Restaurant legends Danny Meyer, Alan Stillman, and Jacques Pèpin reflected on twenty years of the business today to kick off the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, with Meyer setting the late-eighties scene. “Twenty years ago, if you were doing fine dining, you were going to have a ‘Le’ or ‘La’ in front of your name,” said Meyer. After the 1989 stock-market crash, “steak became the hamburger and the hamburger became meatloaf and meatloaf became meatballs,” he said. This isn’t dissimilar to where we are today, and the scene will thrive again, be it “in two months or two years,” Stillman added. Meyer suggested taking advantage of high unemployment rates to “add more talent to the bench.” He only mentioned Shake Shack once (and in passing!), but did claim to see some “very interesting” real-estate deals in the downturn. Pèpin believes the power of the critic has declined over the years, but the panel wasn’t unenthusiastic about the notion of “new media,” a different outlook from those of past years. Where blogs were once a threat, Meyer name-dropped Twitter eight minutes into the talk as a force of positive change. You can follow the festival in real time by monitoring #fwclassic, of course.
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