Excellence Isn’t the End, It’s Only the Beginning

Upon tasting a version of a food far superior to any he or she has had before a Londoner may respond with a colloquial end of! – end of discussion: It doesn’t get any better than this. It won’t get any better than this.

End of! can be an expression of ultimate praise reflecting the emotion of a stupendous first-in-food moment. It can also serve as an effective rhetorical tool in great philosophical debates such as, to cite the most famous example, is Mrs Rosenwasser’s apple strudel truly better than Mrs Sperl’s?

I am troubled only when end of! is employed, either in words or through unspoken sentiment, to signal there’s no reason to resume the quest for great pizza, burgers or cinnamon buns now that London has Franco Manca, The Meat Wagon or Nordic Bakery. The attitude is pervasive to the point of putting London at a competitive disadvantage in honest debates about which city has the most vibrant food scene.

For years it was assumed that Pearl Oyster Bar had the best lobster roll in New York. Fatally chauvinistic New Yorkers accepted that Pearl’s version of the classic New England sandwich had to be best in the history of mankind and pretty much assumed an “end of!” posture.

Not Luke Holden. The Maine lobsterman-turned-New York banker thought Pearl’s put too much mayo in its roll and set out to do better. He launched Luke’s Lobster shack in the East Village and now has three Manhattan locations and a stack of reviews declaring his exceptionally meaty lobster roll the best of this far-from-finished century.

End of story? Not for Ben Sargent, a Boston native who began selling truly home-made lobster rolls out of his Brooklyn apartment in the surreptitious manner of a drug dealer. Clients phoned in their own orders and then arranged to meet Ben at a secret location for the pickup. Soon seriouseats.com and other food blogs were rating the roll at Sargent’s Underground Lobster Pound as tops.

In great American food cities like New York and San Francisco and culinary boomtowns like Portland, Oregon excellence no longers discourages some of the most passionate chefs, entrepreneurs and geeks from daring to do better, nor does it dissuade the most passionate eaters from seeking better. Excellence inspires them and spurs them on, as it should people in all areas of creative thought, expression and consumption.

End of!


About Daniel

Food critic and events leader Daniel Young is the "Young" behind young&foodish

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