There are hard and fast rules as to where you get stellar food.
1) a place with a full professional kitchen.
2) a place where not everyone must eat at once.
3) a place where food is grown nearby.
3/3 is most big city restaurants.
2/3 could be a big event at a restaurant, or a dinner in Las Vegas, or a dinner cooked from a home kitchen.
1/3 is usually terrifyingly bad.
except... Outstanding in the Field.
They do it. right.
they only need 1/3. Because that 1,
This decade has so far seen very little change in the restaurant industry- we've seen things change outside of it at a rapid pace, but asides from the rise of Quick-serve as a force in the industry truly to be reckoned with, and a corresponding interest in companies focused on solving these same problems (I'm looking at you, GrubHub) I struggle to question what the next big move will be. Simply put, we don't innovate in restaurants, because we as consumers don't like to have to think about it too much. David Chang got a lot of harassment for trying to change reservation policy for a restaurant- imagine trying to change something really significant? Impossible!
There is, however, a space outside of what we consider to be a restaurant, where there are other possibilities. This is the realm of the food truck, the ticketed event, the tour like Cochon55 or Omnivore, the place where we allow ourselves to do things differently because we're not in a restaurant. Its a tricky piece of logic, but this space has allowed for innovation, innovation we embrace wholeheartedly. That's why Pop-ups are much loved- we're convince ourselves to enjoy a radically different dining experience, because we're not eating in a restaurant! Please! This is a pop-up!
OITF was the granddaddy of all pop-ups.
Outstanding in the Field represents the most clear, sophisticated and lovely model I have ever seen in terroir dining.
The concept is remarkably simple- take a meal that would otherwise be a lovely expression of local ingredients, and then imbue the meal with "total context" by cooking and eating it steps from where it grew.
That vision, as laid out in 1999, has turned this small roving dinner party into a US sensation, and has proven strangely prophetic in the dining world. When one eats at their events, you can't help but feel that the apex in farm-to-table dining was perhaps achieved before the movement ever really took off.
The space they occupy, one of radical innovation in the manner by which food is transported from farm to fork, is one that the restaurant industry as a whole is headed towards on a collision course. These models, and the lessons that have been derived from over a decade of cooking in this style, should be held up as examples of where real innovation can be applied to the food space. They are worthy of our time and attention, because they teach us to be bolder in execution and to question the traditions that we dine inside of.