2012年1月2日 星期一

2012第一砲,Charlie Trotter's 宣佈即將關門

我想每個人都心裡有數,都跟我一樣,既意外又不那麼意外。看看下面的報導,你會發現大家感覺差不多。同樣的心情應該在出現在前年與去年米其林芝加哥指南揭曉之後。

我甚至可以回溯到當初去採訪他那天的情景,看他侃侃而談他的料理理念(應該已經講了八千次有吧),得意充滿自信中卻又難掩眉眼間的疲態與焦慮,我不知為何到感到有點不忍。餐廳經理也在無意間透露,他們在該年七月因為生意不佳而關閉了一整個月,這是開業二十多年來頭一遭。

有興趣的人可以看一下當年的文章

Chicago Losing a Chef Who Refined Its Stockyards Palate


By MONICA DAVEY,New York Times Jan. 02 2012
CHICAGO — Charlie Trotter, a pioneering chef whose restaurant in this city helped transform American fine dining in the last quarter-century, will close his famed establishment this year.



The announcement, first reported on Sunday in The Chicago Sun-Times, was viewed as a bittersweet if inevitable end for an elegant restaurant. It spawned a more creative way of thinking about food when it opened in 1987 and propelled the careers of numerous up-and-coming chefs. And it kept right on going as elaborate modernist competitors, as well as places that cared less about luxurious surroundings, grew up all around.

When such practices were all but unheard of in America, particularly in the Midwest, Mr. Trotter created a European-style degustation menu, a vegetarian tasting menu and a raw-food tasting menu. He placed a table of diners in the kitchen to watch the process. He pursued local farm products.

If some saw the decision to close Charlie Trotter’s, which is in a townhouse in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the city’s North Side, at the end of August as an acknowledgement that the spotlight had moved on to newer, flashier restaurants, Mr. Trotter said the choice had not been driven by finances in the least. He said business had been “off” a bit but largely unharmed by the economic downturn.

Mr. Trotter, who notified his staff members and the patrons of a New Year’s Eve event ($295 per person) on Saturday, said he wanted to travel, attend graduate school in philosophy and political theory and, perhaps, eventually return to open a new restaurant.

“I can do this forever, and it’s most gratifying,” Mr. Trotter, 52, said in an interview on Sunday. “That said, there are so many other things to do in life. Twenty-five years in this line of work is fantastic. It’s just time to step back, breathe deeply and do something different.”

Locally and nationally, people in the dining industry said they were surprised or, if not entirely surprised, sentimental about the closing. Acquaintances and former employees described Mr. Trotter as a quirky perfectionist, a constant boundary pusher (using unlikely items like pig ears, in the memory of one admiring former employee) and a sometimes difficult boss. He was also credited, even by his critics, for being a trailblazer whose influences can be tasted and felt in many newer restaurants and someone who helped put Chicago, once known mostly for deep-dish pizza and hot dogs, on the epicurean map.

“In the late ’80s and through the ’90s, he was on top of the food world,” said Curtis Duffy, who moved to Chicago more than a decade ago to work for Mr. Trotter and described him as probably his most significant professional influence.

Mr. Duffy, who went on to be the chef at Avenues here and plans to open his own restaurant, Grace, this year, added: “It’s hard to stay on top of something that’s evolving. I think he’s still on top. He wants to close on top.”

In the 1980s, Mr. Trotter emerged from a sea of fine dining restaurants that were narrowly focused on French-style cooking, said Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation.

“But Charlie helped define a unique American perspective on it, rich with French tradition and also other traditions in the world,” Mr. Davis said. “He helped make Chicago a global food town.”

To hear patrons of the restaurant tell it, Mr. Trotter made dinner no longer just dinner, but an event. Servers were known for their scrupulous attention and care. The small plates came and went with careful pairings of wine. Fellow chefs described Mr. Trotter’s kitchen as technically perfect.

