Much has been written about the radical changes in the development of cuisine and gastronomy over the past 35 years, especially the discussion of the “virtues” of molecular gastronomy or modernist cuisine (or any other term employed by the food media). This culinary trend has its roots in neo-Catalan cuisine, and Ferran and Albert Adrià originally developed the principles at El Bulli restaurant in Spain.
This style of cooking is best described as an effort to deconstruct classic and modern French cuisine, using the principles of Spanish regional cuisine as well as techniques and ingredients from the food industry, which incidentally raises the legitimacy and safety of these techniques. . The aim was to create preparations that were completely unrecognizable to the diner in order to evoke new emotional experiences while eating. I’m not going to argue about the virtues or the limits of this trend in the kitchen. I agree with the citizens of one of the world’s great foodie cities, Rome, who have described these modern culinary trends as “all smoke and no roast”. It’s a trend that all new cooks want to emulate when starting a career in the food industry. Many questions beg an answer on this subject and the main one, paraphrasing Julia Child (when asked about these modern trends), is why would anyone want to deconstruct food to the point where it is so over-processed that becomes completely unrecognizable?
I revisit one of the most iconic cookbooks of the 1970s: “Simple French cuisine” by Richard Olney; the preface to this book should be read by any serious cook or foodie, professional or amateur. The author states that simple cooking has many subtleties and complexities. It begins with mastering the understanding of the methodology , ratios and formulas. I always tell my students at the Institute of Culinary Education that to become a good cook, you have to master and understand all the 12 to 15 basic cooking methods, the relationship between the ingredients of a preparation, why the ingredients have a particular sequence during the preparation method and their ratio between them For example: why is a particular amount of egg whites used in a specific ratio of lean protein ground and herbs when clarifying a specific amount of broth to prepare a consommé?
Another equally important consideration is the influence of terroir on the result of a preparation. The influences of climate and seasonality, topography and geology, the microbiological ecosystem of a particular environment, production, harvesting and processing techniques, breeding and slaughtering techniques, as well as cultural and historical influences all determine the production of raw ingredients. An example of this would be how two dairy cows of the same breed raised in two different geographic locations can produce milk, and the products of that milk have completely different flavor profiles, fat contents, colors and textures. different. Without these and other considerations, blindly following a recipe will almost never yield the results one is looking for.
The term simple cooking is an oxymoron. Cooking requires a certain level of skill and knowledge and a deep level of intuition, the latter of which is unteachable and none of this is easily acquired. Cooks often say that the most difficult dishes to prepare are those that seem the simplest and least complicated — a perfect roast chicken, a sole meunière, an easy fried egg or a French omelette, for example. A cook can’t hide behind fancy sauces, toppings, or complicated food processing techniques with these recipes. An equally important idea or corollary to this would be that a good cook cannot hide behind mediocre or mediocre knife skills. — but that’s a discussion for another time.
By Ted Siegel, Chef Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education