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ZERO STARS: T-Fitz Can't Stand Chefs' 'Bullshit' in 2013

 Doris Metropolitan, a restaurant T-Fitz actually likes
Doris Metropolitan, a restaurant T-Fitz actually likes
Photo: Brasted

Tom Fitzmorris has just released his end of year assessment of restaurants in New Orleans, and the main takeaway is that there are a lot more restaurants than last year, but it's become "harder to have fully enjoyable dinners," basically because chefs are self-absorbed and full of bullshit. Really. T-Fitz writes: "A famously cynical business adage says, 'If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit.' I'm getting far too much of the latter from chefs." Why?

Because these chefs have "other aims than giving their customers those three things that people dine out to enjoy..." tablecloths, bread, and water an interesting place to eat, service, and food. Tommy Boy blames the problem on the 1990s and aughts, when chefs became more concerned with their celebrity than their actual craft. Cut to today, and trendy "housemade" creations aren't up to par, the quality of dining experience is on the decline, and there's also this: "The attitude behind the Do-It-Yourself movement in restaurants shows up in other ways. The most disturbing is the dismissal of comfort as important." Better pad yourself with some Mary Englebreit pillows before we venture any further in to the good, the bad, and the ugly of T-Fitz' 2013 recap...

The Good
· "We started the year with 1,323 real (not fast-food, take-out, etc.) restaurants... and ended with 1,383"
· Best restaurant openings were in the Quarter
· T-Fitz' "Biggest" openings of 2013: Dickie Brennan's Tableau, Kingfish, Galatoire's 33 Bar & Steak, Doris Metropolitan Steakhouse, the Broussard's and Tujague's revamps, and Criollo...wait, Criollo? Yeah, they opened in 2012.
· There are now 69 restaurants on Magazine Street, up 17% from 2012
· Brisbi's and Blue Crab resuscitated the West End scene
· Also a good year for "special-event eat-outs" and charitable events

The Bad
· "We still have hundreds of good-to-great restaurants. But on the whole, they are giving us less pleasure than they did a year ago at this time."
· "The astonishing meltdown of Brennan's on Royal Street"
· And that "dreaded underlying malaise in the supply side of the restaurant enterprise," not like crappy restaurant supply companies, y'all, but like the "bullshit" the chefs are putting out

· "How often, really, does 'house-made' mean 'tastes better?' I've had enough such items to know that the answer is 'not always.'"
· "Why am I not wowed by the food that most makers-from-scratch put forth?"
· "When was the last time you had a dish in a place with a highly inventive chef that you thought would become a classic? It's much more likely that you will never see it again."
· "On my radio show, complaints about noise levels in restaurants have gone to No. 1 among reasons for dissatisfaction."
· "And where did tablecloths go? Bread? Water? All these were part of the bargain, but now they're not."
· T-Fitz knows exactly why restaurants have gone down hill in the past year, but get some more pillows for dat ass first, because you're going to need to sit for this Fitzshizzle:

Around 1990, there was a shift in influence from the front of the house... to the back of the house from chefs and cooks...What followed was inevitable. The chefs became artistes, insistent on making their menu statements, regardless of what the customers really wanted...Then the chefs became celebrities. People follow what celebrities say and do, even when it veers away from their own personal pleasures. Celebrity grows on itself, and the next thing we knew the chefs were known not for the goodness of their cooking, but rather by how many restaurants they controlled, cookbooks they wrote and televised cooking competitions they won. To pick on the best example of how this affects the food at a restaurant, think about how many times you've seen the word "house-made" on a menu. For some reason, chefs think this is a very cool thing to do, so they do a great deal of it.

· So John Besh and Emeril are to blame? Que?
· Lastly, these chef-centered restaurants are shifting the emphasis from the customer... to the chef.

· Chef-centered restaurants shift emphasis from customer [CityBusiness, subscription required]
· All Week In Reviews [-ENOLA-]