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We asked Shane Coffey, the chef at Alias, what his last meal would be, and, evidently, his mind spiraled out of control. We never meant to torture him, but we also never knew how funny he is. We just expected something simple, seasonal, comforting, and with a little unexpected flare, like the food at his restaurant. But instead…
“Out of nowhere one day I was asked a simple yet daunting question. It’s a question, that until that moment, had never even entered my mind. It’s a question that wouldn’t occur to many and I would venture to guess would be refused to be answered by some. I have to give my inquisitor some high marks. Just to ask this question puts you in a path of scorn and contempt. You really have to know who you are asking or at the very least understand where they are coming from. I can’t exactly remember what I said when I was asked this question, but I do remember thinking… “That’s pretty fucking cool”! So daunted as I am with the question I am not daunted by the challenge of answering it.
“‘What would be your perfect last meal?'”
“When I started to think about this again it’s like every meal I ever had or wanted to have raced through my mind. I was soon filled with thoughts of a Ryan’s All You can Eat Foie Gras House and then irony sank in. There I was being forced fed this tasty treat by polyester clad geese in funny paper hats who kept telling me it was OK because this was natural and everything would be OK. When the lining of my liver hemorrhaged. I snapped back to reality and started to recall all the great meals, at all the great restaurants I had eaten at in my life, enjoying gastronomic genius of tastes, flavors, and textures. I pictured myself in low-lit dining rooms with bustling servers, runners, and white table cloths and camel tone walls.
“I snapped back to reality again. It occurred to me at that moment. I couldn’t picture a specific place, let alone a perfect one. They all ran together. So I sat back and asked myself the question again. What would be your perfect last meal?
“I proceeded to make a chart of all my favorite and least favorite foods and why they were so. I had a list of people I would want to be around. I looked down at the scribbling of a mad man with arrows, cross outs, and some ancient Sanskrit markings whose translation was lost somewhere between mom’s green bean casserole and the pricing of tomorrow’s fish specials. It was a work of art that any scattered-brain list person would be proud of.
“Then I looked at it again and realized it didn’t even make sense to me! “I curse you Nina Lalli!” So I got up, leaving my paperwork on the bar at Alias, and proceeded back to the kitchen and continued my daily ritual of preparing for service.
“A short time later it was time for menu meeting and as we all gathered around the bar and began discussing the day’s menu a nosy server inquired about my notes she had been stealing a peak at. All she could discern was “What would be your perfect last meal? My Last Supper! As I am sure on some occasions she wished I was dead or leaving Alias I could hear the genuine concern in her voice. I started to explain the reason for what appeared to be a twisted chef’s suicide note and as I glanced upon it again I saw “My Last Supper” and at the same moment the scent of our family meal hamburgers crossed through the air. As I am not really what you would call a religiously spiritual man, it hit me like a moment of clarity that only Jules could be proud of.
“There I was sitting around a picnic table in my backyard on a crisp September afternoon without a cloud in the bright blue sky. It was the end of summer and we were having a typical Coffey Sunday Supper. The grill was flaming up, the corn was boiling and the green beans were being overcooked as just picked tomatoes sat waiting to top the juicy hamburgers. AGGGG, my father just ate a tomato like an apple! YUK! To this day I just can’t do it. Maybe it has something to do with carrying a bucket of rotten tomatoes to a compost pile in the middle of July before a Little League baseball game when I was 10 years old, or maybe it was the fact that… Nope it was the goddamned rotten tomatoes.
“Anyways, it was clear to me how I would answer this once daunting question. It was so easy! How was this escaping me before. Tastes and aromas are powerful memory triggers. In an instant you can be ripped back to a time and place without the slightest of warning and experience a total recall. I was determined to write a tasting menu for a meal, not to taste something for the last time—but to relive and savor some of the best experiences of my life.