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kottke.org posts about Geraldine DeRuiter

The Worst Michelin-Starred Meal Ever

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 08, 2021

Four people laughing and befuddled at a terrible meal

Geraldine DeRuiter, aka The Everywhereist, documents a high-concept fine-dining meal that, for reasons yet unexplained, went all kinds of wrong.

It’s as though someone had read about food and restaurants, but had never experienced either, and this was their attempt to recreate it.

What followed was a 27-course meal (note that “course” and “meal” and “27” are being used liberally here) which spanned 4.5 hours and made me feel like I was a character in a Dickensian novel. Because — I cannot impart this enough — there was nothing even close to an actual meal served. Some “courses” were slivers of edible paper. Some were shot glasses of vinegar. Everything tasted like fish, even the non-fish courses. And nearly everything, including these noodles, which was by far the most substantial dish we had, was served cold.

Even forearmed with this overall description, some of the individual moments in the meal play like (bad) theatrical surprises:

“These are made with rancid ricotta,” the server said, a tiny fried cheese ball in front of each of us.

“I’m… I’m sorry, did you say rancid? You mean… fermented? Aged?”

“No. Rancid.”

“Okay,” I said in Italian. “But I think that something might be lost in translation. Because it can’t be—”

Rancido,” he clarified.

Another course — a citrus foam — was served in a plaster cast of the chef’s mouth. Absent utensils, we were told to lick it out of the chef’s mouth in a scene that I’m pretty sure was stolen from an eastern European horror film.

Not just bad. Memorably bad. Award-winningly bad. Which is, as DeRuiter writes, something of an achievement in itself.

Update: You can scroll down to the end of this piece to read a “Declaration by Chef Floriano Pellegrino” that responds to DeRuiter’s review.

Being able to draw a man on a horse does not make you an artist

Update: DeRuiter wrote about her post going viral and the response from Pellegrino.

But a restaurant is not a museum, or an art gallery. If anything, the stakes are even higher, because you aren’t simply creating, you are creating something for someone. Every meal that comes out of the kitchen at Bros. is for a paying customer. It is for someone who has a minimum expectation of what a meal should be. A meal might be innovative, or cutting edge, or require a great deal of technical skill (and indeed, many of the dishes at Bros. were). But if it is insubstantial, or contains something that the customer is allergic to, or it simply doesn’t taste good, then what the hell does it matter if the chef thinks that he’s created art? He’s still failed at being a chef.

But beyond that, it’s a baffling sort of gatekeeping, to tell someone that the reason they didn’t enjoy a meal is that they didn’t understand art. That the reason the meal was awful was because we don’t appreciate the avant garde. It’s a sort of culinary gaslighting.

I have been lucky enough to have eaten at a few restaurants whose food & dining experience could be considered art and the one thing they all had in common was that they were able to ask tough questions of the diner and deliver some of the most surprising & delicious food I have ever tasted.