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Cooking: Art or Craft?

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
ChefKath posted regarding Ruhlman's stance that cooking is a craft, not an art (but without explaining his opinion). What does everybody think?

From looking at a dictionary, I'd say either/or and trying to differentiate is just splitting hairs. But, most people have a perception of there being a difference. Namely, that a craft is a blue-collar workman-like thing and an art is more aesthetic. Based on that, I'd have to say that what we do is a combination of the two. There's nothing aesthetic in changing fryer oil, but I don't there's anything blue-collar in coming up with an eye-pleasing presentation.
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post #2 of 35
I think they are a combination of the two also. It is a craft from the first day you start learning and continues to be a craft throughout your career, because you always find yourself refering back to to classic preparations and fundamental methods. Once you've become accustomed to different aspects and procedures of the trade, the artistic/expressive mode of thinking comes into play. You know what "tools" you have to work with. Later these "tools" can become like "paint colors on an artist's palet"(yours, or mine). And you (or I)just have to create great or good food for the "people waiting in the gallery"....just a little bit of metaphores and what I have grown to belive.
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Another Day, Another Battle.
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post #3 of 35
O, it's definately both. Webster defines art as human skill applied to any number of things. Let's face it, cooking comes from the heart in its finest form, it goes beyond here's a plate of food, its a passion, it can involve symetry, color,and motion in its presentation, and people go out to be entertained by food as much as by music. Dishes are often referred to as compositions. A craft? Yes. An art? Most definately. It's two taste treats in one!!!!
post #4 of 35
Thread Starter 
I'm just glad we aren't expected to be artists. I'd have to wear black all the time and be moody!
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post #5 of 35
First and foremost you must perfect your craft, otherwise you can never be recognized for your aspirations to higher artistic achievements.
post #6 of 35
Depends on the person....I create new dishes all the time....and do consider myself an artist....no black clothing I prefer purple.It's also nice to get $ from Art Groups for food events.
Craftsmen...sure there are those guys out there to....

Passion or "It's just a job man" or even I care about what I'm doing but I don't make it up. It's great when you get paid for doing what you love.
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post #7 of 35
It looks to me like we're discussing semantics here--the definitions of the words art and craft. For people who feel that for something to be a true work of art, it must be useless, cooking can no more be an art than, say, embroidery. (Unless, of course, the article which is embroidered has no possible use but to hang on the wall and be admired?)
I couldn't disagree more. It seems to me it takes a great deal more creativity to incorporate art into everyday items, which can improve our enjoyment of daily activities.
post #8 of 35
Thread Starter 
My opinion on art v. craft based on definitions and perceptions I gave in my first post. Here's mine: we're neither. We're cooks, plain and simple. I can romanticize what I do and call myself an artist, or I could take the "I do honest work with my hands" stance and call myself a craftsmen. Either way, I'm over-analyzing. I'm a cook (not a chef;that's just a job title), and art ,craft,hobby or whatever we could try to categorize it as, it's what I do because events, abilities have led me to do it. The fact that I enjoy it is a bonus.
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post #9 of 35
I agree. It would get pretty weary to have to wear a beret, smoke Dunhill cigarettes, and read Jean-Paul Sarte!
post #10 of 35
I think some of what we do is artistic, but I hate when chefs refer to themselves as artists. Sure we can do amazing and interesting things with food, but after all it is still food. People have been cooking it for thousands of years. I think there is a danger in calling ourselves artists. When we do that then we take what we do way to seriously. I like the term craftsman. It implies skill and a sense of artistry, but not the loftiness or
egocentric qualities often implied by being an artist.

Glassblowers and pottery makers are considered craftsmen. Cabinet makers are craftsmen. Chefs are craftsmen. The is no shame in that title. The difference between us and artists is the fact that we are called upon to not only create something but to recreate it again and again.

[This message has been edited by Pete (edited September 17, 2000).]
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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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post #11 of 35
Boy,we can go round and round on this one. I think of an art apart from the term "artiste"
When I look at an eagle or mountain, I think God is an artist. When I see a stone mason laying an intricate archway, I think artist. When I see a plate that has asthetic appeal, as well as being prepared like someone knows what they are doing, I think artist. When I go to the SF meuseum of modern art and see molten lead splattered all over a room with stuffed poodles stuck in it I think "artiste" or the English translation, useless pretense. I think true craftmanship is an art, it takes vision, understanding, skill, foresight, and practical application. One has to be able to think in the abstract, unless you are just bound to executing a printed recipe there is art involved.
post #12 of 35
Here-here! Well put Chefjohnpaul.
cooking with all your senses.....
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post #13 of 35
A true artist does not care about whether others like their creation....they would do it anyway. Who decides whether your food is good or great or not? You and ultimately your paying clients.....critics can influence.
(I admit it I do still wear berets, used to smoke Dunhills in College, did read French authors....still am a throw back to the 60's.
personality I was born with....I am productive though, just big into changing the world ,speaking up for those with no voice.)
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #14 of 35
Thread Starter 
If that's the definition of a true artist and if a chef is a true artist, then I have another definition for chef: unemployed. It's all well and good to make braised Belgian endive this, scented with lemongrass that, 6" high presentation artistic food, but what will ultimately decide if you can make a living is, will it play in Poughkeepsie?
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post #15 of 35
It plays in St. Louis and there are many who like the tune enough to pay $$$ for it.
Art is not always fussy or frilly or stacked

Biscuits done definatively is a form of art.
I believe this. Maybe it's just the attitude you bring to your product.

