Ask someone the definition of “fine dining” 50 years ago and the answer you might have received involved an elaborate black-tie event with elegant food and drinks, and expensive decor. Ask the same question today, and you may get a different answer; which raises the question, is fine dining dead?
According to a recent panel discussion, at the 2014 International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York titled, Fine Dining – Is it Dead?, panelists were asked for their definition of fine dining. Answers varied from “classical elegance,” to an overall great dining experience and even to the accessibility of ingredients in a dish. Fine dining doesn’t seem to be dead, but it is certainly evolving.
Chef Kerry Heffernan of Eleven Madison Park and South Gate had said during the discussion that “fine dining is about the experience.” But what is correlated to “the experience?” Is it cost? Ambience? Dress code? Culture of the restaurant and its customers? All these elements could be considered part of the equation in determining what “fine dining” is, though it really is determined by the diners themselves, as it stems from what people are looking for from their experience. Part of the evolution of fine dining is that it seems to be becoming broader. Ed Brown of Compass Group observed that a restaurant may not have the best furniture or overall look, but its food and hospitality could be top notch, making it a fantastic experience.
Panelists identified what has influenced the evolution of fine dining, from an elaborate, and a sometimes ceremonial event, to what it has become today. Some of the many catalysts of this evolution include generational change, a heightened education of food, an increased interest in the source of ingredients. Add to this, the ability to research everything about a restaurant and its food on the internet before even stepping in the front door – something that was not an option 50 years ago.
To keep up with the evolution of fine dining now and in the future, the panelists shared what they are doing to stay on track with the expectations of their diners including training their staff, providing great oversight, educating customers and sharing the sources of ingredients used on their menu. It will be interesting to see what diners are interested in and how they interpret fine dining 50 years from now.
Story based on the Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum, “Fining Dining – Is it Dead,” panel discussion at the 2014 International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York. Panel moderated by Ferdinand Metz, Certified Master Chef and President Emeritus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), with speakers Bill Telepan, Telepan Restaurant, Alfred Portale, Gotham Bar & Grille, Kerry Heffernan, Eleven Madison Park and South Gate, Ed Brown, Compass Group and David Binkle, Los Angeles Unified School District.