The Secret Chef | An insight in the immeasurable changes in the world of fine dining
One of the biggest names in gastronomy is lifting the lid to reveal the truth about the restaurant in response to the immeasurable changes in the restaurant world. A new monthly column at the website of Fine Dining Lovers that gives those enjoying restaurants as guests and those working in restaurants a reflection on the industry with searingly honest and wickedly sharp writing. The Secret Chef monthly column launched with ‘The Curse of the Celebrity Chef’ on industry insider website Fine Dining Lovers. The column offers compelling commentary on how the digital age sowed ‘seeds of destruction’ in the restaurant industry, and transformed it into a ‘carnival of narcissism’ before ‘2020 brought the extinction event we needed’.
I am of the generation that travelled through Europe with the red Michelin restaurant bible in our vicinity. So I have seen a lot of changes, like for example the influence of social media, all restaurant lists, celebrity chefs etc. Somehow it ended with having to make reservations months in advance and the feeling that you should be happy as a guest to have been able to visit that restaurant. On the other hand I often thought that the culinary world became a kind of rat race, we have seen the results of this race with chefs choosing to step out of this race.
At this moment where guests are no longer able and allowed to travel those extra miles to experience a culinary heaven, restaurants depend on guests from their surroundings. Here in the Netherlands, every restaurant is nearby if you compare it to the rest of the world, so we can order food from our culinary heroes. But if you depend on guests from all over the world, this period is though! Although we don’t know who The Secret Chef is, we enjoyed reading his very candid contemplation of the situation. Some of his or hers thoughts: ‘Lists became the dominant form of recognition’; ‘Marketing became our buzzword’; ‘2020 allowed a philosophical reset to values and worth’; ‘the benefit of the true star – the customer’. An interesting new monthly column to follow if you’re working in the industry or if you’re a frequent guest enjoying a culinary experience. And we keep wondering who this chef is! ^Marjolein
Editor-in-chief of Fine Dining Lovers about The Secret Chef
“Here we have a household name that is willing to tell the truth about the world of restaurants and fine dining,” explains Ryan King, editor-in-chief of Fine Dining Lovers. “They felt this was a time of reflection, a time to pause, to think and to heal, and we are honoured to be able to act as the conduit to drive it forwards.” After a number of late-night meetings, kept secret from everyone, the chef agreed to swap their knife for a pen. A deal was struck ensuring freedom of expression, so there is minimal editorial influence, just undiluted truth from the heart. The chef files copy via a secret channel, and only King is aware of the chef ’s identity, with anonymity being the anchor of the column.
The Secret Chef said: “I would like to provoke some thought on what the industry can be moving forward. There is cultural and structural baggage that needs to be addressed.” They added that they hope to provide “a view to the past and a lens on the future. Some tough talk couched inside viable ideas for a better future.” The second instalment will examine the growing issues of mental health in the industry and the catastrophic impact it has on the chefs who cook our food.
“It is an incredible opportunity for us to offer our audience this rare chance to hear the truth from within the industry,” says King. “The reader is given a seat at the table, to hear those raw conversations that are conducted in private, when everyone has gone home from the restaurant, the kitchen is empty, and chefs speak without fear of judgment. This is the inside perspective from the top level of the kitchen.”
Website: Fine Dining Lovers