As you gain experience in this industry, not that I have as much experience as some of the people I have encountered in this business, you start to notice that simplicity is really the core value that resonates with most people. At least with me, I don’t think there is a need to over complicate food. The simpler the better really.
I think that as time goes on, you also come to realize how fundamentally important the classics are. There is no way forward without looking to the past. And although that is true for almost anything in life, I believe it’s actually even more crucial when it comes to food. As a side note, I think that the hospitality industry has been poorly documented over time. In terms of the people that have helped build it - the main players over the decades and the trends that have brought it to where it is today. People might know small details about very emblematic restaurants or hotels like the Savoy in London or the Ritz Carlton, and how they were founded. However, a lot of the restaurants in the industry that have allowed those important companies to flourish have not been very well documented. So I think a lot of new chefs, and many new front of house staff don’t fully understand the history and background of what they do, and the importance it had on the development of cultures, societies, and cities around the globe.
Back to this idea of the fundamental importance of classics in the food and hospitality industry; I believe the most important classic to remember is that food is an experience. And that’s really what I’ve tried to capture since starting Charlie’s Burgers/CB. But It’s not simply the experience from the guests perspective. It’s also important to factor in what that experience is for the chef as well as the team that helps me put these dinners on.
For the chef, we try and provide an experience for them to divulge into their biggest dreams. Whether or not a chef owned their restaurant, they were still bound by a certain set of boundaries that either their clients set, their culinary styles imposed, or that their financial situation dictated. So they couldn’t always do anything they wanted. To them, CB became a platform where none of those boundaries existed. It was envisioned as a blank slate where chefs could execute anything they want. There weren’t, and still aren’t, any limits to these dinners. I guess that was the creative outlook and the appeal for chefs that would give them this unique experience. A venue where they could do anything they wanted or finally put on the menu they had been sitting on for years.
Realistically, the driving idea behind each CB dinner is being able to provide different perspectives around food to everyone who is involved. The ability to to take chefs from around the world, who each have their own thoughts, philosophies, aspirations, and mentalities around food and service, and gather them into one experience is what makes these dinners so unique. It provides us with the opportunity to create snapshots of the industry from many different vantage points. It’s been somewhat of an educational project for myself and the team. It really is enlightening to see how these chefs think, and how they work, and especially their philosophies, beliefs and execution. We couldn’t have had more diverse chefs in our kitchens. I mean from those who listen to hard core, loud, hip-hop, while crushing beers the entire way through to chefs whose workspace was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. And that’s where I believe that food is one of the most unique experiences we encounter. It has an ability to go beyond itself and affect everything that surrounds it.
And finally, from a guest perspective, what it comes back to is that food fundamentally brings people together. It is a very important part of cultures and connecting people. I know that is kind of the cliché around the importance of food, but we can’t deny that that is one of foods most unique and influential powers. There is something to be said about sharing a meal with people you like such as family and friends. You could eat the same thing every day, and your body will get what it needs to physiologically move forward, but that’s not the true beauty of what food gives us. So if food isn’t only about sustenance it must have a bigger purpose for us. And I think that sharing it with other people is really where everything comes together and food is able to demonstrate its true importance and value in our lives.
I see this happen particularly during our CB dinners, because very often, most of the guests around a table have never met one another before. They may have come with a companion or a date, but other than that you don’t know many people around your table. And yet food is able to break down those barriers we typically put up, and open us up. I can tell you that I run into some of our guests years later, and they are having frequent dinner parties with other guests they shared a table with. Others have ended up dating after meeting at these dinners. It’s actually very interesting sitting back and listening to the conversations and interactions people have around a dinner table. What happens is that you quickly find commonalities between your table mates when you share a meal. And I think food simply accelerates the process of finding common ground and creating some sort of connection between strangers. I think that is the very interesting part of this “social experiment” that is Charlie's Burgers.