check out other art forms they are not all in one vein......not everyone is a cubist
but it can still be art.
cooking with all your senses.....
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post #16 of 35
I agree shroomgirl. Michaelangelo for example didn't always do the kind of art he wanted to do, he was commissioned to do stuff he didn't particularly like, but it was art. Charlie Trotter said he didn't care if people didn't like his food, he did what he liked and then found a following that found his stuff amazing, I believe he is an artist also, but he also knows how to cook I mean if you asked Charlie to braise you off a lamb shank with some mashed potatoes he would do it well, even if it wasn't splattered with lavender/thyme oil and balsamic/pomegranite reduction. I also believe Charlie had a rich Papa that afforded him the opportunity to open a restaurant, fire customers, and play. Must be nice.( I wouldn't mind working for Charlie)
post #17 of 35
chefjohnpaul, I may have to quote you later! Very well said.
post #18 of 35
Thread Starter 
Now this is the best quote on the page! And if believing that a good biscuit is art helps inspire you to make good biscuits, more power to you because there just aren't enough good biscuits around (certainly not in MN)
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post #19 of 35
By way of what i see in day to day stuff, then cookery is a trade or a craft - with exceptions.

What i mean by exception applies to the areas of cooking that have a link to the arts. Such things would be:

chocolate work - modelling and sculpture
margarine work - modelling and sculpture
Sugar Work - modelling and pastillage
cake decorating - cake sculptures
Vegetable carving
Et al.

Ive seen a lot of crap and some sincerely artistic work, how would you describe a competition grade plated dessert.
"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
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post #20 of 35
Chefkath we do not consider the products of glassblowers or potters "art" for the most part. These are items that we use everyday. Sure they can produce "artistic" works but most of what they produce is for everyday use. That is what makes them craftsmen. They create things that we use on a daily basis. It is the same with chefs. Yes, we create. Yes, there is passion behind what we do. But ultimately our product is used and consumed in one of humankinds most base functions. I don't see the need to justify ourselves by calling ourselves artists. Passion does not make us artists. If it does, then is the cop who is passionate about his job an artist? An accountant? Yes we create, but that doesn't make us artists. A farmer creates, a brick layer creates, advertising people create. Are these people artists? Im, sorry but I just can't buy into this notion that chefs are artists.
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post #21 of 35
Charlie Trotter said he didn't care if people liked his food? Obviously, he does. He may not want everyone to like his food, but if he didn't care is anyone liked it he'd be out of business very soon. He has to make money and he knows it. Sure, his food can be sublime and he is very passionate about it, but he still has to please enough people for him to continue making money.
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post #22 of 35
In two Food Arts articles I've read, one entitled "Fire Your Customers" Trotter admitted to catering to a certain clientele that he can educate to his vision and tastes in cuisine, others that want something else he encourages to go elsewhere. In a city as big as Chicago, and if you're good, you can do that. Sacramento? Well......
post #23 of 35
Sure Trotter doesn't mind limiting the type of people he wants at his restaurant, but he still has to impress some people. He can't "fire" all his customers or else he'd be out of business. But the concept of "firing your customers" is not a new concept, Trotter just put a new name to it. Every restaurant to an extent "fire" their customers by the fact of the type of food they serve and the type of service they provide. All successful restaurants figure out what their "target audience" is and push to get those type of people in the door. The more upscale you are the more you limit the type of customer that will walk in your door. This type of customer is usually more well-off, better traveled, and thus, more willing to try new and different things. Trotter has not created a whole new concept, he is merely following a standard advertising practice, but has given it a new name and created a whole bunch of PR around it. If nothing else, Trotter is a god at PR!
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post #24 of 35
Well, some chefs/cooks go into ice carving, and I guess this could be seen as - artistic, in that the "product" is for viewing or esthetic pleasure only. Maybe any "product" meant mostly (and, maybe not only) for viewing could be viewed as having been created by an artist (?) ... just a thought. Food, on the other hand, is meant for consumption first, and "viewing," although certainly part of the pleasure of food, may be secondary to "using," - as in "eating."
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post #25 of 35
Pete, your point is well taken, Trotter has truely capitalized on being outspoken that his restaurant is not for everyone, which I believe heightens the anticipation of dining there. I truely feel that his background and education have made him different than your average culinarian.The point where he is at now I believe he wouldn't be satisfied cooking if he were not doing his style, in his own place, to the clientele he wants. Do you think if he was forced to give the people what they want, or work a "regular" restaurant gig for someone else, even if it paid well, he would do something else?
post #26 of 35
Thread Starter 
From what I know about Trotter, my guess is that he'd do something else (and do it equally as well). He's got pretty high standards and it would be difficult for an employer to live up to them.
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post #27 of 35
that's what you get with a passionate perfectionist....the need to define and do your own thing, the only way you are happy is if you can create without too many walls.
Artiste maybe, where would we be without them? They're the guys that make changes.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #28 of 35
These days very few families sit down in the evenings and have a comforting meal with good conversation. I'd have to say as a mother who enjoys cooking it's more of a craft. As a somewhat learning chef, I'm trying different foods and creating new things. Then, I beleive, it becomes an art.
post #29 of 35
I think it is interesting to note what Escoffier states about cookery being an art in Le Guide Culinaire.

"This has always been our belief. Cookery will evolve--as society itself does--with out ever ceasing to be an art".

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[This message has been edited by Nicko (edited September 26, 2000).]
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All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
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Thanks,

Nicko 
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All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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post #30 of 35
Here here.....let's hope it taste good too.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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