Damon Baehrel is a chef who runs a tiny restaurant out of his house in upstate New York. These days he charges around $400 per person for his tasting menu, and people rave about the food; he has appeared on lists of the best chef in the world.
How did he get in the enviable position of being to earn his living by cooking lavish meals for half a dozen guests a night? By announcing that his restaurant was booked for five years in advance and he was no longer taking reservations.
Really; Nick Paumgarter documented the whole strange story in the August 22 New Yorker. When Baehrel made his announcement, hundred of big time foodies immediately began to scramble for places at the table; how, they asked, could we not have known about this? Eventually Baehrel called them back and said, "Oh, there's been a cancellation so I have an opening next week." They rushed to taste his food. There is no evidence that Baehrel has ever even now really sold out his restaurant for a week, let alone five years.
There is more. Baehrel claims to do a vast number of things himself, relying heavily on the produce of his 12-acre property. He says that he gathers wild food, everything from sycamore sap to acorn flour to cattail roots. Anyone who knows the first thing about gathering wild food knows that this is hooey; one person simply cannot feed even a tiny restaurant full of diners with ingredients gathered in the wild.
On the other hand, everyone agrees the food is amazing. So if the status-crazed foodies who trek to Baehrel's basement feel like they are getting their money's worth, what is he doing wrong?