Friday Thoughts: What would you pay for the best meal of your life?

21 Oct

I was recently asked by a friend, and fellow foodie, “How much would you be willing to pay for the best meal of your life?” Whilst trying to answer the question I found myself experiencing a multitude of emotions. Starting with uncertainty (what would my “best” meal be?), to skepticism (to me good food doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive), a bit of anger (why should food even be that expensive?), a pang of excitement (easily explained when dreaming of potentially delicious meals) and I finally ended on guilt (that I would even consider spending a fairly large amount of money on just filling my stomach). I was trapped on an emotional roller-coaster of food (figuratively, not literally – although that could be fun too) and it got me thinking…

My friend firmly stated his limit at $1000 and, once I picked up my eyeballs off the floor, I stated my limit was $250 (which I understand is still a lot of money but this is a bucket-list goal). But then it dawned on me…I HAD already spent $250 on one meal – the Araxi Big Guns dinner that we are going to in November. And whilst I felt guilty about the cost when I bought the tickets, I have been giddy with excitement at the thought of it ever since (and that guilt has now well and truly disappeared). Good food, along with a unique experience, is what I live for. It’s like a drug. So, if I had already spent my upper limit, does that mean that I expect Araxi Big Guns will be the best meal of my life?? No. So… my limit slowly increased…

But does good food have to be expensive? And just because it is expensive does that automatically mean that it is better? I’ve always been a big believer that good food can come at any cost – from that bowl of steaming noodles that you bought for a few dollars whilst on holiday in a foreign land, to that extravagant dinner that you dropped a lot of cash on. *cough* So, no, I don’t think that good food has to be expensive but there is something to be said for sitting down to a meal that has been prepared by a team of expertly trained chefs, made from some of the finest (read: expensive) ingredients, whilst in an environment that makes you feel, well, pretty damn special actually. Personally, I am paying for the experience.

I have been fortunate enough to have had some really amazing, yet pricey, food experiences which have seared themselves well into my memory: lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant in Melbourne, a private dinner with friends at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Las Vegas, the Araxi Long Table Dinner, to name a few, and they have all been absolutely worth every single penny I spent on them. So I know from experience what a good meal is worth to me: happy memories.

My thoughts are still churning over what would be the most amazing meal I could conjure up. Would it be the chefs tasting menu, paired with wines, at Thomas Keller’s Per Se or The French Laundry? Perhaps a molecular gastronomy discovery at Alinea? Or a “Master Class” at Gordon Ramsay’s? Maybe a meal at any number of Michelin starred European restaurants? Well, we are getting closer but you can see my dilemma.

The question was a really interesting one to be asked because 1/ I still have no idea what I think the best meal of my life would be worth to me (but I do know that it is no longer $250) and 2/ It made me realize how different people value food. Some folks will be horrified that I would even consider spending a few hundred dollars on food. But then those people would probably spend a small fortune on things that they value more, sporting tickets or a music act, for example, which I would never spend large amounts of money on. It seems to me that it comes down to what you value. And I value the experience of enjoying a meal with my husband that is so incredible that it sends us into a superlative stupor.

What would you be willing to spend on the best meal of your life?

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5 Responses to “Friday Thoughts: What would you pay for the best meal of your life?”

  1. Loxy October 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    I would say $200.

    Here’s the thing… it may be the best meal of your life but my need to try things, to try to find something better will just mean that after having the $200 meal, there will be a $225 meal awaiting.

    It’s a matter of finding the balance of quantity and quality – and a budget.

    I spend a lot of money on food. A lot. But I can’t imagine giving up the great meals I have all the time in favour of those hundred dollar meals if it means I can only afford cup-a-soup the rest of the time.

  2. Angie October 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    What a great question and thinking process! Thanks for sharing.

    If you appreciate good food (which you do!), spend whatever you want. That’s my motto. Food is not only my love, it is my entertainment. I rarely go to concerts or sports events. The majority of my cash (plus a decent amount for clothes – need to look good at these restaurants!) goes to good food. I never have any regrets. I have am very lucky to have dined at the French Laundry, Per Se, Alinea, and many others great restaurants. I will never, ever, ever forget my meal at any of those places. I have the menus still, I remember how amazing the beef dish was at the French Laundry and how fresh the butter was at Per Se. I remember the wonderment I had at Alinea – how could something so beautiful and deconstructed still taste so amazing? Each of those meals were in some way, the best meal of my life.

    It is hard to put a $$ on my limit. Even when I’m paying $300 a person at French Laundry, I see the value.

    I can’t say I’d pay $1000 for a meal, but if I felt it was worth it for the experience/food/chef…I’d probably do it.

    But I agree with you – good food doesn’t have to be expensive, and the higher end stuff is more about the experience. But, what an experience!

    So, no dollar limit for me – I just need to know my expectations are being met for the money I’m spending. It’s when I get crap for lots of money that I get pissed off!

    Thanks again for the great post.

    • greedyguts October 22, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

      Thanks for your reply, Angie. We seem to mirror a lot of the same views. I’m incredibly jealous that you’ve eaten at every restaurant that I listed as a potential “best meal”! I must admit that this post has inspired me to try and make The French Laundry happen – maybe in the spring. Life is too short to not check some of these great restaurants off my “to-do” list. And I couldn’t agree more – I don’t mind paying the price but it better be good or I’m gonna get pissed off too!

  3. rommy October 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    I must admit, your friend sounds like an incredibly smart and good-looking person. 😉

    I very much agree with Angie on all of her points. My initial thought behind this question was to try to understand what our somewhat objective value of an incredible food experience is. Having spent thousands of dollars on books and holidays and bills and taxes, I love to think about some of the great meals I’ve had and how much I’ve spent on them as a way of trying to understand what I would spend on the greatest meal of my life.

    Some of the greatest meals I’ve had in my life were not the most expensive. Then again, some of the greatest meals I’ve had in my life were the most expensive. But they were very different experiences.

    With the excellent affordable food experiences I got the amazing meal that was a recipe cooked by an old woman slaving over a stove; a recipe that had been passed down through generations, using the simplest freshest ingredients, or exotic spices. These were the meals that were cooked from the heart and the ones that gave me an emotionally pleasurable experience that I would remember for a lifetime.

    Then there are the profound experiences I got from something I never had and would never have again. These were my more expensive meals, the ones that chefs spend months and years thinking about. The chefs that challenge the way we think of food how different flavours go together, how cooking it one way provides us with a different emotional experience than cooking it another. These are the scientists, the progressive thinkers, the ones that live in some alternate version of food reality. They questioned the norms and invented their own.

    Having just spent $1800 on a round-trip flight to Japan and thousands on camera equipment, I wouldn’t hesitate spending $1000 on an incredible four hour meal with 20 courses and great wine. Especially if I knew that I would never eat a meal like that again in my life. I would spend $1000 on any perishable but emotional experience I would never have again in my life.

    • greedyguts October 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to reply, Rommy. I can assure you that my friend is definitely not smart and absolutely not good-looking. Unless you are drunk. 😉

      This topic gets me so excited because I love all of the differing opinions! I still won’t go as high as $1000 but I can see how if you have the disposable income and the passion for food, why not?

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