I have been accused of being a food snob on occasion. In some areas this is probably accurate. I won’t eat any garnish that comes from a bar tray. I won’t eat farm-raised salmon. I won’t eat anything grown in poop. I won’t eat gulf oysters. I would also point out in my defense that I can order by number at nearly any drive thru.
I have stories for avoiding each of these items, but won’t bore you with the details. I have worked in restaurants and studied food for a long time. I have my reasons. At the same time, I know how to read a menu well enough to recognize these items without asking the server. Unless I know, I order something else.
I also happen to be the server that is called in when a guest has a tough question. I enjoy this. Too often I feel like all the knowledge I have gained is not put to good use. I like answering questions and having conversations about food. I enjoy learning about it and sharing that knowledge with others. I even have a website dedicated to it.
Then there is the other type of questions. These are the questions that are so random that they cannot possibly be answered. Even if they could be answered, the answer would not shed any insight on the meal. I can explain the difference between the reproductive methods of oysters found in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Does it really matter in how they taste?
This is why the other night I laughed hysterically while watching a show called Portlandia. This was the second scene of the show and I cannot tell you how realistic it is.
Of course most guests don’t get up to go to the farm. The questions are not as absurd as you might think. Here are a few examples of questions I have been asked?
“Do you know how the Coho Salmon was caught?”
“The menu says the steak was aged between 28 and 35 days, can you find out the exact number?”
“Are your cuts of the shark from a male or female tonight?”
“Do you have anything to prove that it is really USDA Prime?”
“At what age was your trout caught?”
“Do you know which boat caught these crab legs?”
All of these are bonafide actual questions I have been asked. I can assure you that none of them in any way affect the outcome of the taste of the food. There comes a point where even food snobs must accept that these things are beyond a restaurant’s ability to know. I can appreciate the passion, but there has to be better ways to focus that energy. Enjoy your meal for how it tastes and stop sweating the details that don’t matter.
This quest for culinary knowledge comes at a price. As Stephen Hawking once said, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” Some times a little knowledge can be a bad thing. It leads to asking questions about food that have very little impact on what is important about food; how it tastes. It has also lead to a backlash.
Recently many chefs have openly acknowledged their disdain for foodies. Some have even gone as far as to postulate that servers hate foodies. This in turn has lead to a backlash from foodies who feel they are being treated unfairly. Two groups who are equally passionate about food are feuding over their shared passion. This seems to rob both sides of what they are after. Amateurs, with a degree from The Food Network, criticize chefs who take pride in their work. Foodies spend their time worrying about minutiae rather than enjoying what the chef has prepared.
There is a compromise. Foodies need to understand that a chef is generally very attached to the meal they created, A foodie has no more right to critique a chef’s ingredients than an art lover telling an artist that they should have used a different color. Likewise chefs need to understand that foodies keep them in business and allow them to use the premium ingredients they want to serve. We are on the same team here. A bit of courtesy on both parts benefits us all.