'It broke something inside me,' writer says of bizarre meal at Michelin-starred restaurant
Asked for comment, Bros’ restaurant sent a 3-page PDF about the meaning of art, complete with horse drawings
Geraldine DeRuiter says she's still haunted by her experience at the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Lecce, Italy.
The travel writer and her friends recently spent a memorable evening at Bros', a posh Italian restaurant, where they were served a 27-course meal that included rancid cheese, shot glasses of vinegar, droplets infused with meat molecules, and a plaster cast of the chef's mouth dribbling orange foam.
"It was such a symphony of bizarreness on so many levels that endured and just kept going. It was an Energizer Bunny of disaster," DeRuiter, founder of Everywhereist.com, told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"I wrote about it, and I really thought I had exorcized those demons. But no. They continue to haunt me."
DeRuiter's review — We Eat at The Worst Michelin Starred Restaurant, Ever — has gone viral, making headlines around the world, and prompting a lengthy response from Bros' Chef Floriano Pellegrino comparing his culinary creations to contemporary art.
When DeRuiter and her friends arrived at Bros', they were led to what she describes in her review as a hot "cement cell of a room" with the "chicness of an underground bunker where one would expect to be interrogated for the disappearance of an ambassador's child."
Then the food started coming.
One course consisted of a spoonful of crab meat. Another featured slivers of edible paper.
"Reconstituted orange slices" were served on a plate with an actual orange, which they were told was only for decoration.
One of the tastier courses consisted of tiny fried cheese balls, which the servers insisted were made from "rancid" ricotta. When DeRuiter suggested that perhaps they meant "aged" or "fermented," she was told: "No. Rancid."
Nothing could be remotely described as a main dish, DeRuiter said. At one point, a server swirled several rich sauces onto their plates, and she thought for sure they would heap something substantial atop it.
"And someone came by with an eye dropper, and they proceeded to squirt a sort of gelée onto the sauces, and they said, 'This has been infused with meat molecules.' And then they walked away," she said.
"A friend of mine at the table said, 'Those are two words you never want to hear together — meat and molecules.'"
But perhaps the most upsetting course was the orange flavoured foam served inside a plaster cast of the chef's mouth — a kind of round, white lump with frothing lips.
They waited for spoons, and were horrified to learn none would be coming.
"You had to slurp it out," DeRuiter said. "And at some point I think I accidentally made eye contact with a friend of mine across the table while I was doing that. That brought our friendship to a new level that I wish we had not reached."
Art and horses
Asked for comment, Bros' sent As It Happens a three-page PDF of a "declaration" by Chef Pellegrino, featuring drawings and paintings of men on horses, and musings on the nature of art and cooking.
"Being able to draw a man on a horse does not make you an artist. The result of your talent can be beautiful to look at, but it is not art," it begins, before eventually concluding: "Contemporary art does not provide you with answers, but offers you great questions. Contemporary cuisine should do the same."
Bros' asked that As It Happens include the statement in full. You can read it in its entirely in the PDF below:
DeRuiter says she was "delighted" by the chef's response.
"Once I step away from the hilarity of it, I do believe that he is making a rather legitimate statement about the nature of art, inherently," she said.
"But where that takes us to is: Is food inherently art? And if so, what role does the patron play in that? And can we completely disregard the patron if we are a chef? And can we say what the patron believes is entirely unimportant?" DeRuiter said.
She admitted her review of Bros' was quite mean — but that's just who she is now.
"I must sound atrocious. I must sound like a monster describing this," she said. "I used to be a kind person. I did. I did, before I went here. I don't know what happened. It broke something inside me."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chris Harbord.