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  The ladies were puzzled. Cheryl Spangler, Valeria Borunda Jameson and Susan Puckett, three university-admissions workers on a training wisit to Florence, Kentucky, had walked into a local barbecue joint called Chung Kiwha. But instead of sauce-covered mutton served up from the kitchen, they saw a buffet of uncooked meats and vegetables. Instead of knives and forks, they were given large scissors, chopsticks and metal tongs. No candle flickered at their table, but a bucket of fiery wood charcoal hissed in the tabletop grill pit. Chung Kiwha served barbecue, all right—cook-it-your-self Korean barbecue. “I didn’t realize there were restaurants like this,” marveled Spangler to her friends, who hail from Knoxville, Tennessee, and I worked in restaurants for 20 years.

  The secret is out, thanks to the growing popularity of restaurants where the customer is the chef. Long a staple of immigrant communities in big cities, restaurants where diners chop, grill, boil, or dip their dip their food are hot in the American heartland. St.Paul, Minnesota, has Thai hot-pot cooking. Indianapolis, Indiana, has Japanese shabu-shabu (another type of hot pot). A pizzeria in Las Vegas lets customers roll the dough.

  Why would people bother going out to cook their own meal? “Americans want control,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. “The cook-it-your-self experience embodies the American values of freedom of choice and independence.” With families spending 46% of their food budget on meals outside the home, they miss the cooking experience—sort of. “Psychologically, people want to be a little involved,” says Pamela Parseghian, executive food editor at Nation’s Restaurant News.

  Not every diner, however, embraces the experience. Dragged in by enthusiastic wives, “men often sit with their arms crossed…that is, until we fill them up with good wine,” says Will Layfield, owner of the Melting Pot in Westwood, New Jersey. At the Vinoklet, diner Grey Schafer says, “I don’t cook at home, and if I’m going to pay good money, I want someone to do the cooking for me.” What’s more, do-it-your-self dining isn’t cheap. At the minturn country Club in Minturn, Colorado, Kobe beef costs $49.95—uncooked. Still, restaurant-owners insist that the customer knows best. “Who knows what to them is rare?” says Mikulic, owner of Vinoklet. “This way, if they screw it up, I get no complaints.” Back at Chung Kiwha in Florence, diner Puckett sees it this way: “We don’t have to clean up, do we?.”


  这些女士有些迷惑不解。谢丽尔.斯潘格勒,维丽瑞尔.波兰达.达姆森,和苏珊.帕克特是大学招生工作人员。在肯塔基州的弗罗伦斯培训时,她们走进了 当地一家叫做强.吉瓦的烧烤酒吧去吃饭。然而,他们看到的并不是从厨房端出来抹好了酱的羊肉,而是生肉和蔬菜。服务员给她们端上来的餐具也不是刀和叉,而 是剪子、筷子和钳子。餐桌上没有闪烁的烛光,有的只是一桶在烧烤架上嘶嘶作响的燃烧着的木炭。强.吉瓦经营的是烤肉——韩式自助烤肉。“我在餐馆里工作了 20年,从来不知道还有这样的餐馆。”,来自田纳西州洛克思尔的斯潘格勒好奇地对她的朋友说道。

  由于就餐的客人就是厨师的餐馆数量在不断增加,秘密也就随之而被公开了。在美国中部大城市的主要移民聚集区,一些由顾客自己切、烤、煮、泡食物的餐 厅非常火。明尼苏达州的圣.保罗有泰式火锅,印第安纳的印第安纳波利斯有日式涮锅(另外一种火锅)。拉斯维加斯的一家比萨店让顾客自己动手和面团。

  为什么人们不怕麻烦在饭店里自己动手做饭呢?国家酒店协会一个研究项目部的副主任哈德逊.瑞艾尔说,“美国人有很强的控制欲,这种自己动手做饭的体 验表现了美国自主选择和独立的价值观。”对于那些把46%的饮食开销都用于在外面吃饭的家庭来说,他们有点怀念自己动手做饭的体验。“从心理学角度来说, 人们想要参与进来。”帕米拉.帕斯伊恩这样说,他是《国家酒店新闻报》食品专栏的主编。

  然而,并不是每个去饭店吃饭的人都渴望有这种体验。男人们被充满热情的妻子拉进饭店。“他们常常是双臂交叉地坐在那儿…也就是说,直到我们用好酒填 满他们的肚子。”新泽西州威斯伍德一家叫做坩埚店的餐馆老板威尔.雷菲尔德说到。在维诺克利特餐厅,一名叫格瑞德.斯凯夫的就餐者说,“我在家从不做饭。 如果在外面吃饭要花好多钱的话,我就希望别人来为我做。”此外,在自助餐厅吃饭并不便宜。在科罗拉多州明特恩乡村俱乐部,一份生的神户牛排要49.95美 元。餐馆的老板仍然坚持说顾客清楚自己想要什么。“谁知道对他们来说,什么样才是适合他们的?”维诺克利特的老析米库利科说道,“这样,如果他们兴致很 高,我也不落抱怨。”我们再回头说说弗罗伦斯的强.吉瓦吧,在那儿就餐的帕克特这样看问题:“最起码我们不需要收拾碗筷,不是吗?”


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