In more recent years, though, there were setbacks. When the Michelin guide came to Chicago for the first time in late 2010, two edgy restaurants (Alinea and L2O) got the highest ratings, three stars. Mr. Trotter’s received two stars. And while the world of television chef shows and buzzy online restaurant promotions blossomed, Mr. Trotter mainly focused on his kitchen — a place where, even as modernist approaches began flourishing elsewhere, “when you eat an artichoke, it still looks like an artichoke,” said the chef Mario Batali, a friend.

In a fast-changing culinary world, rare is the fine dining restaurant that lasts 25 years. “Almost impossible anymore,” said Alan Richman, the food and wine critic for GQ magazine. “I think you’ll see fewer and fewer restaurants accomplish that.”

Mr. Trotter said he had first considered closing 10 years ago, then again five years ago. “It’s not just like some overnight thing I’m doing,” he said. “I did feel some pangs of sentimentality and nostalgia. On the other hand, full steam ahead.”

Reflecting on a quarter-century in the food world, Mr. Trotter said he had watched the evolution of American cuisine and the evolution of the American eater — from someone who enjoyed a once-in-a-while night out to the foundation of a “food-savvy populace” that dines out constantly.

Responses came fast after word of the closing began spreading on Saturday, Mr. Trotter said. People were already securing reservations for the final eight months of dinners

8 則留言:

Windy Foodie 提到...

雖然我不是 CT 的粉絲, 他的關門大吉還是讓人有點感慨. 畢竟當初若沒有 CT, 芝加哥的飲食文化不會有今天. 希望他念完書回來能二度開竅, 回來芝加哥開個第二春!

又, 小弟剛開了個部落格, 有空來玩玩 ^_^
http://windyfoodie.com/

- Rich

becco 提到...

Hey Rich,

恭喜你的blog開張,看來很讚,往後一定多去請教。

我也是那樣看CT的,無論如何他在美國算是一代宗師,也盡他所能的燃燒自己了。我不看好他能二度開竅,就像女星二度發育之後通常會變得…你知道,怪怪的。

Windy Foodie 提到...

恩, 很毒. 我也沒多看好. 因為他要改進的不是烹飪能力, 而是固執自負的個性.

不過我想他想拿米其林三星的野心還是有的. 只是看他會不會學 Daniel / EMP 玩米其林的政治遊戲喽...

又, 紐約有印度米其林了耶. 你去吃了嗎? 我也好久沒去紐約了. 是該再去一探究竟了, 呵.

becco 提到...

印度菜米其林兩三年前開始有的,今年"連"韓國菜都有一星餐廳了呀!

不過我都還沒試過就是了。

Windy Foodie 提到...

恩, 我知道. 不過印度米其林之前只有在印度海外首都-倫敦-才有. 紐約這幾個好像是今年才有的吧. 蠻好奇的. 下次去紐約我可能會去試一下.

韓國菜阿, 這次的東京指南出了個二星的喔. 我看他網站賣點是宮廷料理, 大長今來著?

becco 提到...

哦,我手上的書裡,至少2007年的Devi也是一星的印度菜。紐約米其林很多元、大方的啦,印度、波斯、泰國菜都拿過一星了,倒是中國菜到現在頂多還是只有bib gourmand,當然以我們對中國菜熟悉與標準而言,這樣的結果不能算太意外,但問題是,難道上述這些菜的水準有接近他們本國的高度嗎?

不解。

Rich 提到...

原來紐約米其林有這麼多元的過去阿?! 我是這幾 年才開始跟的說.

美國米其林中國餐廳在 Las Vegas 有出現過, 但是是那種老廣騙老美的粵菜, 只是賣得貴而已. 跟澳門的永利菜單差多了. 同為一星, 亦不解.

紐約沒有米其林中餐廳也罷, 加州中國餐廳,台灣餐廳有如過江之鯽, 就沒有半個接近米其林水準? 有錢的華人多的是, 難道沒這個市場?

becco 提到...

Well,紐約真正值得拿來說嘴的不就是多元兼容而已嗎,不然就深度與高度而言,他實在算不上什麼美食之都(這地球上也只有巴黎和東京吧)。

當然啦,在美國,他還是唯一的莒光聯隊啦。