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Contemporary Cuisine in Buffalo- Part I

A little while ago I posted a story about a local musician vying for the attention of Anthony Bourdain’s Travel Channel television series, “No Reservations”. For those of you who missed that story, here’s the link, but we can sum it up by saying that Buffalo, thanks to Mr. Starr’s fine work and the votes of many BR readers, came in among the top four finalists.
Though Buffalo and Mr. Starr didn’t win the contest, producers of Mr. Bourdain’s program were pleased with all of the finalists and have promised to include them in some way in an upcoming program. But most of you know that, since once Mr. Starr secured Buffalo’s seat amongst the most serious contenders, major media outlets in the area picked the story up.
What concerned me about this whole event was the 100 or more comments that were left on that post. Some debated whether or not Mr. Bourdain would be interested in our, let’s say, funkier locales, like The Old Pink, Ulrich’s, etc., or if he would prefer fine dining establishments. For anyone interested, it is my opinion as a regular viewer of the program that Bourdain is, as any good chef would be, comfortable in any type of venue as long as what they are offering is delicious and authentic or innovative in its own right.
Another popular argument online was the assertion that Buffalo has nothing to offer Anthony Bourdain in the way of modern or contemporary food, that short of chicken wings and cheap red sauce joints we have little to whet the appetite a world traveler. The third, and most heated argument, was that what Buffalo offers in the way of hot dogs, chicken wings, pizza and pasta is either something we as Buffalonians should be embarrassed by or, at the very least, that it is beneath the likes of Mr. Bourdain. Here are just a few excerpts:

“I’ll get slammed for this and it’s not just tossing out some negativity, but seriously…is Buffalo that innovative when it comes to food? There’s a major consistency problem here for one thing, 90% of the restaurants focus on some form of Italian food, & there’s just not that adventurous spirit that Bourdain would be looking for.”

“please someone tell me what is so great about “BUFFALO FOOD”. This town is so greatly deprived of any type of culture in the culinary sense.”

“He does do fine dining if it is really unique to the food world but I don’t really think we have much to offer in that considering the only place that I have seen him at that wasn’t ethnically centered was a hospital themed bar in Singapore.”

“Personally, although Buffalo does have SOME decent fine dining, there is nothing here (especially since Sample has cut back – at least it was unique) that is anywhere near as exciting as what they have in NYC, Hong Kong, Vancouver, …take your pick. I’m sorry to say, Buffalo is not there yet, which is not to say that it couldn’t be sometime soon.”

I found that many of our readers were quick to point out that Buffalo is behind the times, their comments complete with careful descriptions of what area restaurants do wrong, but I found very few suggestions for what Buffalo chefs and restaurateurs should be doing. Also surprising was that many of those who supported the more blue collar, workaday Buffalo cuisine also felt that it was “all” we had to offer, and that that was okay.
Recently I interviewed a number of city chefs about the “state of dining” in Buffalo. I asked each of them to describe what they feel encompasses modern cuisine and whether or not it has a place in Buffalo. The similarity in their responses is surprising given the breadth of the subject. Look for that story on Friday.
In the interim, I think it is important to find out what the general dining public thinks is culinarily contemporary or modern.
Is it a philosophy?
Is it the portion size and presentation?
Is it the ingredients themselves?
Is it technique?
Before we can define whether or not Buffalo has “modern” food to offer those with well-traveled palates, I think we must determine what modern food in fact, is. So, Buffalo, what do you think?

Lead photo depicts a thermal circulator which is increasingly used in professional kitchens for the popular cooking process known as sous-vide.

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