or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:


post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Hi guys,
So I feel like this should be pretty easy for myself to answer, but I'm finding that I really need to hear from the rest of you:

I've been apprenticing for a short time in a reasonably upscale place and the experience has been mixed. Most of the people have been welcoming and understanding, which is great. The quality of ingredients seem above average as well. Above all, I'm finding that my time in this kitchen is also teaching me about myself and what type of food I'd really like to prepare.

So here goes: Can you still be a well respected, top-notch cook/chef without doing fine dining? I am in no way criticizing those that thrive and greatly enjoy fine-dining, but the ring mold two-bite salads and the two scallop appetizers on huge plates just don't do it for me. I've eaten in similar places where I've had to run to the drive through shortly after for being hungry.

Anyway, I want to prepare great food, decent portions while serving a smaller, more intimately sized crowd.

Would this fit the definition of a bistro or maybe just a small family-run restaurant? I'm just not into the fine-dining, nouvelle cuisine-ish stuff.

Thanks in advance for the insight and advice!
post #2 of 5
It sounds like you have a pretty clear vision in terms of what you want. Your question about respect reveals an insecurity and ambition both of which are very human.

Good news: The style of cooking you seem to be talking about is called "New American Bistro." It's basically a very eclectic mix of regional and ethnic styles combined with the "boy food" movement. There aren't a lot of rules other than "best ingredients, simply prepared." It's very hot right now and likely to stay that way for the next couple of decades.

The style you're cooking now is probably "International." It's a descendant of "Nouvelle," and "California Cuisine" with probably a little bit of "Asian-Fusion," "Spa," and some outdated "Continental," for good measure. If you want to be at the top of the craft, you don't have to cook that way, but you do have to understand what it's about. Not only in terms of the paradoxically refined simplicity, but of presentation in well. They're reactions to the excesses of the dominant fine-dining styles which preceded them.

The driving idea in cuisine since the beginning of the 20th century has been to let the ingredients speak for themselves as much as possible. Some of our ideas about how to do that have changes since then of course. But we're always fighting the tendency to over-complicate and overload -- which we do to distinguish ourselves from homecooks and sometimes maybe just to impress ourselves. There's a lot of tension between those two things.

I'm kind of surprised to see that you're not aware of the dominant trend in good restaurants in America -- since it's what so many of the "celebrity" chef's do. I'd suggest taking a look at the work which Tom Colicchio, Charlie Trotter, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagassie (to name a few) do to see if you find anything exciting in it. They have recipes all over the web.

The trend is balanced against a more Roger Verge/Chez Panisse influenced style exemplified by Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, Guy Martin and a lot of other people. Your restaurant sounds like it has pretensions along these lines. My point is, it isn't better it's just different -- but you've got to not only be able to execute it at some level because it's the same techniques (you're doing that now), but you've got to be able to understand it -- what makes it good, and not just what you don't like about it.

Hope this helps,
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Great posts guys. They definitely help me with my thought organization. I guess it really does boil down to what makes your heart sing. We're lucky to have so many different avenues to explore within this industry.
post #4 of 5
I think if you prepare any food, no matter how simple, with your heart in it, that to me is what defines a chef. You can make all the fancy foams, sauces and combos of rare ingedients you want and you won't necessarily impress me (although you might), but the person who makes a grilled cheese or hamburger wth the same attention to detail that they would give a fois gras with shaved truffles, now THERE'S a CHEF! I always think of my style of cooking as American classic diner. It only seems to go out style because we get chefs with big heads that don't think making a meat loaf is worthy of their great egos. Then every few years the haute cuisine places trot out mac and cheese and meat loaf like it's some great discovery. I once had a peer criticise me for "only knowing the old stuff", which is mostly true, but it has to do with the region I'm in and what sells here. I responded that it's been my observation that you can make some fancy, interesting dish, complicated and full of expensive ingerdients and you can make a med. rare porterhouse with sauteed mushrooms and fried potatoes. Put both dishes in front of the diner, and nine times out of ten, they'll take the steak. What more do you need to know? Just my opinion though, we'll see how other people feel.
post #5 of 5
Brilliant post alaska,

I too have eaten fois gras as well as iberico jamon and kobe beef and I still firmly believe that fried green tomatoes is the tastiest dish I have ever eaten.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Professional Chefs