Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shopsin on the Times

[photo cred: Larry Fink, via the NY Times]

So it's no secret I've been hyping up Kenny Shopsin for a while now, and as so I've been a bit more alert to his publicity. The NY Times had a pretty sweet piece on him (The Way We Eat: Flipping the Bird) and his quaint little shop and the modest menu that comes with it.

I have yet to experience Shopsin's, and I hope I get to at some point, considering his reputation for client refusal, but I'd have to say that although I'm unfamiliar with his cuisine, much like the case with Bourdain, I admire these two solely based on their personalities and attitudes towards the culinary world and society (and women, heh). They do what they do with passion and don't very much care about what people have to say. Maybe it's the egotistical, arrogant bastard in me, but I slightly identify with these two, and until I learn otherwise, they will continue to be on my list of top chefs.

“I dedicate myself to consuming all sorts of ideas,” says Shopsin, an avid reader and Internet crawler. “Eventually something inside me, probably skewed by my erotic feelings about breasts and things like that, assembles a product and just shoots it up.” [NY Times]
There's such a level of romanticism in his story. The fact that he's estalished himself and provided for his family, for almost 30 years, the work that he's put into his career, and the love he expresses for all elements that sustain him. His clients (the valuable ones, not the shitty ones), his establishment, his trade, and of course, his family. And he's been able to do all this without selling out his principles and just letting any asshole come into his realm demanding to be served. He asks that patrons prove themselves worthy of being served by him and not the other way around. After all, his food has been around long enough to understand that it's quality and he's busting his ass behind the burners to feed you. He owes you nothing and you shouldn't expect him to serve you hand and foot. Good business practice, ethic, and personal integrity and principles in my opinion.
Unlike other restaurateurs, Shopsin has refused publicity. (Whenever I tried to write about him, he would tell the fact checkers that Shopsin’s was a shoe store or out of business or insist that they do something uncheckable to themselves.) But two regulars, a Knopf editor and a literary agent, persuaded him to write a cookbook. “Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin” blends recipes with his uncensored thoughts on cooking (“The only explanation I can give for . . . how I came to this method of cooking is that it’s a product of a lot of psychotherapy, drugs and making chicken potpies”) and running a restaurant (“My approach . . . is the exact opposite of ‘the customer is always right’ ”). Like the restaurant, where three of his four children work, the book is a family affair, designed by his daughter Tamara and photographed by his son-in-law, Jason Fulford. [NY Times]
He does what he does because he loves it and not for the fame and riches and now, inadvertently all of that has come to him because he was himself. Thousands shoot for the stars and crash and burn severely. Not him. Self-awareness and a solid foundation of personal values go a long way.

He is full of deep (or shallow, depending on which side of the fence you're standing on) little excerpts on life and food full of a degree of sentiment and heart one can only hope to achieve at one point.