Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Quotable Tuesday: The Creative Chef

The problem with food is that it occupies this existential space that is really personal, yet at the same time, it's also a commercial thing. Food is a very, very personal subject, and it's a very subjective subject. And so it becomes a subject that people have strong opinions about. Somehow, there's this strong idea that these restaurateurs and chefs are polluting the idea of what they do by 'commercializing' themselves. But nobody attacks Armani for having A/X, right? Or Ralph Lauren for licensing his name for a fragrance. Or Richard Meier for designing cheap products for Target.

- The New York Observer's Bryan Miller, in David Kamp's The United States of Arugula

Well, yes. So that about sums it up, right. After reading this quote, I almost thought, "Maybe I should just stop blogging. Because that, right there, is what I think."

Miller is talking specifically about people who complain that big name chefs spread themselves too thin, suggesting that if they're not constantly in their own kitchen (like Andre Soltner) then somehow their work doesn't count. I think Miller does a nice job of explaining a) the complicated space that food occupies in our lives, which is similar to that of fashion and b) that chefs are creative personalities - both thinkers and doers.

History probably encourages people to think of chefs as "people who cook", rather than people who think, so it's understandable why people may complain. But there has been a shift in the profession, and technology and communication tools (not to mention a general improvement in cooking skills even among the most entry level employees), all of which has created an environment that frees chefs up to do a little more thinking and oversight, rather than having to actually cook. I'm sure Colicchio can grill a mean steak, but I don't need him to be the one at the grilling station. I'd rather that he spend his time thinking up the recipes, not just executing them.

P.S. Yes, everyone can expect a few more days, at least, of Arugula references. I'm sorry...but the book is just too good.

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