Thursday, October 15, 2009

Random Musings

I haven’t been able to focus recently and I don’t know why, but cohesive thought has escaped my brain…I’m still working on developing some other test recipes, but I’ve been busy enough with other things that that’s going REALLY slowly. There are a bunch of things I can’t really particularly make heads and tails of right now, but I figure I’d throw some random musings out there…

-seems like everyone’s talking about social media nowadays and I guess you’re either in or you’re out… don’t see advantages to being out of the loop…

-can you be technologically relevant and up to date, but at the same time feel like you belong in a different generation? That’s me.

-I rag on Top Chef and TV food whores, but I’m not stupid enough that I can’t understand that, hype or not, you can either cook or you can’t. And, these are skilled people. Still not high on the idea of putting you face in front on your food when it comes to chefs appearing on Top Chef and I’ve disengaged from watching – it’s a little sad, because the talent looks awesome this season.

-I don’t care about David Chang’s comments. He’s a great chef, but being obtuse to the work of your own profession in a equally influential food city only speaks volumes about yourself. Personally, I can tell you the wonders of eating in a city as random as Alexandria, Louisiana. I, too can be a real ego-maniac, but I get sick of myself pretty often.

-Thomas Keller is the Michael Jordan of cooking. He is an iconic chef that doesn’t exist to put his personality or sound bites out there, but at the same time has become supremely recognizable, marketable, and overwhelmingly business-oriented. He’s got great game and sells a ton of his brand, but no one will ever dare call him a sellout. That’s MJ-esque.

-I’m guilty of throwing little jabs at NY once in a while (like their retarded infatuation with cupcakes), but I easily confess to loving to eat and spend time there. The constant NY vs. SF penis jousting may just be the absolute byproduct of social media hype and sensationalism – something that’s no longer just for the conventional newspaper and TV. Be aware.

-Portland and Chicago can give less of a shit about NY vs. SF, they’re just going out there and doing what they want. They’re kicking ass and don’t care to take names. People from LA: please stop telling me how much better everything is out there, can’t you just let me find out for myself? That’s my summer recapped to three lines.

-I’ve avoided the “burger” in a bar/restaurant sensation completely over the last few months. I’m going to Hubert’s Burger Bar though because I recall fond late night Vegas memories at the original. Good times.

-There must be a mysterious drug in their food because inevitably every Thursdays, I crave to eat Lers Ros. I’ve started making slogans for their food. Here are some that I love:

Lers Ros: #62 bitches.

Lers Ros: Hmm hmm bitches. (in a Samuel Jackson accent)

Lers Ros: So good that you won’t care about pronouncing the “s” at the end of Lers.

That’s as much of a restaurant review as you’ll ever get from me.

-I didn’t get to recap Notoberfest, I was happily tucked away in the kitchen away from the mobs. Some girl brought me Hooker (appropriately Hot Food Porn named) chocolates. It marks the second time a girl has gotten me chocolates in my life. Feels weird, but good and, obviously, tastes even better. If she gave them to anyone else first, I’m pumping them out of my stomach.

-Was working with Melissa Perello for the first time while helping Ryan for the Notoberfest event – nervous much? It must be a chef-crush thing (ala like a man crush but involving chefs)… I was seriously trying not to fuck things up while cooking/hanging out, but it was a ton of fun and she was all charisma and class. On some days, it’s never about being the man because you can be damn happy to just be to be the dude. So excited for Frances!

-I am currently producing the Todd English Lifetime movie: Tears of a Chef: The True Runaway Bride Groom Story of An Abuse Victim. I’m casting Shia Lebouf because he’s got that wonderful je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it okay to see him being beaten without feeling too bad… a necessity for the actor portraying this chef…

-Along the lines of @shitmydadsays is Shit My Mom Says: “Learn how to cook, because you can’t trust the woman that you’re going to marry in this generation to know how.” If there’s one guiding line that likely triggered my initial interest in cooking, that might just be it. Yeah, I’m a momma’s boy, got a problem with that?

-One of my favorite things that I do every holiday season (when I head back home to Boston) is that I try to learn/steal another heirloom recipe from my grandmother or mom. It’s a great way to spend and waste time. Xmas is nice, but its boring most of the time.

-I wonder what the ratio of chefs that love kitchen music versus chefs that don’t are? Hmm… does enjoying kitchen music make your work less competent or more rhythmic?

