the "complete" chef?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by hipjoint, Feb 1, 2005.

  1. hipjoint

    hipjoint

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    maybe i am gonna step on some toes here??

    i have been reading some material on the growing movement in cooking
    that seems to have been catching some momentum in the last decade
    or so. i am refering to the kind of "back to the land" style of cooking
    epitomized by alice waters and the chez panisse sort of thing.

    ms. waters, seeing how agriculture has been "corporatized" and mechanized,
    started espousing the benefits of natually grown produce, hormone free
    beef and free range chickens, etc. etc. etc. she has practicaly been
    granted sainthood for her efforts. but is what she is doing revolutionary?

    hard to believe, but my folks, not too long ago, did this for generations.
    yep, country folk in the rural areas of china. grew all their own stuff. ate
    what they grew when it ripened. killed what was raised and used every
    part of the animal for SOMEthing. funny how something "backward" people
    have been doing for generations is now chic for modern american cuisine.

    which brings me to the real thread i want to begin ... there was a thread that asked "what IS a chef?" and maybe this is my chance to mouth off.

    are you REALLY a chef if you don't know where your food comes from?
    do you think fruit comes from the corner market and meat comes in
    plastic trays? somehow, i find chefdom quite incomplete if you have no
    personal experience with the origin of your food.

    at least ms. waters enjoys growing her own herbs (and cooking with herbs
    harvested just SECONDS before using them tastes better than the dried stuff
    that comes in jars!). pull your own mozzerella cheese and pick roma tomatoes
    from your own vines and your caprise salad is without equal. catch your own
    fish and cook it within minutes of killing it and "fresh" fish in the market will
    lose lots of its appeal.
    my nephew works as a cook in "quince" restaurant in san francisco and they
    bring in sides of pork, lamb, whatever, and they break it down in the
    restaurant. you learn all the muscle groups, how they relate to each other
    and how to butcher it to fulfill different purposes.
    i think the ultimate, in addition to growing, picking, butchering your own
    food (at least a portion of it), would be to make your own knives as well.

    so that is my thought, to be considered a chef is to be one who not
    only has the skill to prepare food, but has an intimate knowledge of the
    food as well.

    what do you think? :
     
  2. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    It's part of the attitude I think. Anyone who has keen interests in food would probably do enough research to find out where their food comes from. Many chefs and non-chefs go to great lengths to find the best and freshest, and in the process, they discover things about food and culture they never would have bothered with otherwise. Interesting.
     
  3. hipjoint

    hipjoint

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    one would THINK that chefs would want to know more about the food they cook, but maybe that's what separates the chefs from the cooks. in tony bourdain's book kitchen confidential, he mentions line cooks being
    shown how to cook something and they learn by imitation. he makes it
    sound like they put something from the reach-in into a pan and toss in some
    this and that some prep chef set up, and out she goes to table eight. i don't
    know how it is where you are, but it seems like a large number of "chefs"
    around here couldn't clean and section a whole fish if you handed them one.
    hand them a salmon steak and yeah, they can toss it in a pan with evoo,
    sprinkle a little kosher and fresh crack on it, then finish it with a squeeze of
    lemon, but could they scale, gut, gill, fillet/steak a whole fish? i was surprised how many couldn't. could they split a head, dig out the cheeks,
    and prepare stock with it? seems like they should, but do they?

    would they even know how to CATCH their own salmon or whatever?
    I think that is what i am trying to lead to, a more complete knowledge
    of the ingredients being integral to the development of a chef.
     
