Sunday, June 9, 2013

Artist's Statement - Culinary Edition

Sooner or later, we all return to our roots.
The culinary world is as a castle built on sand - if the foundations are not deep, the shifting of the landscape will destroy what you have built.

Today, the culinary world is changing. New techniques emerge - some the product of the shrinking of the world, and others, the product of its expansion. In a world where the idea of a terrine can be as exotic as sushi, and where liquid nitrogen and agar are at home in the kitchen as the science classroom, it often seems as though there are no limits. And there aren't, and perhaps there shouldn't be.

But when you take food as a living - whether you are a professional chef, a homemaker, or somewhere in between - you need roots that go deeper than the latest trends. No amount of passion is going to save you when jellied escargot, cryogenic sorbets, and inkjet sushi fade from fashion. This is not an argument against the trends, but a caution.

Before we went to space, we had to get off the ground. Before a person walks, they must learn to crawl.

There are no borders, but there is foundation. Before you can innovate your cuisine, you must learn it. But what is your cuisine? Is it merely the cuisine of the area you lived in? You received formal education in cooking - is your cuisine French? No. Your cuisine is the food that switches you on. It's the food that gets the blood going, the food you turn to when you can't decide where to turn.

Dig deep. Rosanjin and Escouffier are of equal merit, and their merit is greater than Bartolli or Oliver, if you take my meaning. There's no necessity to limit yourself by one nationality, one author, or one chef. However, technique is the understanding. There can be no sauce without the soup, without the stock, without the bladework. With no sauce there can be no pasta, no fish, no steak. Without rolls there could be no pastry, without pastry, no dessert, without dessert, no fun.

For every technique the chef refuses to learn or utilize, there is a loss of control. How can we complain about the amount of salt or other additives in our salami if we are unwilling to do our own charcuterie? What better way to secure your body against saccharine than to make your own sorbet? How are you to defend your children's health, without an understanding of what you give them?

Cuisine's golden age was the age of kings. When no compromise was acceptable, the old masters dug deep, and found new, innovative dishes since faded from memory. When was the last time you were at a party and someone served a poached salmon with sauce chaud-froid? Have you ever tried tsukimono, or sampled dim-sum? Who would have thought to combine tomatoes and cream, or to stuff the quail with mushrooms and rice, or that squash, of all things, would be delicious under a hot pomodoro?

Cooking is tradition. Tradition, is innovation. The best chef is the one who can serve the food closest to him, in the manner most pleasing to the guests, without the need of inventing a thing.

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