what would you get with $1500?

photo by lara kastner, new york times

photo by lara kastner, new york times

Thanks to a friend’s facebook page, I saw a post on the New York Times’ blog, Diner’s Journal, titled “What You Get For $1500.” The article discusses a special 20-course meal conceived and prepared through a joint effort by uber-chefs Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz, to be served at Keller’s Per Se in New York.

Now I’ll admit, I have enormous respect for both men… Keller is a legend and Achatz is a legend-in-the-making. Keller’s French Laundry cookbook is among my favorites (his story of having to kill a rabbit, and subsequently understanding more deeply the preciousness of ingredients and the importance of never wasting resonated with me). Achatz, on the other hand, has had an inspiring battle against cancer… and the meal I once had the opportunity to enjoy at Alinea completely blew me away

And this menu does have some pretty cool dishes: 

BLACK TRUFFLE EXPLOSION Romaine, Parmesan: “Boom. Boom. It’s about the boom,” Mr. Achatz says. “Make sure they close their mouths, or they’re going to hose down the guy sitting next to them.” He’s not kidding… I was almost hit by the broth when Lav didn’t follow those directions.

HOT POTATO COLD POTATO Chive, Butter, Truffle: This was a sensational dish that warped our senses of taste, temperature and smell when we tried it at Alinea.

LAMB Fennel, Pernod, Coffee‐Scented Air: Intriguing.

And I have to admit, the whole idea of the mentor and protege cooking together is pretty sweet.

But $1500 per person for one meal?  I’ve been guilty of some excesses in my life (not the least of which was that Alinea meal), but this absolutely floored me.  And the dinners were completely sold out.  With a waiting list.  In this economy.  No joke.

I don’t want to pass judgment on this, because I know that I’ve had my share of extravagent expenditures that benefitted no one but myself.  But I do want to try to think differently.  I find myself asking, what else could you get for $1500?  How about 5 sheep, a dairy cow, 10 ducks, 12 chickens, 3 goats and a fishing kit for a needy village in a developing nation?  A clean water well for an entire village?  Or maybe Thanksgiving dinners for 838 homeless folks?  Just a thought.

In Keller’s own words, “Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do.” 

What would you do with $1500?


~ by jak on November 13, 2008.

5 Responses to “what would you get with $1500?”

  1. that’s a tough question because there are so many people and causes in need. It’s getting into the holiday season right now. I bet your local food banks or soup kitchens could put $1500 to good use.

  2. Hmm… what would I do with $1500? Good question. I recently met a co-worker for dinner who has just returned from Uganda. While there she visited a friend around the same age as her 27-28 who is caring for his three younger siblings along with many other orphans in his family. She spoke specifically about one little boy age one year. This little boy was swollen from head to toe. Her sister being a nurse asked the friend questions to try and figure out what was wrong with this little boy. The man’s answer was that when this little boy relieved himself, something came out and the swelling would reside for a little while. He had a tape worm. The man was struggling to save enough money to buy the medicine this little boy needed. The medicine was one US dollar. But the real catch to the story is how this man supports his family of orphans. He has one cow that he milks. He then rides his bike around the village selling the milk. He has a very hard time feeding his family and has thought about returning some orphans to very abusive fathers where the fate of that child would with out a doubt be death. My friend wanted to support him in some way to encourage him to keep the children. She decided to buy him a cow. One cow is $200 US dollars. And that one extra cow allows that man to better support him and his family. If it was a struggle to save $1 it is impossible to save $200. So what would I do with $1500, maybe buy some cows.

  3. That is just wrong. No one could get through 20 courses, even if they are all lettuce leaves.

  4. This reminds me that during our last visit in Las Vegas we stayed at the MGM hotel which has 2 Joel Robuchon restaurants. I really really wanted to have dinner there, but I thought that spending $200 (or so) per person would mean that I lost sensitivity to other people in this world. I’m not saying that people who work hard for their money shouldn’t indulge, but just how far do you go?
    And another thought I had, excuse me for being a bit, hmmm, eh, what’s the word?… But all this food comes out of our bodies the next morning anyway…

  5. … and I can think of my own relatives and friends who could use a $1500 loan too to get by or pay debts… and they live in modern western countries.

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