Time and again over the last few weeks, I’ve been continually met with the theme of “diametrically opposed” ideas or inverse relationships. These ideas really came from a series of different random thoughts I’ve been having more and more after doing some selective reading about food community and societies. What amazes me is that for some reason, food discussion and intellectual culinary relationships seem to only take place between very selective and high minded culinary set of peers. The internet has closed a gap in the public’s understanding of responsible sourcing, ethics, technique and restaurant life, but I’m not always sure it has been a source for pragmatism in pushing the craft of cuisine. For some reason, I seem to always have this lingering romantic vision that the communities of chefs in Europe are so much more interwoven with each other’s work and culinary progression. For some reason, I just can’t help but think that even with the world’s biggest forum: the internet – chefs here rarely develop “shop talk” relationships. And, I’m not talking about the Food Network. In all likeliness, its probably just misplaced romanticism and babble.
Here are some of the things that have come to bother me more and more over time:
1. Artistic Representation of Food vs. Profit
Money and making a living is diametrically opposed to a chef’s desire to push the envelope. Yes, there are a lot of people who have no desire to do that – which is perfectly fine. But, if you want to be adventurous or experimental, making money cannot be your objective. Money cannot dictate the creative effort and approach taken to food or ingredients or else it is compromised, but in the world of restaurants, this is more of an anomaly than the standard.
2. Eating Sustainably vs. The Cost of Eating Sustainably
You’d love to do the right thing, but the right thing is either never convenient enough or never affordable enough. It is a system that is sadly manipulated by too many awful industries and politics to be fixed in the right way.
3. Artistic Output vs. Dietary Limited Cuisine
Yes, its nice to have vegetarian and vegan restaurants because we all need options and have dietary restrictions. I am sensitive to all those things… most of the time. However, it makes no sense to side-skirt the truth of the matter. If you regard yourself as a cook, limiting the education of your craft to a restrictive set of ingredients basically goes against being a professional or (if you want to call yourself one) an artist. (I don’t consider most cooks as artists even though I think cooking can be artistic – maybe because it sounds pretentious.) It would almost be like a contractor who decided to build a house without nails because he never learned to use a hammer. Sure, it can be done, but I’m not sure why that’s not lesson one. Cooking with dietary restrictions can net beautiful and creative results (evident in many SF vegetarian restaurants), but the restriction isn’t what makes it special and it certainly doesn’t contribute to what makes it creative.