  4. chrose

    chrose

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    What's old is new and what's new is old. It's the ebb and flow of time and humanity and, I imagine to some extent it has gone on since the beginning of human existance.
    Otherwise you bring up some good points and have some valid thoughts and feelings. The media has created some "culinary darlings" and the money has taken note and created "Chef factories" that just as was said, put out "rote Chefs" that do what they were shown and taught, and could not create an original idea if their life depended on it. I have known many, but let's not forget that in the need to feed the world they are as valuable in their own respect as any other Chef. The word Chef is a title, a farmer, say in China as you described who does have intimate knowledge of the food he raises and kills, even if the village people come to him for food, is still a farmer, a "Chef " who buys that food and cooks it for paying customers is still a "Chef" even if he did not put the seeds in the ground nor helped birth the animal he is preparing. However for a persons own self value and worth it would behoove him/her to have as intimate a knowledge of the source as possible. I say possible because you can take a child that was raised in a poor family in the inner city and through hard work and determination has raised themselves to a position high in an organization as an Executive Chef with perhaps tremendous accolades for his creations and originality. Yet because of their upbringing has never set foot on a farm or on a boat. Not everyone has the ability to have the "intimate" knowledge of from where their food came from so in that respect I think it unfair to consider them less of a Chef just because of the route they may have taken. I would consider it more of a waste of their own personal value if they did not take the time to at least find out the origins and history of their food items. methods and people. Just because I have never personally killed a cow, doesn't make me less of a Chef. I have raised my own food, I have caught and killed my own fish, I am a much a Chef as anyone. But as I said, you do have some valid points and it's something that all "chefs" and cooks should look into themselves for and ask themselves if they really are "all that they could be" in that respect. :chef:
     
  5. flash

    flash

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    Wow,

    let's just say you're on to something.


    have u thought about,

    maybe...hmmm



    taking up cooking for a living?

    it's a noble profession...


    --least that;s what i heard some houswives talk bout....
    tony bueuller.........anyone


    ...any way.......


    any contest?
    or are we all historian's now










    .......ohhhhhhhhhh....\\



    i remember when.........
     
  6. flash

    flash

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    chrose




    u talk like a book................





    a good book, but well too bookish

    why not the good book?

    larrousse Gastr.


    ...............ok tell me



    whats

    tac
    tac
    mean
     
  7. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Listen to chrose. He knows.

    Flash you gotta lay off the stuff man, or at least don't smoke so much when you post.
     
  8. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Hi hipjoint,

    You raise some good questions, and I think Chrose answered them quite eloquently.I would like to add that Alice Waters was/is a pioneer, and because of that, she is a teacher.M. Waters goal was to cook and teach a nation how to appreciate the soil and understand better what our farmers produce and why it is important to support them. I find her journey quite worthwhile and respectful. As a chef of over 25 years and now a culinary educator I find many chefs are very capable technicians.

    Let me share these thoughts with you when it comes to the way I think about being a chef in the 21st century.

    My philosophy of being a chef
    “The law of diminishing returns”



    “Most Chefs try to satisfy a customer’s hunger in a short time with one or two dishes. They
    begin with something great. The initial bite is fabulous. The second bite is great, but by the third bite-with many more to come-the flavors begin to deaden, and the diner loses interest. It’s like getting to a hot bath or jumping into a cold pool. At first, the temperature is shocking, but after a few minutes, you get so used to it that you don’t even notice it. Your mouth reacts the same way to flavors and sensations. Many chefs try to counter the deadening effect by putting a lot of different flavors on the plate to keep interest alive. But then the diner can’t focus on anything because it’s confusing.”

    “The law of diminishing returns is something I really believe in.Think of drinking that first cold beer on a hot day, that first cold beer tasted really good. By the time you got to the second or third one, they weren't so good anymore."

    "Where do I want you to be after you've eaten something? I want you to be thinking, "God I wish I had a little more of that." Your memory of that taste is excellent. Also, it's healthier - in the Japanese way - to extend the meal for a longer period of time. It helps your body digest the food instead of packing your body with so much food that you're uncomfortable for hours afterward. This way, you're able to taste better and you know when you've had enough. The law of diminishing returns is the most important part of that.”

    Kuan, Thats funny :eek: :D
     
  9. chrose

    chrose

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    CC, very nicely said! It makes excellent sense and is truly food for thought, another little tid bit of information every cook/chef/hobbyist should keep in mind.

    Kuan, 20 years ago I probably would have understood Flash's post :D
     
  10. hipjoint

    hipjoint

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  11. hipjoint

    hipjoint

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