Bod Dylan said for him “the future is already a thing of the past”.
Today worldwide this is true of cuisine. Don’t worry. That’s the last time I’ll use the word here.
The ‘Best Baguettes in The World’ where already made in Hanoi on December 12, 1955.
That same year the Best Pho in The World was made just down the street on that same day coincidentally.
Joel Robuchon made The Best Coq au Vin in 1961.
The world of food preparation can be divided up roughly between professionals and home cooks.
The only thing new under the sun in professional kitchens today is pureed pumpkin flavoured with Red Boat fish sauce extruded into liquid nitrogen to form what look like tiny sea urchin roe put on a cracker with a squeeze of Japanese mayonnaise then the ‘roe’ is topped with one tiny purple violet petal. All three crackers for only $30.00!
That’s not food. It’s grown men playing ‘silly-buggers’ with bottles of liquid nitrogen and rubber gloves and your credit card.
All other cooking professionals must and do faithfully crank out hundreds of thousands of best quality dishes world wide meal after meal. Always the exact same ingredients. Never any variation on the theme. They are concert pianists playing Bach note for note every time. This is what their customers demand.
“Where are the onions in my French onion soup?” “Well tonight the chef thought he’d put potato wedges in it instead.” Not going to fly.
How many ways are there to fry a ribeye perfectly? Answer: one. This needs to be repeated. There is only one path to making the worlds best dishes and it’s been trodden by hundreds of thousands of professional cooks for centuries.
All the ‘world’s best’ sauces and stocks have long since been discovered. These are the foundation of any great dish. Be it Pho or ‘Sauce Veloute’.
There are of course chippy’s in Edinburgh wrapping dolmades in American processed cheese slices then deep frying them then into a four day old hot dog bun with lots of ketchup if you’re looking for the latest cutting edge take-out.
Speaking of food trucks there are thousands of ingredients you can put in a bun. It’s still a sandwich. If the truck has a cactus painted on the side you’re going to get something with chilies in the bun. Hawaiian grass skirts? Pineapple somewhere in a bun.
Professional cooks have reached the end of the creative road. The catered party’s over.
But what about the hot new chef who’s just opened his own restaurant? Surely he must have some great new ideas for his ‘signature’ dishes. Ya right. He’ll be screaming at his line cooks to make sure they follow precisely Escoffier’s recipe for ‘Cotes de Veau au Basilic’ every time. No ‘Tweaking’ tolerated! Oh he’ll call the dish something else but the only difference will be he’ll use pork instead of veal to be ‘PC’ and help his fledgling ‘restro’s’ bottom line.
Bottom line is good old Auguste had already created the mother stocks and sauces recipes used in that dish decades ago.
This leaves the dedicated home cooks world wide who have a passion for making excellent food where? Where do they look for advice and inspiration? Not from culinary schools. From featherweight TV cooking shows and web sites and cook books and from ‘granny’s old recipe cards. (How did she get to be such a wonderful cook? Her Granny taught her the fundamentals that’s how.)
None of these sources are providing anything ‘new’. Ironically the opposite. Jammie can sit on a tiny garden stool with a tiny cutting board on his lap but at the end of the demonstration all we home cooks have learned yet again is how to slice an onion and make a green salad with effing ‘rocket’.
Dedicated home cooks will always look for help to make the best cassoulet they can. Joy of Cooking? ATK (if you can afford the subscription), lovely old Julia Child. Jacque Pepin. The King of all TV cooking shows Keith Floyd?
How did these wonderful sources source their sources? By going back to the basics developed decades ago by the culinary pioneers based soley on chemistry.
Professionals and home cooks have hit the ‘Pyrex’ ceiling.
There is nowhere to go but back. Back to mastering solid cooking fundamentals. We need to hit the books! Get back to knowing the difference in quality between a roux made with 6 parts flour and 5 parts of unsalted clarified butter or one made using ‘table butter’ with equal measures and why. Understanding the ‘why’ is what makes a home cook an excellent home cook.
Whether you are resembling an engine out of a Ferrari or making a simple roux it’s all about attention to detail. Granny was taught that. That’s why Granny always made the very best pies.
Bottom line is all cooking is chemistry. There is no art to it. Chemistry is not an ‘art’. How you position the food on the plate before serving is where the art comes in. Study color theory and composition. Bring these art forms to your table.
Ever heard the story of some one who wanted to get a job in a famous restaurant and the chef asks them to make an omelette? That’s about chemistry. Not ‘art’.
So. Back to the fundamentals. We home cooks can be our grand children’s ‘grannies’. (Males welcome.) We honour where our food comes from by preparing it in the best way we can. Who knows? You or I may have the next Julia or Keith standing on a chair helping us prepare dinner.
We wish that for the next generation of home cooks.