After those heated dialogues on Chowhound regarding the authenticity of the Kobe beef served at Charlie’s Burger’s, I decided to leave the whole issue alone. But then I received an email from Chef De Guzman this morning…
For those of you who weren’t following the dialogue, someone who had attended the dinner created a thread on Chowhound talking about how awesome the experience had been at De Guzman’s dinner. Chowhound people started to write comments saying there was no way the Kobe was real and it was Wagu from Chinatown, et cetera, et cetera. They even accused me of posting under two different identities. (I did not.)
A little bit of the dialogue spilled over onto my previous blog post reviewing Charlie’s Burgers if you care to scroll down to read the comments.
Anyway, so I received this e-mail today from the charming and earnest Chef De Guzman thanking me for my blog post and appreciating that I had enjoyed the experience. His email was so sweet and so genuine. At one point, he wrote:
“If I were to expire right after my last supper, I'd love to be remembered for my sincerity. My goal that evening was to make sure that all my 36 guests were happy and also the people who were involved with the collaboration of this dinner ... Charlie and his awesome staff and my kitchen team. We did it for fun and for a culinary adventure. My goal for my kitchen staff is for them to learn something new, whether it's about cooking or learning how to work under pressure and have fun at the same time. Unquestionably, cooking for Susur Lee and 35 foodies is priceless and unforgettable.”He continues on to mention reading the comments about the Kobe Beef and reaffirms that it was real and he has the Japanese Kobe Certificate in his office with the stamp from the Japanese Ministry of Health. He even quoted the certificate number for me:
De Guzman promised he would not disclose the supplier, but Enzo Spigarelli from The Butcher Shoppe, his good friend, can source the real Kobe deal if buyers are interested. They have to buy the whole box though; you can’t get 10 oz of Kobe. This is why it lends itself more suitably to a dinner party of 35 people, like Charlie’s Burgers. After De Guzman contacted me, I also received an email from Charlie himself, confirming that the beef was certainly “Kobe priced.”
De Guzman's email continues on to discuss his intention in participating in the underground dinner:
"… my menu was not designed for profit, but to make people happy. It is a chef's dream to cook anything ...no rules, no special dietary restrictions, no 33% food cost and no labor cost at the perfect venue for the perfect guests. For me, that is genuine pleasure. It would be heart-breaking for me if one of my guests went home unhappy and feeling duped."I’ve been thinking about why people have such a difficult time believing the Kobe beef was real and I’ve decided that it’s the same reason why people might not understand Charlie Burger’s in general:
It’s so un-capitalist.
It’s not-for-profit, but it doesn’t save sick babies or plant trees. The idea is genuinely wholesome and the intention is pure, but the act itself of eating the food is decadent and indulgent.
People are so accustomed to bottom lines, profit and overhead that they almost can’t see something good when it slaps them in the face. If it’s not-for-profit then they think it’s all about the gimmick, the stunt: publicity. There must be some ulterior motive, right? Right?
The cynics at Chowhound should eat some humble pie and take a page out of Charlie Burger’s book: stop being so cynical and do something that makes people happy for a change.
(Here are a couple pages from that book):
What is Charlie’s Burgers?
The Anti-Restaurant is about the food experience first. It is not-for-profit, so the costs involved resume their proper place as something simply incidental to the event.
A Chef who CAN and still loves to – someone whose love of a kickass meal has not been dulled by soul-crushing food and beverage managers and bean counters – someone creative, innovative and fun.