Greatness and miseries of luxury restaurants
The article that you will read next I found it by reviewing the thousands of files that I have preserved as a relic and it is now 13 years old. We owe the credit to Rafael Ansón who in a few words shows us a reality that we lived a long time ago and that today, as a result of Covid -19, we are living. Unfortunately we cannot provide the link to the articulo original (2008), but because of how interesting it has always been for me, I share it with you.
The recent news regarding the serious difficulties faced by some of the major restaurants French (closure of the premises of Pierre Gragnaire, in Saint Etienne; threatening situation of the Auberge de L'Eridan, in Annecy, with Marc Veyrat at the head, both with the common point of having achieved the prestigious “three Michelin stars”) or the early retirement last spring of the most creative chef in the world (Joel Robuchon) and the imminence of a similar decision by the mythical Girardet, are symptoms that something serious is happening in the until recently untouchable and exquisite field of the kitchen Tall.
There are a few restaurants in the world that, due to its sublime quality and by the introduction of a series of surprising elements in the menu, they become places of pilgrimage for "gourmets", who are forced to reserve a table days, weeks and even months in advance. A kind of collective murmur speaks of their excellence, criticism praises them and increases the demand, so their owners feel entitled to raise prices, among other things because the details are multiplied and the level of the establishment itself demands an increase in the professionalism, attention and dedication of the service personnel.
The initial phase
As a counterpart and at least in an initial phase within the trajectory of the restaurant (which can be more or less long depending on the situation and the changing tastes of the public), this entails a growth in expenses (which practically forces us to live in congenital indebtedness) and a permanent presence of the chef-star in the place itself, among other things because the public, after all responsible for all its prestige, demands it or even demands it to maintain its loyalty. For this reason, no great temple of restoration today can afford too many absences of its "thinking and executing head", who is forced to take the helm sometimes for periods of more than fifteen hours a day, with the risks that this entails. rigged for your own health and even your creativity. Hence the early retirements of the two great geniuses.
At 50, Robuchon has retired to the Far East. After leaving his mythical Parisian scene (where Alain Ducasse, another extraordinary chef who also remains in charge of the Louis XV of Monte Carlo, has moved in a duplicity that we do not know how long he will be able to resist) Robuchon has become an advisor to an ambitious restaurant de kitchen French in Tokyo. "I have seen too many colleagues die of heart attacks with the frying pan in hand," he said to justify his surprising exit and similar news reaches us regarding the Swiss Fredy Girardet, who has transformed his restaurant from Crissier, in the vicinity of Geneva, in one of the most precious tourist destinations in the Swiss country.
In Spain, we have not yet reached that point, although the crisis has also revealed the greatness and miseries of gastronomic sanctuaries. Some of them like Zalacaín have had to bet on imaginative solutions to face the consequences of their daily search for perfection, while Juan Mari Arzak has also decided to slow down a bit and partially give up the baton of his magnificent restaurant Donostiarra to his daughter Elena, perhaps for preserving health and also for having more time to quietly disclose the secrets of his 25 years of success.
In such a state of affairs, the continuity and consolidation of any of our great restaurants contemporaries becomes a true exercise of tightrope walking, in which many times one ends up falling into the void, a true defeat for all, especially if we take into account the social function of the restaurant. Any food house, large or small, must be claimed as a public service, that is, as a place of celebration, but also as a simple satisfaction of a need. This new definition is based on the fact that many citizens (especially those who reside in large cities) have to resort to them practically every day due to professional demands and the price in terms of distances between home and those of us who live in a big city have to pay the workplace.
Among some things and others, we have been building a restaurant tailored to each one, which has contributed to enhancing the possibilities of the sector and reinforcing its character as a public service. If visiting a restaurant had implicit the idea of pleasure for a long time, today it also has to coexist with the need, which the rhythm of modern life has contributed to fully incorporate. The professionals who are at the forefront of public catering deserve all the support and much more attention from those who have in hand the possibility of providing solutions to their problems, that is, Administrators.
And we shouldn't think about restaurants inaccessible luxury, in the true "three stars", as a luxurious and expendable element, since, with its reserved rooms and its excellent quality service, they constitute a necessity for any city that aspires to become a tourist objective and that intends to big fans kitchen circle it in red on your maps. In our specific case, neither Madrid nor Barcelona nor San Sebastián, along with their respective surroundings, would be conceived without those exquisite restaurants that have been made possible thanks to the efforts of enthusiastic promoters, who have contributed like no other to the moment of splendor of the kitchen Spanish. But whose trajectory is not, far from it, without difficulties. In addition, the restorative offer that cities and towns have is a determining element in relation to the possibilities that the inhabitants of each of these places have to achieve greater well-being.
Therefore, the efforts of restaurateurs and professionals must always be accompanied by the support and collaboration of public administrations. In the meetings of policy makers with hoteliers, initiatives must arise that make it possible for customers to pay less and that restaurants, including those that have achieved excellence and teaching, are not so in debt, continue to earn money and overcome uncertainties that make them one of the most ephemeral and fragile businesses in the face of periodic crises or changes based on fashion.
Much work remains pending in the task of sensitizing society so that restaurant customers demand quality, dedication and seductive surprises constantly, but also recognize the effort that our best professionals, who are truly passionate about their work, are making, and accept even some absences. In this sense, it will always be good to carry out information campaigns that improve customer culture.
The extraordinary development achieved in recent times by hotel and restaurant activities, including the revitalization of regional kitchens, the most representative products of each region and even imagination as a fundamental element when coming into contact with the kitchen, has caused an intense and even surprising flourishing of the gastronomic fact that, incidentally, has contributed to raising the level of the profession. Let us help this vigorous renaissance continue for the benefit of the community.