Monday, January 3, 2011

Gabrielle Hamilton: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

From The New York Times: Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef of the wildly popular and highly influential restaurant Prune on East First Street in Manhattan's East Village, where long lines are the norm, especially at brunch time. Ms. Hamilton opened Prune in 1999, she once said, "to cook for my neighbors." But her success attracted food lovers from all over the borough, the city and the state, as well as other chefs and food writers, "enchanted," as Frank Bruni wrote in The New York Times in 2005, "by the lack of pretense in Ms. Hamilton's preparations, by the simplicity and gusto of what she served: sardines on Triscuits, warm monkfish liver on toast, pâté sandwiches and deviled eggs." Prune, Mr. Bruni continued, "quickly morphed from adorable notion into formidable influence, a small restaurant with a large footprint. The proof was in the emulation, in the other restaurants that rightly began to accord homey cooking as much honor as haute cuisine: not a novel ethic, but one that Ms. Hamilton gave fresh currency."

Hamilton wrote "A Rogue Chef Tells All: Debunking the myths about life in a restaurant kitchen" for Food & Wine magazine, in which she laments: But I have seen chefs screaming in the kitchen, and I've even read that these fits, inordinately rageful and intent on humiliation, are all part of the great familial bond of life in a restaurant. When I hear about a chef reaming out his staff, I can only think that he could use a good day off. If his menu looks exactly like a dozen others in town, all $40 foie gras and wild baby whatever, and his tables are empty, he needs to get out and see the eager people queuing up for a Nathan's frank and let that spark his imagination. And his staff and his customers need to let him do this.

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