Redefining Fine Dining: Travese City's "Cooks' House"
October 8, 2008 ‐ 5 comments

 

Anthe cooks' house, Traverse City, MId now for something completely different...

In recent years, the apogee of fine dining has been defined by chefs adroit at manipulating and transforming ingredients into virtually unrecognizable concoctions. The pioneering molecular gastronomy of Ferran Adria’s El Bulli. The Fat Duck under Heston Blumenthal, delivering on the assertion that “Preparing and serving food . . . [is] the most complex and comprehensive of the performing arts.” The sous vide mastery of Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and Per Se. The “progressive American cuisine” of Grant Achatz at Alinea, which includes dishes such as Ayu (a Japanese fish) with watermelon, kombu (Japanese Kelp) and coriander topped with the desiccated fried spine of the fish that crunches just like a combination between a potato chip and a French fry.

Yet there’s one great new restaurant that couldn’t be farther away from this trend. Instead, The Cooks’ House represents a return to fundamentals reminiscent of Alice Waters' origins.

Like Chez Panisse, chef Eric Patterson and co-chef/co-owner Jennifer Blakeslee insist on fresh, seasonal ingredients that are grown down the street, rather than shipped in from across the world. 95% of the food served originates from within 100 miles of the restaurant. Rather than a phalanx of sous chefs there is one: Patterson’s stepson. The overall result? An authenticity of experience and dishes that are remarkable in their purity and flavor – delivering on Coco Chanel’s admonition that the challenge of luxury is to make simplicity striking.

Why can’t you get into The Cooks’ House? Well for one thing it only has five diminutive tables that seat a total of 18 lucky diners. The other? The Cooks’ House is in Traverse City, Michigan – a place sufficiently remote that the airport closes down between scheduled flights. Proof yet again that big cities – and complexity in general – have no monopoly on excellence.

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5 Comments >>
JTH
5
May 25, 2009 9:26 am
shiss ... we're trying to keep out bit of paradise secret
Hungry
4
October 10, 2008 7:02 pm
I'm finding myself suddenly wanting to go out to eat tonight.
BrandCultureTalk Blog
3
October 9, 2008 6:32 pm
Thanks for the comment. To clarify, the Cherry Capital Airport is a beautiful facility. When BrandCultureTalk Blog arrived there late last month around 4:35 pm for a 6:32 pm flight, the doors to the outside were indeed open, along with the gift shop. However, the concourse to the "Concessions and Passenger Boarding Area" was barred by a metal gate and the TSA screeners were off duty. Staff in the gift shop indicated that the TSA usually came back on duty sometime between 5:30 and 5:45, which indeed they did. The good news is that there is no need to arrive two hours early for a flight out of TVC!
Carolina Riccee
2
October 9, 2008 11:58 am
Whoa! I stopped in the first sentence at "apogee." This article is not for those of limited vocabulary. It might be fun to put it into Sarah Palin language. I've always felt that fresh, tasty ingredients were the key to any good cooking. It sounds as if the chefs in question are rather like chemists mixing various ingredients to see what might occur. If these folks want to play with their food and charge exorbitant prices, I guess there are people who have plenty of money (or who used to) who are looking for new sensations and tastes and are willing to pay anything for the prestige of having been at So and So's Restaurant. Now I'm wondering who goes to The Cooks' House, certainly not people from California. It takes a day to get there and a day to return. That's quite a commitment of time for a dinner. Traverse City is the cherry capital of the world, not to mention the plethora of indoor water parks, and the home of the macaroni cook-off the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I still wonder who goes to The Cook's house?
John Roddy
1
October 9, 2008 8:46 am
Only one correction -- the airport is OPEN between flights...and is served by United, Northwest & American (airport code TVC). Thanks for tipping off the masses to a great find in our lovely part of the world!
 
 

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