Get our free newsletter
Chef R.J. Cooper generated a ton of buzz this summer for his new multi-course avant-garde dinner theater, Rogue 24, which opened in August. But much of the discussion had nothing to do with the food. The real conversation starter was Cooper’s two-page “reservation agreement.” Though Cooper insisted that the lawyerly document was no different than pre-dinner paperwork at other tasting menu restaurants, only his managed to become a symbol of Washingtonian pretension at a time of national austerity. Among other things, the contract prohibited diners from using cell phones or cameras in the dining room. Cooper said it was a simple matter of protecting customers by eliminating an annoyance. Of course, it also spoke to the chef’s vanity: Amateur shutterbugs generally take terrible food photos, Cooper rightly pointed out. But for patrons who spend $175 a pop on a three-hour gustatory journey that is short on bulk and big on booze, walking away without a visual souvenir ensures only fuzzy memories to go with those lingering hunger pangs.