Omnivore - Guest blogger: The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton's final act

Eli Kirshtein talks about his meal at the Dining Room on its final evening of service.

Editor's note: Last night, Thursday October 1st, was the last night of service for the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. Long considered one of Atlanta's best (if not the best) restaurant, the closing marks the end of an era for a certain style of fine dining in our city. It's hard to know how to cover an event such as this - our friends over at the AJC have done a great job of covering the story from a news and dining angle, and I wanted to look at the event from a different perspective. So I asked Eli Kirshtein, chef at Eno and contestant on the current season of "Top Chef," to give me some impressions of his meal there last night. He was kind enough to oblige.

-Besha Rodell

The end of an era, for better or worse

By Eli Kirshtein

After sitting in the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton and seeing the restaurant take its last few breaths, I felt a weight come off my shoulders.  In the bittersweet moments that the restaurant’s final night of operation entailed, I realized that for so long, Atlanta chefs and restaurateurs have been held down by the philosophies of restaurants like the Ritz and Seeger’s.

The chef at the Dining Room was never American, and only in one instance was he not French.  While the Ritz in other markets has sometimes tapped local talent pools to source their top level chefs (most notably Ron Siegel in San Francisco), the Atlanta Ritz has always gone on a massive global search to find replacements for its departing chefs, somehow implying there were no chefs in Atlanta with big enough feet to fill the shoes. We’re now in a position where we can proudly say that the best chefs in Atlanta are from Atlanta. Look at Linton Hopkins or Anne Quatrano, the remaining gold standard for Atlanta dining.  While Günter and Joel headed for the hills, these homegrown chefs remained steadfast and committed, not only to their vision but the growth of the city. While conversing about the evening, one of my dining companions mentioned how it will be hard to go to more “serious” food cities because for so long we’ve had the ammunition to say, “Hey we have the Ritz!” Now we should proudly put our chin up and say, “Hey we have Eugene!”