Look Who’s Coming to Dinner
The Food Network recently asked its Facebook fans which famous chef – alive or dead, real or fictional – they would invite over for dinner. The responses ran the gamut of current and former FN celebrities, which would seem to have been the entire point of the exercise. Not that I find FN’s programming to normally provoke intellectual curiosity, but after an evening cocktail, I found myself nonetheless pondering the same question. Given that the average American dining table seats approximately eight guests, I decided to limit my hypothetical dinner invitees to seven – with myself taking up the eighth spot at the head of the table. So here – for better or for worse (but hopefully at least for your entertainment) – are my choices.
1) Mario Batali – If you have read Bill Buford’s excellent book Heat you know that Chef Batali doesn’t show up for dinner at someone’s house without brining either wine, cheese or both, and if you’re lucky some of his homemade lardo. I mean really – why wouldn’t you invite him?
2) Anthony Bourdain – The ex-chef now turned globetrotting TV host and best-selling author earns a spot for his wit and no-holds-barred commentary. Provided, however, that it’s Kitchen Confidential/No Reservations Tony that shows up and not “Dinner Special” or “Christmas Special” Tony. I think we can all agree that incarnation needs to stay locked in the pantry.
3) Julia Child – Julia warrants an invite not just for what she meant and still means to the world of food and television, but because I really want to know more about her time in the OSS during World War II.
4) Paula Deen – It just ain’t a home cooked meal down here in Kentucky unless someone says “y’all” about every 30 seconds. Plus based on what I’ve heard about her Deen Family Caribbean Cruises, Paula can get a little salty after she has a few drinks in her, meaning she would fit in just fine with Batali and Bourdain. She also wouldn’t put up with any of Bourdain’s you know what either.
5) Masaharu Morimoto – The original Iron Chef would bring enough stoic Japanese dignity to make up for what the previous four guests left behind. Also I’m curious if he would show up with that little translator guy who apparently has to follow him around on the American version of the show even when Morimoto is speaking English.
6) Anton Ego – The fictional food critic from Ratatouille warrants an invite because someone has to keep the other ego’s in check and it’s always fun to have a critic at the table. Plus he would eat less than Jeffrey Steingarten.
7) The final seat would be taken up by my dear friend and perpetual culinary co-conspirator Eden. There is no one with whom I would rather share the kitchen and a preparation of a meal. And let’s face it, when cooking for this group I’m going need a little help. Eden is always ready to jump in to any food related adventure, including partaking in multiple tequila shots at 3 in the morning hours before we have to cater an event for 70 hungry steeplechase tailgaters. Plus if I didn’t invite her she’d kill me, drag my body to the nearest racetrack and bury me by the quarter pole where no one would ever find me. Eden can get a little mean when she drinks.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like the perfect house full of dinner guests to you. But to me, given the careful balancing of ego’s, conversation, wit – and not least importantly, the food! – I think it sounds like the perfect meal. Provided Mario doesn’t try to hit on Paula. And come to think of it, I better put a lock on the liquor cabinet before Tony and Julia get here…