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Peter May

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BR; Eat Me - The Food & Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin

by Peter May » Fri May 10, 2019 1:24 pm

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The Guardian food magazine has been doing a column where chefs write about their favourite, or the one that influenced them, cook book.

I read this column by Russell Norman - https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/a ... ny-shopsin - on the 'Legendary New York Chef Kenny Shopsin".

I'd never heard of Shopsin but the article interested me enough to order the book Eat Me - The Food & Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin from Amazon.co.uk. It was published in 2008. It is a hardback with colour throughout and colour photo's on most pages. It's the American edition, so there's no conversions to Celcius or metric measures, or explanations of American things (example: make your hamburgers 'the size of a Martin's potato bun'.

Shopsin is more a short order cook than chef. He has 900 dishes on his menu - the 8 page menu is shown with columns of dishes in tiny print, multiple variations. There's about 80 main soups, and some come with variations, such as 22 types of chicken soup.

And all the dishes he reckons he can get in front of the customer within 5 minutes of him getting the order. Soups he makes when ordered. He says he doesn't like soups that have been cooked long as their flavours all meld together.

Anything that takes longer than 5 minutes to cook he makes in advance and either freezes or keeps in fridge, such as stock and rice.

He's a number of time saving tricks, one is to premix salt and pepper (80/20) so he needs only one shaker to season.

He's has a tiny number of covers and a number of rules, such as turning away any group larger than 4 (he can't prepare and get more than 4 dishes on a table at the same time. If a group offers to split over 2 tables, he won't allow them because they'd take over the restaurant and he wants people to talk to other tables)

There's a number of other rules, - no requests, no allergies, no substitutions are some.

He hates the press, bans those who have allowed the name of the restaurant to appear in magazines.

Yet - he's inconsistent. He complains bitterly that in a list of the best hamburgers in New York, his don't get a mention yet he says he makes every sort (even steamed) and he says his are the ******* best.

Certain dishes came about because people asked for them, or asked for a modification to one he had.

So.…..

Overall, I think he is on the cusp of being a jerk, of being deliberately rude and awkward because it makes good theatre, because people go there expecting to see others not in the know to be cursed and booted out.

The cover says there's more than 100 recipes in the book, but I've not seen one that makes me want to make it.

Then I found from Wikipedia that he died in 2018 so I feel uncomfortable about criticising him, and Trip Advisor shows his restaurant is still in operation by his sons who are carrying on the tradition of being rude. Two reviewers tell how they got a dish they did not order and they were told to eat it as although it was the restaurants mistake they weren't going to cook the ordered dish.

What I find really irritating is that in this well produced book, there isn't an index.

And I am intrigued that one of the variations on hamburgers is called the Ploughman ("named after the classic British sandwich which is not a hamburger"*) which comes with Branston pickle and cheddar cheese on white toast. He nevers says where he can get Branston pickle - I thought it was unknown in the USA.


Anyway, I'd like to hear from anyone who has read the book or visited Shopsins restaurant..

*it's not a sandwich either
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Dale Williams

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Re: BR; Eat Me - The Food & Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin

by Dale Williams » Fri May 10, 2019 1:46 pm

Haven't read the book, had a meal at old location many years ago. Some obligatory cursing, I think we had a plate of sliders (good, greasy in a good way, most memorable part was onions) and maybe slaw of some kind. Fun, good to do one time, not enough exciting that I went back.
Martins potato rolls are in most NE supermarkets, I think pretty standard US burger roll size.
Branston Pickle is not hard to find in NY, though not in every store
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: BR; Eat Me - The Food & Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin

by Jeff Grossman » Fri May 10, 2019 10:01 pm

I also have not read the book but ate once at the old location. It's more of an amusement park ride than it is dinner, really:

We went at a not-busy hour so Shopsin's kids were playing in the restaurant. I recall toys on our table when we sat down. I drank beer from a boot-shaped mug. I don't recall what I ordered but I do recall thinking he had done a good job of it. The mood is like a cross between a diner and an old-timey general store... big list of stuff, two guys in the corner playing checkers on a barrel head, etc.

-

There was a trend in the early 1990s of NYC bars/pubs that were vehemently anti-dress-up. I recall one dockside bar that gave the bouncer a huge pair of shears and he was told to cut neckties if a gent tried to walk in still wearing it. The heat pipes, up near the ceiling, displayed the decapitated prizes. Shopsin had a no-neckties policy at that time.
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Peter May

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Re: BR; Eat Me - The Food & Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin

by Peter May » Sat May 11, 2019 9:14 am

He didn't like suits either.

Book tells how he saw four men in suits heading for his restaurant and sad he didn't want them. The waitress told them the restaurant was closed. Their protestations that it was only 8pm and people were eating had no effect.

He writes how he hacked his gas stove by using a power drill to make large holes so he got big flames and great heat.

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