-Seems more and more recently, my initial plating for my food has been unbelievably lame and somewhat antiquated. It’s taken 3 or 4 tries to get things even remotely close to the what I want it to be. Sadly, most of the time I don’t really know what I want it to be until I’m hours away from cooking. There’s a need for some newfound clarity and perspective on my behalf… or fancy new plates. If you don’t think plating is the x-factor that differentiates a good dish from a great dish, then you’re lying to yourself.

-Thinking of making pumpkin biscuits.

-Not sure if I want to listen to the Pete Yorn Scarlet Johannson album, I feel like it’s the type of album, I’ll d/l, listen twice and never play it again…love the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack…oddly enjoy Meagan Smith’s cover of Here Comes Your Man…oddly dislike Zooey Deschanel’s cover of Please Please Let Me Get What I Want…not a fan of Simon Garfunkel.

That’s all folks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bridging the Gap: Education, Elitism, Exploration and Experimentation


My perception is skewed in one direction and often it’s hard for me to come to the realization that I’m constantly absorbed in a culinary bubble. I’m not sure how to properly label this understanding or awareness, but I do know that my possessed information is generally lost on a majority of our population. To be honest, I have no desire to slow or dumb down the constant learning process required for what seems to be an infinite set of principles, techniques and ideas, but recently, there have been many situations where I’m conspicuously out of touch with identifying with people who have a less than a basic understanding of their food (seeing food only as a means of necessity). As a result and byproduct of food education, I can get caught off-guard by the perception of food snobbery. But I wouldn’t say that this issue bothers me, because I have no qualms with how people choose to react to me. My self-image is controllable, but I have no interest in being disingenuous - rather, I find myself wondering why such a big gap exists between people with a general knowledge of food and those who have no interest in learning or understanding what goes into their body.

The two concepts, exploration and experimentation, seem inherently related by denotation. Both can be identified as acts of curiosity or interest, but their methodology and governing philosophy are obviously separate. It is exactly this separation that our understanding of a majority of food issues lie. If we look at the idea of exploration, it connotates a positive act of courage with acceptable risk and a satisfying end (albeit unknown) result. Experimentation is normally viewed as an act of higher risk that needs to be approached with caution and sometimes fear. I think most people can agree that they are much more willing to explore in most cases than experiment with their food (which we can identify as the perceived gap, i.e. risk), but, in reality, the end result for either scenario is the essentially the same. Why is fear marginal for some ingredients and in some instances, but not in others? That has never made sense for me.

We know what we’ve known for the longest time – a key problem with a person’s fear of food is perception. A lot of people fear trying offal, bison, venison, goat, smelly cheeses, etc., because the perception is that they are experimental, but in reality, that is almost no different than the exploration of gorgonzola or blue cheese on a burger. (Would like to note that this discussion excludes religious obligations to denying food – talking just about fear of food)

For the most part, I’m very understanding of how and why people approach food. Different people hold vastly different set of values when it comes to how they regard food. Some are intrigued and involved with every detail of its creation or slaughter, while others only view it as a means of sustaining life. This divide can sometimes be easily identified and attributed to the gross generalizations that plague efforts to bridge the gap between those that are food conscious and those that are not. For instance, take the word and the idea of a “foodie” – it has become the primary calling card for food elitism in the sense of positive self-identification (e.g. The Foodie Handbook, Diary of a Foodie), but it has also been regarded with absolute disdain as a polarizing and a segregating label.

Let me clarify, being knowledgeable does not make and equate to becoming a “eat organic/sustainable/local/raw only” neo-hippy that starts pushing their food ethics on others. Because many of those people are real assholes. Education brings to consciousness a person’s ability to identify their own food decisions as they are best suited to their own means and how they affect their lifestyle/environment. It would also be a shame to separate yourself from learning your own options based on the potential fear of being labeled as something as meaningless as a healthy hippie or a foodie.

Polarization, lack of understanding, unfounded fear, segregation and perceived elitism are essentially the barriers for self education – just like it was for every conflict in history based on class, race and gender. And, in the most true sense of irony, education is also the key to breaking through. We’re not talking about ground breaking ideas here – I’m practically just applying the basic model of prejudice to issues regarding food awareness. Imagine a world where people understood the issues that plague the problems of consumption and hunger. Imagine a world where people understood the issues that are attributed to increasing health risks of children (new chemically induced food allergies, processed food bacteria/poisoning, obesity). Imagine a world where I didn’t have to wonder if people have ever tasted duck before?