This week, Besha Rodell heads to Encino to discuss Phillip Frankland Lee's relocated Scratch Bar. Lee, who "played the part of villain perfectly" on the current season of Top Chef before being eliminated, stated on the show that his cooking philosophy was to do "whatever the fuck you want." The question of whether a chef can "really just do whatever the fuck he wants — with no classical training, no years spent working his way up through the ranks" is at the heart of the review.
Although the Weekly critic gives credit where it is due and applauds the "enthusiasm and sense of adventure that drive this troupe of cooks," the idea of making everything from scratch (everything from cheese to charcuterie is made in-house) without the proper training ultimately doesn't bode well for the restaurant:
But the truth is, you can't just decide "I'm gonna make charcuterie!" and look at a book and play around and get it right. For many kinds of culinary techniques, there really is no substitute for learning under a master, for being an apprentice rather than a wunderkind. This shows itself most obviously with disciplines that are entire professions: the aforementioned charcuterie (which in the case of Scratch Bar is mainly smoked or cured pork that turns out far too salty and slick in all the wrong ways), as well as baking (the bun on the Scratch Bar burger is supposed to be brioche but is dense and almost crumbly and overwhelms the other ingredients).
Lee obviously revels in the passion of his chosen career path, but I wonder if he's considered how he might register to a chef who has dedicated her life to charcuterie or baking: He appears to be someone who believes that training in those fields is optional, that some chefs can succeed through the sheer force of talent. Talent can get you far, but it can't get you the precision that comes from years of training, and in this way Lee does a disservice to the very profession he aims to glorify. [LAW]
B-Rod concludes by essentially confirming the chef's depiction on the Bravo show by stating that while "there's plenty that tastes good at Scratch Bar, [...] there's also a lot that's the result of someone so wrapped up in boundary-pushing that he can't taste the flaws in his own cooking."
Scratch Bar receives two stars out of five.