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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Michelin Stars / Cookbooks

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Much Ado About Michelin

"'If you're going to high quality restaurants or any restaurant twice a day and you're evaluating them on the food criteria it's quite hard to say actually you know what I'll just have the salad'...

'Most of them said that during the weekend and when they don't work they make a lot of sports and then they eat very very light'...

The business model that starts to become very tricky in terms of making the restaurant actually profitable itself. If you think about the number of seats or the number of people they can serve in an evening and think about that over the course of a week. On average they are only serving about half the people they could. That is there, not everyone gets the idea that these places are fully booked six months in advance, and that's true for some places but many of the places, they're fully booked on the two peak nights of the week. And then maybe two other nights of the week they're three quarters booked and maybe one night a week they're quite open. But all those costs they put in, all that wait staff, all the you know the kitchen capacity to all the chefs mean these are fixed costs... that makes it tough to generate positive cash flows...

There's a Michelin starred restaurant in Milan called Dough [sp?] by a chef Davi Ol' Danny [sp?] and his model was really quite different because he thought: how can I make the food accessible? And he was thinking around thirty euros. And then he worked backward to think: how can I deliver really high quality meal at a cost level that would support that price? And I think he proved that you can hit a very high quality level... without putting in all those costs to wind up with a hundred and twenty, hundred and thirty euro per head meal.

His belief is you can use fresh local ingredients, you get them for a lower price and get better quality. He is very careful about wastage of food. He created this whole guideline for each kind of type of food, you know this type of fish or this type of meat. How much food should you get off of that.

But then there's even small things like I remember interviewing him and he kind of tapped the wine glass on the table and he said see this wine glass, it's a little bit thicker. He said we don't use these really expensive delicate crystal glasses. He said you know how many glasses break at one of these restaurants per night and how costly they are to replace? He goes: a little bit thicker, they last longer and do you think anybody chooses their Michelin starred restaurant because of the glass?"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, The Unlikely Power of Cookbooks

"Recipes are about so much more than food. For a French aristocrat in the fifteenth century, what better way to show off than a resplendent peacock stuffed with cooked meat? But how to demonstrate your wealth and flair to people who aren't at the banquet? Enter the cookbook...

The recipe book has long been a way to document power and wealth. But according to Polly Russell, a food historian they've also been used to strengthen that power and can be seen as tools of propaganda... what it was attempting to do - it was first published in sixteen fifty five - was to rehabilitate the reputation of Henrietta Maria... She had not enjoyed a very popular reputation when she'd been married to Charles the First. She was French, she was Catholic, she was perceived as being too French and too Catholic and crucially she was thought to exert too much control over Charles the First and that sort of exploded into the public realm when a scandalous book was published called the King's Closet Opened which purported to publish the letters between Charles and Henrietta Maria in which Henrietta Maria seemed to be very powerful and controlling and this is of course problematic because it suggests you have a weak king and it suggests you have a unwomanly women. This cookery book published some years later is really an attempt to rehabilitate Henrietta Maria and to associate her with womanly pursuits...

They use it also not only to define an American cuisine but also to define an American character. We find the values that they thought that Americans should have and that the American nation should have. But we also find political commentary. The first cookbook which was written in seventeen nineteen six American Cookery by Amelia Simmons has thirty two pages of political commentary in the beginning that deal with national debt and agricultural questions.

We are also have early cookbooks by Lydia Maria Child who was an abolitionist and she published The Frugal Housewife in eighteen twenty nine so ingredients that were popular at the time like orange or lemon she is not using because these would be ingredients that would come from the South and would be harvested with slave labor and so she didn't want to give ingredients that would allow American housewives to participate in what she thought immoral practices at this time"
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