be adding new content on a set basis, but rather when thoughtful commentary come into our heads or when intriguing, noteworthy resources and contributors come our way.
Robert Brown & Brandon Granier
When I was born, I was destined to dine. When I was a child, my parents began collecting fine wine, ate the food in France of Fernand Point and Raymond Oliver, and often took my brother and me to New York from our house in Western Massachusetts to eat in the better restaurants. When I started my rare books and posters business in 1970 as a precursor to Reinhold-Brown Gallery, I made (and still make) frequent trips to Europe with my wife where we travel throughout France and Italy (and often Japan) to visit and revisit the great and interesting restaurants.
While obtaining a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, I did research in mass communication and mass and popular culture. It helped shape my unique way how I write, think about and conceptualize gastronomy.
I look at, and keep a constant eye on, how restaurant gastronomy in particular has evolved over the past 50 years in terms of innovation and change; the ways in which it is portrayed in mass and social media and their effects on dining preferences and tastes; the influence of new technology on creativity; how access to capital and restaurants as economic entities influence the state of dining; how people make decisions of where and how to spend their time and money on dining; the result of gastronomy moving from an elite to a mass phenomenon; and the myriad of real and conceptual matters that come into my mind on an almost-daily basis. This experience has made me vigorously represent the autonomy and well-being of my fellow diners, an aspect that is inexorably being diminished and thus taking its toll on integrity and connoisseurship.
I am pleased to join with Brandon Granier in this undertaking. Although we represent different generations of gastronomy, we share a similar esthetic and points of view even if I now lean towards the tried and true and Brandon often to the newer generation of chefs and restaurateurs, which is how and why together we cover the waterfront.
The study of literature brought me to France, and in some ways my love for and interest in gastronomy is, to this day, inextricably bound to the literary. It was in Paris in the early 2000s that I first experienced the heights of gastronomy at such temples as L’Ambroisie and Ledoyen under Christian Le Squer, but also the avant-garde maximalism of Pierre Gagnaire. The gradual development of my palate coincided with questions that arose about the culinary gestures of haute cuisine, and it may be accurate to characterize my orientation towards gastronomy as an attempt to think the gastronomic aspects in their relation to semiotics, rather than each element distinctly.
Sensation and ideas, are they dichotomous or bound up, and if so, how precisely? Such questions give me food for thought. Indeed, my lifelong preoccupation might be found in the problematic of interpretation, and in 2014 I finished my Ph.D. dissertation in Comparative Literature on the tensions between deconstruction and hermeneutics at UC-Irvine, a former bastion of deconstructive criticism. Like my colleagues at Gastromondiale, I seek to understand how terroir and tradition-based haute gastronomy can flourish in a globalized market that has increasingly encouraged homogenized repertoires. My travels are aimed at finding the acme of what is developing in cultures with deep-rooted traditions, most significantly in Japan, China, France and Italy but also recently in India, Thailand and Greece. Perhaps akin to Olivier Roellinger or the narrator of À la recherche du temps perdu, I possess an insatiable wanderlust to experience the essence of foreign places, and cuisine is one of the most satisfying ways to approach this tantalizing promise. To this end, my studies of foreign languages are essential to how I evaluate cuisine, and I conceive of gastronomy as a lifelong pursuit of tasting, travel, language acquisition, and dialogue. With a more modest budget for wine than I would prefer, I find myself gravitating towards the question of how it can elevate cuisine, and I am a diehard apologist for thinking about the ideal accord mets et vins. The formative dining experiences of my life have been in addition to L’Ambroisie and Ledoyen (under Le Squer) in Paris, Saison in San Francisco, Sushisho Masa in Tokyo, Etxebarri in Spain, Jade Dragon in Macau, Jin Sha in Hangzhou, and Pepe in Grani near Napoli.
I am excited to engage with Robert Brown, a recently acquired dining companion and friend, a fellow traveler in spirit most importantly. Robert’s stalwart stance towards the commodification of dining coincides with my own, and in this joint project we aspire to provide one of the few, if not only, forums for a critical stance towards the gastronomic industry. Gastronomy over and against the industry, that is what I hope we can privilege in our collaboration here.