Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cooking: Art or Craft?

The first day of the StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress was intriguing for someone who is not a chef. Surrounded by chefs of all levels, reputation and bank accounts, they all seem to have something in common. Their love of food. The debate between , Thomas Keller (Per Se), Dan Barber (Blue Hill Farm) and David Kinch (Manresa) about cooking as a form of art vs. craft was interesting. Thomas Keller turns down the word “artist” for a chef although Barber thinks that chefs can be artists as well. David Kinch, on the other hand, believes that chefs have to tell a story through their dishes. Keller goes even further: cooking is a craft and repetition makes a chef a better chef. "The more you do something, the better you become", he said. Food has to be esthetically pleasing in order to sell. Barber brought up the notion of  the “longer vision”. In other words, if you let go your ego, you become better. On the topic of trends, Keller was rather bold by saying that there is no new food, just new technological tools. Kinch spoke of the dynamic aspect of cooking and the constant evolution and they all agreed that their job is to nurture people, one way or the other.
The topic is fascinating and seems endless. What I particularly like in all chefs is their grounding character, their constant desire to be inspired and to become better. Even if I disagree with Keller’s extreme approach to repetition (after a while becomes comfort zone), I congratulate them all for their genuine, tasty efforts to create better food.