Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution writes about one of my favourite hobbies….being an NYC foodie….
Kevin Drum asks:
What’s the scoop here? Why is it that even with lots of money and chefs who clearly know how to produce three-star food, American restaurants still can’t measure up to their French counterparts?
The context is the new Michelin guide, and whether four New York restaurants deserved three stars. (BTW, even if you think they were deserving, as I do, count the relative number of stars in NYC vs. Paris; NYC does top San Sebastian, Spain, but not by so much). His commentators make many good points, most of all about differences in ingredient supply networks.
The better pure ingredients in Paris include amazing cheese shops, perfect bread, and fresher strawberries. On the macro scale, this translates into superior haute cuisine.
America, in contrast, excels in multi-dimensionality. Move away from refined Michelin-style cooking, and New York City is usually better than Paris. We have better Indian food, Columbian food, Afghan food, Chinese food, sushi, burger joints, street pretzels, and so on. Yet there is probably no single cuisine where NYC is #1 in the world, precisely because American ingredients are not up to scratch.
It is no accident that France specializes in uni-dimensional food competition, whereas the United States scatters its culinary energies in many directions. By choosing food networks which emphasize speed, reliability, and cheapness over perfection, the U.S. makes possible many more ethnic cuisines, and it also guarantees a better shot at cheap prices. In short, New York offers more choice.