Are You a Culinary Bodhisattva?


Having lived in both New York City and Philadelphia and chosen the latter as my future “forever” home, I often find myself waxing poetic [proselytizing?] about why my love for Philly outweighs my love for NYC. My canned, short answer: Philadelphia is less pretentious and more accessible than New York.

My position is obviously more nuanced, but for now that conclusion is more important than its underlying reasoning. Any further explanation would be a digression [one I’d happily discuss] best left for its own post.

This afternoon, chef Rozanne Gold wrote an article for the Huffington Post about the new “nice chefs” trend, and Philadelphia’s beloved chef Marc Vetri in particular. “[M]ean-spirited, limelight-loving” chefs are out, she says. Wholesome men and women “who actually feel good about themselves and their customers” are in. In my mind, the best of Philadelphia’s chefs are exemplars of this, which is part of the reason I adore the city.

Vetri has three outstanding Philadelphia restaurants. I had the pleasure of dining at Osteria this summer, and became privy to exactly what Gold discovered.  “For Marc,” she writes, “it’s never just about the food. It’s about the people who eat it.” The holistic experience beyond the actual meal – staff, servers, presentation, energy, enthusiasm – was impeccable. I never felt I was dining at the restaurant of a James Beard Award winner. Instead, it felt as if Vetri made every effort to create an environment where his inspirations and good-nature were with us at the table, irrespective of the dish you chose. At Osteria, a perfect dinner is accessible to anyone at any price point.

I mentioned the accessibility of Philadelphia once before when I commented on how shocked I was to see Michael Solomonov working his own kitchen on a weekend night. It’s not something you’d expect from a big-name New York chef. And if you did get a chance to see it, you probably couldn’t afford it. There’s often an insurmountable barrier of pompousness. But Gold hits this nail on the head when she says that not an ounce of arrogance exists in Vetri’s culinary empire. She calls him a “culinary Bodhisattva,” or an enlightened soul who embodies the “six perfections” in Buddhism. His perfections create a completely un-pretentious, accessible dining experience – an experience that I believe transcends Gold’s description of Vetri and touches a large portion of the Philadelphia dining scene. And that’s a little bit of why I love Philadelphia: painless access to “nice” chefs and delicious food, and a feeling that the restauranteurs care about how you feel [other than “full”] when you walk out the door.

Do you embody the “six perfections” in your personal kitchen?

  • Generosity
  • Ethics
  • Patience
  • Effort
  • Concentration
  • Wisdom

Read Rozanne Gold’s article on Marc Vetri here.

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Categories: Food

Author:ryesandshine

Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/courtney-marello/1a/375/b30 Tumblr: http://abarrelofoddsandends.tumblr.com/

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