Are Frozen French Fries My White Whale?

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Shake Shack french fries. Photograph by Robyn Lee

Last Friday AHT founder Adam Kuban couldn't take it any more. He heard me complaining about the Shake Shack's frozen French fries once too often. "Ed," he said with a wry smile on his face. "Frozen french fries are your white whale." What exactly was he saying?

Well, the well-read Mr. Kuban was referring to the white whale Moby Dick. Basically, he was telling me that I was obsessed with frozen french fries the way Captain Ahab was obsessed with Moby Dick in Herman Melville's novel of the same name.

Why did Adam make that pronouncement? Is he right?

I had just about made peace with the Shake Shack's frozen French fries when I ran into a Shake Shack publicist at a shoe store. Somehow I steered the conversation to the Shake Shack frozen french fries when she responded, "You know, Ed, I hear that Balthazar (an insanely busy New York restaurant that makes some of the best French fries anywhere) uses frozen French fries."

I had heard that lame excuse one too many times. I spoke to Balthazar co-chef and partner Lee Hansen:

"We only use fresh French fries at our restaurants. It's a lot of work, believe me. Because we sell a lot of French fries. At Pastis (Balthazar's sister restaurant) we go through a thousand pounds of potatoes every day. At Balthazar we go through fifty boxes, or 600 pounds a day. We have one guy in the Pastis kitchen who just peels potatoes. It would be a helluva lot easier on us if we did use frozen French fries. But we are just not going to go there."

Take that, Shake Shackers. Ahab may never have gotten Moby Dick, but he never stopped trying. So, Mr. Kuban, you may be right. French fries might be my white whale. But as long as the Shake Shack serves frozen French fries, my cause will remain noble and just.

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