Have you ever gone into a restaurant, looked at the menu and have seen items like Ossobuco, Eggs Florentine, Anna Potatoes, Beef Wellington, Tiramisu or Sole Almandine to name a few?

If you didn’t know, all these items are describing a meal that have a certain cut, particular ingredients and should be served the same way no matter where you go in the world. When a Chef decides to tweak these types of dishes, he or she can no longer and should no longer use the same name to describe their menu item.

Here is an example: A while ago I went into an Italian restaurant which is apparently well known for their “Authentic Italian” cuisine. The menu looked authentic, it had one of my favourite Italian dishes called Ossobuco, (Ossobuco was first attested in the late 19th century. It may have been a farmhouse dish or perhaps was an invention of an osteria, a neighborhood restaurant of Milan) approx. 1 inch thick cross-cut veal shanks, braised with vegetables, wine and broth and traditionally served with Risotto, Arborio rice slowly cooked in broth to a creamy consistency.

It is a dish that melts your soul, if made properly you can taste its love and history, so of course I ordered it.  My mouth was watering when I saw the server coming at us with our meals and then the dish was served…  I had a whole lamb shank on the plate with some couscous on the side and some thawed vegetables.  I didn’t know what to do.  I started questioning my own culinary training, I was dumbfounded and then came the question, “how is your Ossobuco tasting so far?” I looked up and said, “you mean my notsobuco?” This dish sitting in front of me had nothing traditional or typical about it.  The server looked at me like I was making up a line to get a free meal (which I didn’t get) and probably thought that I was an idiot for not knowing what I ordered.

During the meal, I was looking around at other tables and the meals on them and saw that one couple ordered the Tiramisu, a popular Italian dessert. It is made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks and mascarpone, and flavored with liquor and cocoa.  It has a certain look to it and a taste that once you’ve eaten it you’ll always know what it should taste like again and again no matter where you are.  This Tiramisu had a dry lady finger sticking out of some pudding that was served in a martini glass.  Based on it’s looks I didn’t dare order it as I also didn’t want to waste my money on another disappointment.

It’s bad enough that restaurants no longer serve quality foods but to ruin and manipulate tradition is something I call raping the menu. If you have Florentine on the menu then it better come with Spinach, if you serve Sole Almandine, then where are the almonds and brown butter and Beef Wellington isn’t served in phyllo pastry, it’s puff pastry.

If you want to change, or tweak something traditional, by all means go ahead but then call it something that doesn’t deceive your customers or give it a name that is original to you.

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