Chef/Famous restaurants -- please explain the hype?

I've been ehre now at SE for a about a year. Most nkow I live in the middle of nowhereville with no connection to the big cities.

I read SE, I read food magazines & blogs, watch food related TV and I for the life of me still can't understand it. What's with famous chef restaurants?

I see food as a pleasure to eat, but really could care less about all the ambience & experience. If I'm paying a good amount for food, I want the FOOD to be the star.

What is it that famous chef restuarants (ex: Le Bernadin, Bar Americain) offer that's so far above the rest?

You've got a restaurant started by a famous chef, let's say Lagasse. He might have cooked there a few times, but rarely now because that chef is on the road, selling cook books, taping shows, doing appearances, opening other restaurants, etc. Why would I go to this restaurant to taste the food? More than likely it's not going to be Lagasse cooking in the back, but a student of his style using his recipes or techniques.

Is it all for the ambience? Is it a feather in the cap to say I got a table at Le Cirque?

The you see lesser known/up and coming chefs, the likes of Mendelssohn and Willie Dufresne who tutored under some of the famed restaurants or got notoriety in other ways (Top Chef). They open their own places, but as their famousness explodes, again will these restaurants be their cooking central? It will be some nameless greenhorn in the back cranking out the meals. The meals that when Spike & Willie were coooking cost $50, now that the nameless one is cooking is still $50. Realistically with time and their cookbook/notes/style, I can copy at home.

I understand there's some basic tennements I'm leaving out here such as menu creation/flavors that take the skill of a chef to develop, but is it really the same thing as when they cook?

Anthony Bourdain is rare one that admits he rarely steps into the kitchen these days at his place Brasserie Les Halles (in fact he's referred to as Chef-At-Large).


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