Cooking-an Art form or Artisan-ship

Joined Jan 1, 2001
I am interested in discussing with my firends here whether cooking is and art form or a form of artisan-ship (a craft.)
My personal feeling is that it's a type of craft and not really a true art. My reasoning? as follows....
1) Art is created to elicit an emotional and/or intellectual response from an audience--food may elicit a response of memory or good or bad reactions based on the sensory appeal, but deep emotional feeling or intellectual thought or discussion is not generally brought on by eating a meal.
2) Art has lasting social, historical and cultural impact (either positive or negative) on large groups of people. If only a few people can partake of haute cuisine and it is consumed, how can it have that kind of impact? After all, no matter how good the dish, it's fodder for the plumbing tomorrow.
3) Art is something completely original and different each time it is created or performed and cannot be duplicated (eventhough there are some pretty good foreries out there.) Chefs base their recipes on tried and proven formulas although they are varied (ie theme and variation). Also, successful chefs strive for consistency of production and presentation of each dish. Repeat customers depend on it (so do sales).
Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to dismiss food vocations as being invalid, just trying to inject a little perspective. I love great food, I also love beautiful weaving, pottery and glass. But can any dish prepared by Jean-Georges, Emeril, or Escoffier, for that matter, stand up to Donatello's or Michelangelo's "David", Van Gogh's "Starry Night", Rodin's "the Thinker" Shakespeare's "Hamlet" or any one of a zillion other compositions?

I may be setting off a firestorm, here, but at least we'll have a lively discussion.
Weigh in folks!
Joined Jan 1, 2001
Sorry about the spelling folks, what ever happened to the spell-check feature? And how did this show up as two postings? Go figure....
Joined Aug 11, 2000
You are right about the firestorm, we had this very discussion several monthes ago and it was heated.....
Food as art, sure, I feel it can be.
Joined Jan 1, 2001
Sorry, I've got to disagree.. A ride on a ferris wheel can be enjoyed by many, but it doesn't make it art. Also, will the "emotional impact" you feel from eating a good dish last 10 years from now? 100? 500?
I contend cuisine is an artisanal craft, not art---no matter how vertical it becomes, or how many sauce paintings attend it.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Ah foodnfoto~ I can remember vividly meals I had as a child, meals in exceptional restaurants throughout the years. I can remember a dish I had at Bagwells 2424 in 1979, or dinner at Nilolas Roof in 1981/1982
or Bilinis and caviar at the Russian TeaRoom is not a "job" to me it's a passion I just happen to make money doing.

*Most great artists don't please themselves they generally are prefectionist that create because they have a burning desire....or so I've been told.

Is all cooking artistic, is all art artistic?????NOPE it's in the hand of the creator and the senses of the reciever...
that's what I believe and I'm sticking to it.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
I agree with the last comment that shrromgirl made, and I would like to add, that the same holds true for painting, pottery, dance, fashion, music, etc. Those who produce works in these forms may call themselves artists, but not all creative applications are necessarily art.

A musician can sample music of a musical legend. Is that art? It illicits an emotional response, and some people actually like it.

A potter creates hundreds of bowls that look identical. And hand paints them with his own design. That is more unique than borrowing someone else's music, but is it art? Because really, it may be pretty, but it is more useful than emotionally charged.

A plate of food is usually not something that gets remembered years later. On the rare occasion that it does, and there is a tangible reason why, I believe that then it deserves the label "art".

Also, "Cooking" is comprised of so many things. For example, following a risotto recipe is quite different from knowing exactly how to use the ingredient (which is science), and that is quite different from doing something innovative and new with the ingredient. That may sometimes be art.
Joined Jan 1, 2001
Momo-you bring up a valid point, and that is the line is blurred between what is art and what is craft. A potter"s bowl is only art when the definition of what is a "bowl" is challenged. Granted, some recipes may evoke the same emotional response 10 or 50 years after consuming it, but those dishes are few and far between.
My feeling is that the term "art" is applied and bantered about too easily, especially in regard to ordinary aspects of our lives. Food, ultimately, is a form of sustinence and completely necessary to the continuance of life. Art does not contribute to that necessity.
The purpose of Art is to challenge a society's view and preconcieved notion of the world and itself. Hence, art can make you angry, depressed, uncomfortable; it can be ugly, repulsive, frightening ---and still be art.
Would any chef purposely (except in the case of a joke) prepare food to foster such negative responses? I don't think so.
Joined Mar 13, 2001
I remember watching Julia Child barely containing her tears when she tasted a dessert perfectly executed by Nancy Silverton
on Baking with Julia.

Sorry, I do call that ART!!
Joined Oct 5, 2001
Dear Friends:

You are all correct!

