Saturday, January 26, 2013

Food of the People

What I love about this video is the honesty of the food.  There's a lack of pretension that makes me saddle up next to the cook, sit shoulder to shoulder, and share some food.... It reminds me of how I ended up where I am now, making sausage.  

Some time ago I worked at a very well respected fancy-pants restaurant in New York.  The ingredients were top notch, the cooks were exceptional but I too often found the food to be uninspired, sometimes even bordering on the silly (poached eggs draped in gold foil).  While we never dabbled in "molecular gastronomy" we sometimes combined so many ingredients in a dish that the resulting amalgam somehow became less than the sum of it's part which I'm confident was not the goal of the chef.  Prior to working at this restaurant I had a passion and desire for the unexpected and whimsical cutting edge of cuisine, from El Bulli in Spain to WD50 in NYC, but after the fancy-pants restaurant I turned a corner, one which lead directly away from the cutting edge.  

While I hadn't worked at this restaurant for years I had worked there long enough to have a solid grasp of the full menu and before returning to complete my schooling I decided to partake in a final meal there with my lovely wife.  During our meal my wife peppered me with questions, "What's in this sauce?"  "What's this puree over here?"  She wasn't complaining about the food, just curious about what she'd been served.  It was just then that an idea that had been slowly percolating through my dense numb-skull finally hit grey matter....she shouldn't have to ask.  The food should taste like the ingredients from which it's made and if it doesn't then the chef has somehow lost his or her way in the composition.  If you're eating a chestnut puree it should taste distinctly of chestnuts.  Ever better would be to taste like the nirvana of chestnutdom, the epitome of all things chestnutty.  

I have nothing against avant-garde cuisine, on the contrary I deeply respect the work of Adria, Dufresne and Achatz and what they have done for world cuisine but I decided it's not the food I want to produce.  The food highlighted in this video, the honest, approachable, hearty food of the proletariat, that's my heart and soul.  

胃口好  - Wèikǒu hǎo*  

*that's Chinese for bon appetite according to google


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