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Corby Kummer Boldly Changes Stance on Tasting Menus

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Photo: Shutterstock/Kondor83

After igniting something of a critical backlash against tasting menus last year, Atlantic senior editor Corby Kummer has revised his objections in a piece for Dujour. Where Kummer wrote in 2013 for Vanity Fair that tasting menus were often "totalitarian" and a "tyranny" representing the triumph of the chef's desire to "show off" over the wants and desires of the customer, he now reconsiders.

Kummer cites Alex Crabb (Asta, Boston) and Daniel Patterson (Coi, SF) as chefs who have managed to make tasting menus "not just bearable but even fun" and "thrilling," and speaks with them to get their insights into how they make it happen. Kummer comes to the conclusion that tasting menus can indeed be a worthwhile experience: "I'm prepared to be convinced that the true avant-garde can be glimpsed in a tasting menu that takes you places you didn't and couldn't know you wanted to go."

Kummer is only prepared to take that leap with a catch, however. He says that chefs should "Think about portion sizes and pacing" and "Relax!" That second mandate refers to Kummer's observation that there were too many "humorless servers" and staff "sullenly and silently performing their chores as if in a Dickensian workhouse." Kummer ultimately suggests that the problem he has with tasting menus is sometimes an attitude problem: "[M]uch of what I so strongly dislike about big-deal tasting-menu restaurants," he writes, "[is] the big deals they so clearly think they are."

In this regard, Kummer echoes GQ critic Alan Richman. Richman recently coined the phrase "egotarian cuisine" to describe tasting menu and small-plate focused restaurant where the food is " ingenious," "occasionally brilliant," and "[t]oo often, it's awful." Kummer, it seems, has actually come around though, and is ready once again to give tasting menus a chance.

· The Long, Winding Meal [Dujour]
· All Tasting Menu Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Critics Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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