Thought this would be one of the more lively polls. Lawsy, lawsy…. As dead as the proverbial doornail. I'll have my go at it at any rate….
In evaluating a chef I consider the following factors but not necessarily in the order given:
1. Consistency – the ability to maintain not only the quality and personality of his kitchen but that of given dishes over a period of time.
2. The chef's ability to demonstrate creativity and independent thinking – those elusive factors that set him/her apart from other chefs.
3. The ability to periodically update and change menus, that while holding certain "favorites" or signature dishes in place.
4. The chef's level of knowledge, not only of the dishes being prepared but of the history, traditions and yes, even the psychology of those dishes.
5. The ability to create interesting and sometimes brilliant dishes from "ordinary" ingredients. The ability of knowing how to treat "special" ingredients so that they highlight either the dish in which they are a part or to make them a central focus of an entire meal.
6. A certain level of playfulness – the kind that from time to time will make diners smile with pleasure.
7. The ability to find, train, coordinate and maintain staff so that their work will meet his/her standards.
8. The ability to coordinate with the front of the house, that with special regard to the waitstaff's knowledge of the dishes being offered as well as the quality of the service
9. The ability to have the kitchen so well coordinated and running smoothly enough that if the chef were to die in bed no-one would hear about it for a week and there would be no noticeable changes in the food being served in his/her restaurant.
10. A sense of respect for those who come to dine at their restaurants.
11. When it comes to determining just which chef is great, good, mediocre or poor – my personal requirements are quite simple:
(a) When dining with a great chef I will frequently pause during my meal to ponder on the qualities of specific dishes or the overall composition of my meal. During such meals I will often sigh (albeit quite quietly) with pleasure. After the meal, even perhaps many years after the meal, I will recall not only the dishes but the table setting, the ambiance, with whom I dined and many of the mini-experiences throughout the meal. Such meals can even leave one with a sense of awe.
(b) When dining with a good chef I will enjoy my meal thoroughly but will not too often have to reflect on the dishes on which I am dining. I may analyze those dishes but that is a more technical analysis than one of emotion
(c) When dining with a mediocre chef, I will probably find the food edible and perhaps even "acceptable" but will feel no excitement and certainly no joy in my meal
(d) When dining with a poor chef, I will probably find the food edible but certainly not acceptable and not at all tempting. My memories on leaving will be negative.
Enough for now….