By definition, a craft is "a special skill or art" and the verb "to craft" means "to make with skill or artistry". (Collins English Dictionary)

By definition, art is "human creativity, any craft or profession, creative work, a making or doing of things that have form and beauty". (Collins English Dictionary)

Cooking is a craft that some of its artisans perfect to an art! The same with painting, sculpting, music, photography, etc... . (Papa's Opinion)

Joined Jan 1, 2001
I've been waiting to hear your take on this subject. Are you sure your second career is not in diplomacy?
You are right, I believe that most gourmets are craftspeople and some may elivate the craft to an art form.
Remember, not all art is beautiful, yet it is still significant to us as a society--"Guernica" by Picasso, "The Scream" by Eduard Munsch, "Titus Andronicus" by Shakespeare, "Bolero" Maurice Ravel and some pieces by Philip Glass, "Equus" by Schaeffer just to name a few.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Thank God for our freedom of choice...

I will now artistacly perfect my craft (oh boy I need spell check).
Joined Oct 5, 2001
Dear foodnfoto:

Thank you so much for your kind words.

As a matter of fact, you just found out which career I gave up to enter the world of olive oil.

Thank you once again.


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Foodnfoto, I have to agree with you that the term art is thrown around much to much readily. I believe that stating that cooks and chefs are craftsmen/women does not lessen them or trivalize their creativity, but to call them artists does trivalize true artists. And knowing how my opininated beliefs on this topic p*** many people off, I will refrain from saying anything more. Have fun foodnfoto.
Joined Jan 1, 2001
Thanks Pete. I was starting to believe no one understood my point of view.
Once again, I do not mean to dismiss what chefs do as uncreative or without aesthetic value, much to the contrary! See my last post about the role of PR people in the biz.
I guess my view of the profession is a bit more earthbound than most folks like to hear. Oh well, to each his own.
Joined Dec 15, 1999
Well if you start getting into discussing what is "ART" that would be along time. What is art adbeen challenged all along history. In modern art, "art" is usaully about "what is art" - Mercel Duchump and the whole dada movement for example. But let's not miss the point.

Most art are special forms of artisan. A painter would usaully first learn how to mix colors, work on paper, wood, learns the history of paintings, learn perspective, anatomy, learn how to fasten a canvas etc. At what point does He becomes and Artist?

A musican sampling music can be an artist and can be hoax. Does he create something new with his sampling. Does he light the old piece with a new context? William Burroughs the great beat witer used to "sample" from newpapers, books and other works. Was he an Artist?

When an orchestra plays Missa Solemis by Beethoven. Are they artist? Is the conductor?

Let's look at it then. The claims are that
Art is to - 1. Challenge(intelectual respone), 2. Create an emotional response, 3. Represent the artist.

That's sure not enough of a definition but let's take that apart.

1. Food can chalenge - I've eaten in israel a shrimp falafel at a restaurant. Taking something that's considered street cheap common food and elevating it to haute cuisine status challenged many customers. This had started an intelectual debate as much as we are doing now.

2. Emotional? More that any thing else. The sense of smell(and any cook should know that "taste" is really 90% aromos and 10% pallete) and alsot taste are most primitive senses. Even a bacteria can smell. A bacteria wlll "like" something that has chemical makeup of food and "dislike" something that smell like trouble. These senses are unlike the other three connect straigh to the emotional part of the brain. When you grow you learn to associate aromas with emotions. A cake you ate at your grandmother's place, The smell of a rose in a cemetery. As a cook you sculpture aromas and create and emotional response which is personal and individualistic to the eater.

3. What you cook come from where you come from from every expriance you had in your life from every book you read, from every meal you had, from the chefs you work with etc. Sometimes it helps getting out of the context of your life to notice that.

The closet art form i know to cooking is story teller. My mom is an "Artist". She paint, sculpture, writes and is also a tradional story teller.
It's just like cooking. You take a story usually old and tradional - classic. But every time you recreate it with what's at hand. The time you have, the particular crowd, how feel at the moment, the place the story takes among a series of other stories.

It's getting long so i'll cut it off with that.
Joined Jul 18, 2000
ahh, yes whether or not if cooking is a art form, blah blah blah.

Well, given that in most cases, commercial cookery is a trade, that then bestows the title of artisan on most chefs, vis a vis:

// noun 1. someone skilled in an industrial or applied art; a craftsman. 2. a member of the urban working classes. [French, from Italian arte guild]

Now why would that only apply to most or some or a few chefs?, easy - creative and art linked cookery off spins, such as fruit and veg carving, margarine sculpting and ice carving/sculpturing and their et al, have their origins in the arts that forever remain museums. Fruit and veg will go off,ice will melt and margarine will eventually go rancid. So within these confines, art does exist but for only a limited tangible amount of time.

That, i guess doesnt really put the argument to rest, but however, if a example of food based art is to be recognised, then i would put forward the motion that these would be the obvious example.

of course if that doesnt work, we could always get christo to wrap the entire restaurant to seal the deal.
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