Monday, July 12, 2010

Can I call in a pizza?

A local retirement home has been running a radio ad in which they tout, among their many other amenities, "chef inspired menus."

I can't tell you how much this underwhelms me.

To begin with, it implies that the place doesn't have a chef of its own -- if so, they would be "chef prepared menus." So what do they have, a cook? But you know, anyplace that has a cook will call the cook a "chef" (except a barbeque place), because after all what is a chef? The word isn't like, say, ketchup, whose definition is regulated by the Federal government. So a chef is whatever we say it is, and if this place doesn't even have a cook to call a chef, then what do they have? My suspicion is that early every morning they go down to one of the local day laborer places and pick up the least-scruffy looking specimen they can find. They stick an apron over his head and a spatula in his hand and, voila!, you have a, well... not a chef.

Which brings us to those menus. Notice that the recipes aren't the creations of real chefs. No, they are merely inspired by chefs. At first I found this surprising, because if they wanted real chefs' recipes, then for a few bucks at the local Goodwill store (not far, perhaps, from one of those day laborer outfits), they could pick up any number of cookbooks written by real chefs -- the likes of Paul Prudhomme and Graham Kerr (I still remember watching the Galloping Gourmet when I was a kid). But I guess it's too much to expect a hash-slinger you picked up at Laborers R'Us to prepare a recipe created by, say, Michael Ruhlman. So they are reduced, in the end, to chef inspired menus.

How does that work, do you think. Do they tack up a picture of, say, Julia Child, and tell Mr. Spatula-of-the-Day, "Look real hard at that picture -- oh, go ahead and squint if you must -- and then prepare the meal that comes to your mind"?

In that case, see the title of this post.

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