As my buddy Doug and I enjoyed one of the best meals of my 2023 at Chambers in lower Manhattan earlier this month, I couldn’t help but be reminded of what Susan Sontag once wrote of the 20th-century critical theorist and activist Simone Weil.
In an essay that Sontag devoted to the philosopher, she wrote that Weil was “excruciatingly identical with her ideas.”
As at least one critic has written, Sontag “yearned to be identical to her ideas, to display the punishing consistency of Weil, but her ideas jostled and sparked, exploding her sense of what she was, or wanted to be.”
So much of what we do in life is compromised by the jostling, sparking, and exploding of our ideas. Personally, being identical to my ideas is something that I have always aspired to, even though, inevitably and invariably, that train is often derailed and rerouted by the vicissitudes of life.
If there were one person in the wine trade who has made a career of being identical to her ideas, it must be Pascaline Lepeltier.
In my view of the world, the art of hospitality has evolved and transcended to a new zenith through her work.
Over the course of a career where she has created an entirely new and profoundly impactful role in the world of wine, she is at once a sommelier and activist, a restaurateur and a philosopher. But she hasn’t achieved this through high-browed essays, articles, books, or speeches. No, she has accomplished this feat through her sheer indomitable will to be identical to her ideas.
As strange as it may sound, I could sense this ethos in the menu and wine list of her excellent restaurant on Chambers St. (a stone’s throw from city hall).
I could feel it in the way that the servers interacted with our party.
I could feel it in the way that my dining partner and our fellow diners reacted to the dishes and wines.
The whole experience was infused with an acute aspiration for human dignity. I know that sounds extreme or excessive. But I genuinely believe and I honestly sensed that the entire operation ultimately revolves around the ideas and ideals that Pascaline holds dear.
I could even taste it in the food and wine…
Don’t miss Chambers on your next trip to the city. It was one of the most rewarding meals of my year so far.