I was pregnant with my second son when I first started thinking seriously about pursuing a long-deferred dream of doing something in the food world. I was looking at various options, and seriously considering getting into the restaurant business, even though I fully (really, fully) understood how grueling and unromantic it was most of the time (I’ve been a busgirl, a waitress, a hostess, and once almost a bartender but I couldn’t reach the bottles on the top speedrack). ,
After Charlie was born, my husband gave me a gift, and he presented it to me in front of both of our families. The gift was this: for three days I would work, for free, at one of the best restaurants in New York, City, and experience the reality of a high end restaurant kitchen. The rest of the family was looking at Gary as though he has given me a backhoe to celebrate my giving birth to his child, but I was very touched.
Excited but nervous, I put my breast pump in a backpack and headed to work. I did my three 8-hour evening shifts, punctuated with milk pumping sessions in the office of the somewhat discomfited but surprisingly accommodating Executive Chef. And it was exhausting. But it was wonderful. I did not end up pursuing a restaurant career, but it certainly wasn’t the experience that dissuaded me.
Anyway, why am I bringing this up? Because at one point I was dicing potatoes with the Chef de Cuisine, and I thought I was holding my own. “Watch this,” he said, and he stacked up all of the cubes of his diced potato into a perfectly straight column of squares, each cube a perfectly symmetrical marvel of 90° angles.
“You try,” he said, and I obediently stacked up my pile of cubes. I could say my column was crooked, but that would imply that I was able to stack up enough to justify calling the structure a column. .
So, when you go to a four-star restaurant, you are paying for that kind of perfection: flawless balance of flavor, innovation, pristine ingredients, dazzling presentation, and the fact that if you measured the sides of the cubed potatoes on you plate, they would all be equal. Maybe the food isn’t super fussy, but at the higher end, there are higher expectations.
And that’s what I like most about home cooking. The food should taste great, the company should be excellent, and the length of sides of the potato cubes should be beside the point.