Predicable caption: A Portrait of the Chef as a Young Man
Before I started up Bubby’s, which began as a pie company in August of 1990 and became a restaurant by November, my cooking career consisted of working for “the best places in town” and being quite disgruntled about it. I hated their thinking about food, I hated the food, and I didn’t much care for the folks I worked for. Why spend half your time making beautiful garnishes while using Knorr-Swiss stock base to “fortify” your sauces? No one was cooking American food, with the huge exception of every family and home that took the time to sit down to eat at the table. If I came from a professional world of giant plates and small portions that were meant to look like precious dabs of art, my home world was about eating food that I either grew up with, or that I wished I grew up with. Since Bubby’s opened as a restaurant the day after Thanksgiving, our first menu was Thanksgiving leftovers. We had 2 tables. We served on paper plates.
Bubby’s is all about the beauty of American food. And drinks. And sincere hospitality. If Mark Twain, the great tribune of American food, ate here, I think he would feel perfectly at home and familiar with lots of the stuff we make. And I believe he would be curious at the changed landscape of American cookery.
He might be particularly pleased that the availability of what I would call “real” ingredients has begun to flourish. It’s possible to find excellent eggs, milk, cheese, beef, pork, chicken, and fish in a volume and for a price that makes it possible for us to use only those excellent ingredients. Bubby’s has had the opportunity to de-commodify the basic staples, foods that have been tainted by the effects of mass production and degraded by the process of maximizing profit. Think about the effects of feedlot beef: the animals themselves suffer, the land around them suffer, the people who eat them get sick. The profit hardly seems worth the price.
The reason I started Bubby’s is because I love American food. The reason for this website, besides providing you a place to find our address and look at our menu, is to talk about American food. There’s a beauty to it. It has rich history. It comes from families, regions, ethnic migrations. People are starting farms. People are growing grain, milling wheat, raising beautiful hogs, steers, chickens, lambs, goats. People are studying lost methods of chocolate making and whiskey making and cheese making. Young people open great restaurants in the same spirit as that was previously reserved for rock bands. There is obviously a renaissance taking place that is transforming a basic part of our lives. Who the fuck doesn’t want to be a part of that? I hope this website provides a lot of excellent information for alert eaters, dilettantes, home cookers, young and old chefs alike.
Lastly, I would like to say: we want to do the best we can to be helpful. This forum is emphatically open to suggestion, and gets underway with the constant goal of improving our conversation on the American Table. Which raises this basic question: what is American food? We would like to hear a thousand opinions about this paradox. Send us yours, and we will post it in this column.