The Memphis Business Journal’s “Best Chef” contest is off.
I recently posted about the MBJ’s “Best Chef” contest. Apparently it’s no longer going on.
The Memphis Business Journal has the full story.
In short, most of the chefs involved signed a letter stating that they would not like to take part.
As the Memphis restaurant scene has continued to develop, especially with
the increase of Chef-Owned Restaurants, we as key players in this
development have worked to cultivate an environment of inclusiveness.
Luckily, this is an environment that is natural to the many of us who have
chosen to make Memphis our Restaurant Home. Instead of competing with each
other, we send each other business. Instead of poaching talented staff, we
share resources to ensure a future of talent. If one of us runs out of
lettuce, we run down the street and get a loaner from our neighbor. If one
of us receives national praise, the rest of us promote the great news to our
own customers. Is there a competitive spirit. Of course. We are, after all,
business people. But the people who have chosen to make Memphis their
culinary home in the past few years have done so with the forethought that
Memphis can be and is different than other cut-throat restaurant towns.
Personally, I think this would have been a lot better received had they elected to do a straight “Who is your favorite Memphis Chef?” poll, as opposed to going with the chef vs. chef “playoff” style.
I can see both sides.
I commend the chefs involved in refusing to take part in a contest that pits them against one another. I also have witnessed, and very much admire, the kindness and camaraderie mentioned in their letter.
On the other hand, I don’t think it was MBJ’s intention to foster ill will or animosity amongst Memphis’ best chefs. I think the decision to make it a “playoff” likely had a lot more to do with trying to drive traffic to their site every week to vote in the next “round”.
While I feel that this implementation was flawed, I feel there’s merit to the idea. I like the idea of highlighting the “Best of the Best”. If the involved chefs are interested, I feel this hiccup can be parlayed into something good.
How about a “Downtown Dining Week” style event in which the nominated chefs offer a fixed menu of the dishes they feel best represent them, and then have a vote for “People’s Choice”?
Shift the focus from “Who’s the best?” to “Look at the caliber of food available in Memphis”, with the crowning of a winner secondary to the idea of getting people to take a step outside of their national chain restaurant and experience the work of the local masters. This way everyone wins. All the restaurants get a bump in business, all the chefs get to showcase their skills, and the people of Memphis who might otherwise not be aware of the local offerings get to eat some amazing food.
Anyone interested? Leave a comment.