Over the weekend Food + Wine Best Pastry Chef winner Bryce Caron put up a blog post that, if it doesn’t fully explain what went on in the revolving-door kitchen at Graham Elliot’s namesake restaurant last week, at least explains some of what was going on in Caron’s head. First is that he seems to have been genuinely stung by the (unmoderated) comment thread at Eater, which contained (almost entirely anonymous) comments of every kind from accusing Caron and former chef Andrew Brochu of heavy drinking (not in the restaurant business!), to mocking his somewhat sparse facial hair. Some of this, like the beard commentary, is just running in-joke stuff at Eater that isn’t really directed personally, some of it is plainly from ex-coworkers and meant to wound, but it all is part and parcel of our strange celebrity food world, in which we not only know the names of pastry chefs, and write entire blog posts explaining why they left some job like they’re movie stars or senators, but in which strangers, or anonymous ex-acquaintances, feel like they can pick apart some guy in public, just because he made a dessert you ate once. But setting all that aside, Caron does have interesting things to say about why he decided to walk out of graham elliot that suggests the decision, if impetuous, did have some level-headed thinking behind it.
Essentially, Caron says that his desire to win a Michelin star or two for his handling of modernist techniques at graham elliot began to clash with his personal tastes and philosophy:
I enjoyed my employment there, but it was there that I realized for the last three years or so, I had been trying to make crazy food out of ingredients that were food to begin with.
Why would I want to fossilize a carrot to make it look like a log in a fall forest? I got the recipe out of a book. I didn’t invent it. Why do I make all this fancy food when all I think about is the chicken I was going to roast when I got home? The ribs I was curing to smoke over the weekend? My last few dining experiences at very high-end places were delicious, but sometimes too many courses are just that: too many. For the recent past, all I have wanted to do (subconsciously?) was make food, not make entertainment out of food.
It sounds like graham elliot was more open than initial reports suggested to Caron growing into the chef’s position— but he looked at it and just didn’t want to make food of that level of artifice any more. At least that’s how we read it; maybe your take is a little different, but it suggests an integrity and thoughtfulness, if not a singleminded what’s-best-for-my-career-right-now focus, that we like to think will serve Caron well in the long run. Or not, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
In the meantime, speaking of celebrity food culture, Caron’s erstwhile boss, Graham Elliot, will be appearing at his own g.e.b. tonight at 5 p.m. to welcome Andrew Zimmern, who’s shooting a web series called Appetite For Life for MSN. The show allegedly focuses on Southern hospitality, but apparently Texas chefs in Chicago are close enough.