Saturday, August 1, 2009

What impresses me as a chef, and as an eater

There are a lot of things that I look forward to when I go out to eat.  To me, it is the ultimate in entertainment, and always a great adventure.  However the things that really impress me are not the big culinary gastronomes who have perfected a new way of cooking with liquid nitrogen, or the guys who sculpt their food into intricately garnished, ring molded works of art that almost seem to scare you away from eating them.  Yes, I respect this, and yes, these techniques I've either endeavored to learn or want to learn in the future.  But truly impressed?  Not usually.  To me food speaks to me in a language that is much simpler.  When the ingredients become so camouflaged behind pretense that I can't figure out what I'm eating, I actually lose interest after a while.  When I was younger I went to a few strip clubs with friends, either for parties, or as a fun thing to do on a Saturday night.  When you walk into one of those places as a young man in your 20's the only thing you can think of is BOOBIES!  BOOBIES EVERYWHERE!  But for me, after a while of gawking at a sea of silicone enhanced heaving chests, I actually have to say I became bored, and somewhat depressed.  Who were these women?  What were their histories?  Was one a single Mom who hated her job and would do anything to support her child?  Did one have a drug addiction she was supporting?  Some were actually college students putting themselves through school any way they could.  But did they really enjoy their jobs?  Was this reality?  And most importantly to me, did I leave better for it?  I feel the same way about food in a lot of ways.  I don't want the flavor of a delicate filet of fish masked by some sauce that has a stronger flavor profile than what it's supposedly enhancing.  I don't want to have to dig my way through a sea of garnishments to find what I'm eating.  Since these dishes I'm dining on used to be walking breathing creatures I think we as chefs owe it to them to present them as tributes to what they were.  If I'm eating beef, I want to taste beef, and what can truly impress me the most is when a chef takes the time to figure out a way to sauce, or season a dish so that the true nature of the food speaks first and foremost.  Complicated food can impress my taste buds for the first bite, but after two or three?  It's all silicone, fancy lighting, cheap perfume and loud music. 

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