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A Chef’s Taste Test

Bugs, Romans, Vatel, and other food facts

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In honor of the new Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany, a compendium of all things gastronomical, five chefs—Christian Delouvrier of Ducasse, Sara Jenkins of 50 Carmine, Gray Kunz of Café Gray (opening this fall), Paul Liebrandt of One Little West Twelfth, and Zakary Pelaccio of 5 Ninth—agreed to take a quiz based on information in the book.

1) Who asked for “absolutely no cold cuts” to be served backstage: Elton John, Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg, or ZZ Top?
ZP: It couldn’t be ZZ Top—they’re from Texas. It has to be Britney Spears. She has no taste whatsoever.
CD: Britney. Because cold cuts are full of sodium, and I think she is a health-food freak.
SJ: Elton John, because I think he’d be snotty that way.
GK: Elton John—he looks like he ate enough cold cuts in his life already.

2) The Romans had more than a dozen different types of slaves to assist at feasts. What did the flabellarii do?
SJ: They pummeled and massaged people between courses.
ZP: They chewed the food.
Or they moistened the food.
GK: They weighed the guests?
CD: I think they just make air. You take some palm leafs and go up and down—it’s like a fan!

3) Why did the seventeenth-century chef François Vatel stab himself to death?
SJ: He felt had betrayed his king?
ZP: One of his line cooks overcooked the côte de boeuf.
PL: Because the fish that was supposed to be delivered for the banquet was late.
GK: I belong to the Vatel Club— I should know that!CD: He was supposed to receive some sole, and he didn’t want to look stupid.

4) What are giant waterbugs said to taste like? (The answer is not chicken.)
PL: Tomato.
SJ: A pretzel.
ZP: They’re probably like that gum Chewels, where you bit into it and it had that burst of goop inside.
GF: Ooh, that must be awful! Probably like off yogurt.
CD: Eggs.



ANSWERS: 1) Elton John; 2) They fanned the guests with peacock feathers; 3) He thought there would be no fresh fish available for dinner; 4) Gorgonzola


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