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?