The old manufacturing city was struggling. The government had long ago decided that service industries were the future and that banks were the greatest of these. The bankers had decided that the factories should be sold, stripped and sent overseas.
So the city decided to reinvent itself. It had a reputation as the home of meat and potatoes. Perhaps this could be a thing? Maybe they could reinvent themselves as a restaurant destination? The council decided to run a competition. Which restaurant serves the best meat and potatoes in the city?
Abitur was a small restaurant in one of the side-streets far from the city-centre. It had a fine history but had gone through a stage of being somewhat down-at-heel. That is until a brilliant and strict head chef took over. He whipped the place into shape, specifying ingredients and methods, rigorously surveying amounts. By the time of the competition this old head chef had retired, but he had left Abitur as a highly effective operation.
In fact, Abitur was so effective that it won. Crowds flocked to eat there. Restaurateurs and critics beat at the door. The new head chef conducted tours. “This is our new venture,” he said. “We are giving our chefs creative expression; using a range of meats; new varieties of fancy potatoes.” Words like ‘jus’ and ‘marrow-bone reduction’ could be heard.
All the other restaurants started copying Abitur.
But something strange was happening. Critics started to notice a decline in the quality of Abitur’s signature dish. Instead of a focus on meat and potatoes, the new head chef wanted to invite diners to wear a set of headphones playing the sound of seagulls pooing on a cliff whilst sitting inside a large papier-mache aubergine, chewing on a salty piece of dried bread.
“It is phenomenon-based gastronomy,” the chef exclaimed. “We are doing away with all of the old divisions of dishes and courses and things like that.”
People started to complain. They complained about the prices, about the service and, most of all, about the meat and potatoes.
“Why do you judge us purely on meat and potatoes?” Cried the chef, “Restaurants are about so much more than that! You are defining a successful restaurant too narrowly.”