Would one of the world's most famous restaurants be famous if it were opened in Omaha? What if the French Laundry had opened its doors in Boise? When a restaurant opens in a location that is not known for having a conglomeration of foodies, can it find its potential?
Lately I've been thinking about when Alex and Aki were in southwestern Colorado at a little known lodge. I used to live in that neck of the woods so I know that its at least five hours to the nearest major airport and hence major metro area. They found fame through the internet and dedicated followers, but surely it was a tougher road to take than if they had lived in NYC or San Fran where food writers and bloggers could highlight the work they were doing. Now living in the northeast, they have widely known fame and a much anticipated book.
But they were just a couple of passionate chefs doing their thing. They weren't a restaurant trying to make its mark on the American restaurant scene (they may dispute this).
So what if Grant Achatz decided to stay in small town Michigan? His skills surely would have drawn the attention that would lead to greatness, but would it have been the same if it weren't in Chicago? For that matter, what has Alinea done to elevate Chicago's status as a foodie city? I would suspect that Alinea would be a destination restaurant, but not to the degree that it has become. Grant may have thrown in the towel and headed to a bigger market in hopes of staking his claim.
As the human psyche ponders the cost-benefit of a great meal versus a three hour drive from the airport for the meal, few would make the trip I suspect. I wouldn't visit Boise or Omaha just for a meal...well, unless Alinea opened up in one of those cities. Maybe.
Farina Alto – Albuquerque, New Mexico
5 days ago