My wife, whom I love with all of my tiny shriveled heart, cajoled me into watching a video the other day. I will link you to the video, but I will warn you that it may make you angry if you are bothered by people who do not understand New Orleans cuisine, yet feel compelled to pretend otherwise.
The video in question is by a fellow named Chris Morocco, and I guess I’m not a fan. My wife has what my daughter describes as a “harmless crush” on him. Her feelings about Mr. Morocco have no bearing on my opinion of him, because I am not threatened by harmless crushes and because based on the few videos I’ve seen, I find him to be sort of a silly little twit.
I also don’t like the people who decided it was a good idea to put a blindfold on a person and then give him what they claimed was a bowl of “Leah Chase’s gumbo.” Because the poor dude was made to dig through the dish with his fingers, pulling out items that he then tried to identify.
The premise is that he will first taste the dish and try to figure out what it is and what’s in it, then he’ll try to recreate it. I suppose that’s not an awful premise, and I understand that it only works if he can’t see what he’s eating. The whole “no utensils” thing is absurd.
If you give a man a proper bowl of gumbo and tell him, blindfolded, to taste it without utensils, he’s going to burn his fingers and, if he’s got any self-respect, he’s going to take the blindfold off and tell you to go to hell. That’s what I’d do, though “go to hell” would not be the language I’d use.
Not Chris Morocco, though, who proceeds to pick items out of what looks like a tepid broth and tries to identify them individually. I actually turned the video off about halfway through when I first watched it, but when I decided to write about it, I realized I had to view the whole thing.
I regret the error. At 52, I feel time wasted more acutely than I once did. I ended up feeling a little sorry for the guy and vaguely uncomfortable for having participated vicariously in the whole thing.
Let me give you an example of how it went that I think sums it up concisely: Morocco, who is purportedly a food expert and a skilled chef, couldn’t recognize an oyster when he tasted it.
Let me say that again: he picked an oyster out of a bowl of gumbo with his fingers and could not discern that it was an oyster. He only figured it out when someone from off camera appeared and gave him a hint: “did it taste… briny?”
He did not taste the roux either, and in fact even when he was told it was gumbo, he did not believe there was a roux in it. In his defense, I don’t know whether that was because the person who made the gumbo screwed it up or whether he has no sense of taste. He didn’t get the spices right, and he added tomato sauce to it. He didn’t get the smoked ham, (which he thought was sweetbreads!) and he decided that a chicken neck was a pork tail. He thought chicken gizzards were livers and he mistook stewed veal for pork shoulder, which I can’t really criticize.
He also seemed to be pissed that he was having to endure the process and he did not like much of what he tasted. Then he was “judged” by someone who tasted both dishes and despite the ridiculously different ingredients, was given a “95%” on the taste as compared to the original dish. To be fair, what he made looked pretty tasty, but it sure as hell wasn’t gumbo and you will not convince me that it tasted 95% like any gumbo, let alone one made to Mrs. Chase’s recipe.
I’m late to this. The video was originally posted in May of 2020. I don’t apologize for not bringing it to your attention before now; rather I apologize to those of you whose blood pressure is raised to dangerous levels after watching it. I hope to make it up to you by linking to a video with Mrs. Chase herself, which you can find here. Watch that one as a balm, though it will make you sad that she’s passed.
I am goofing on this, obviously. I hope you all know that and if you’ve read my work over the last decade or so, I suspect you can tell the difference between serious and silly.
I have also not been put in the position of trying to figure out what’s in a dish wearing a blindfold, so I don’t know how I’d perform if I was given a dish I wasn’t particularly familiar with.
But holy crap, y’all, if I get to the point that you give me an oyster, blindfolded, and I can’t tell you it’s an oyster then I would like you to remove whatever is keeping me alive because I am already dead inside, and I do not want to suffer unnecessarily. If I get to the point that I participate in something like this at all, you may feel free to throw rotten vegetables at me.
In other news, I read that Upperline won’t be reopening. That’s a tragedy, because Upperline has been one of the great New Orleans restaurants for many, many years.
That’s due in large part to JoAnne Clevenger, who held court there from the start, and I am having great difficulty imagining the New Orleans restaurant scene without her. My dear Lord what a great host she has been and what a great advocate for New Orleans restaurants. Her taste in food is equaled only by her taste in the visual arts, and I am grateful for having benefitted from her taste in both respects.
Then I also learned via Eater that Kin is giving up the ghost as well. In an Instagram post, chef/owner Hieu Than shared the news and it’s another blow. Of the restaurants that have opened in the last 10 years, Kin was one of my favorites. Kin was ambitious when it first opened in a way that most other restaurants only aspire to be, and at the end they were doing everything they could to keep things afloat and feed people. After that announcement, Than posted an image on Facebook of a broken fence in the back of the restaurant; someone had broken in to steal food and to-go containers. That food was going to be donated, and the containers were for their last day or two of service. I love this city, but Jesus it’s difficult to live here sometimes.
I hope we’ll see something from chef Hieu again in the not too distant future, because he’s not just a great cook, he’s a good person. We need as many of both as we can get.