Cuozzo Hammers the New Wave of Absentee Chefs

Um, the chef isn’t here right now…Photo-illustration: iStockphotoSteve Cuozzo brings it hard in today’s Post, jumping on a new generation of absentee chefs with both feet. The Cuozz finds it bad enough when it’s a Daniel Boulud or Jean-Georges Vongerichten who’s not holding down the fort, “but today, kitchen-aversion has infected much lesser talents and pops up at restaurants where the chef is MIA almost from Day One.” You can well imagine whom Cuozzo has in mind in this diatribe: The classic Post illustration features milk cartons with Zak Pelaccio, Marcus Samuelsson, Todd English, and Alain Ducasse on them. (Their photos are with "What, me worry?" expressions for comic effect.) It’s a stinging rebuke, all right, and backed by first-person condemnations of recent meals at Pelaccio’s Chop Suey and Ducasse’s Benoit. It’s not just about kicking high-profile chefs, though: Cuozzo makes the point that the chef is a managerial role, and, when he or she is not present in a restaurant, especially a new one, the food inevitably suffers, as it did at his visits to Bar Q and Five-Napkin Burger, when Anita Lo and Andy D’Amico, respectively, weren’t there. The only place that comes out of the article unscathed, more or less, is Bar Boulud, which Cuozzo sees as having developed to the point that the kitchen is up to speed even without Daniel there cracking the whip. Which, for Cuozzo, is exactly the point.

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