Vive la difference!
Recently in Paris, I scored a table at Daniel Rose’s new, informal bistro near Les Halles, Chez la Vieille. I ordered a quintessentially French dish, Blanquette de Veau, which was served with rice and sautéed almond slivers. Something was amiss. I tasted the rice and scrunched up my nose. Sacré bleu! The almonds were rancid, which was confirmed by my traveling pal, Deborah Mintcheff, a cookbook editor/writer. I motioned the waiter over and when I explained the situation, he replied. “But, Madame. This is not possible. The chef made the almonds only yesterday.” I discreetly asked that he take the dish back into the kitchen and have the chef taste it. Within a Nano second he returned with a new bowl of steaming rice topped with almonds but not a word of explanation. We waited until the end of the meal, expecting some level of acknowledgement. Perhaps a disgestif? Perhaps a comped dessert? Perhaps the entire meal? Maybe a small apology? Nada. Nulla. Rien!
The next day, we recounted our utter shock and disappointment to friends who have lived in Paris for many years. My pal, Victor Taylor—former sommelier and F&B Director at Lespinasse and the Carlton and now vintner—explained why. In France, the chef is considered God-like, incapable of making a mistake in the kitchen. The patrons consider themselves lucky to get a table and worship every move the chef makes. A flaw? Never! Americans, on the other hand, are coddled, believing we come first. We are trained to believe the customer is always right and are quick to point out anything which displeases us.
At least we did feel lucky to get a table at Daniel’s trendy restaurant!