Originally Posted by durangojo
please indulge me a short rant...lord only knows where it's coming from....i think that with all the talk lately about cake testers instead of fingers and eyes, pressure cooking risotto instead of smelling and stirring and watching, bread machines replacing breadmaking, just got me thinking....in what direction is the 'art' of cooking heading? is there still an 'art' of cooking that exists or is it being replaced with 'stuff' to make it easier to get the food on the plate, but removes you farther from the food? seems to me the senses; eyes, ears, nose, fingers and the whole sensuality of cooking is being replaced. are you as chefs part of the problem or part of the solution? helping, hindering, changing or taking the easy way out?...it's really overwhelmingly sad for me to believe that it may become a lost art..... a lost challenge
i certainly am not against change or technological advances...but i am concerned and somewhat afraid of the destruction and lack of respect for this wonderful art form in the name of progress...we as serious chefs need to do more than hope that it will just get better...we need to be proactive, nurture and continue to teach and to do things the artisan way, not always the easy way
thanks for the indulgence.......any thoughts?
yes, i realize that there is a time and a place for everything, but i cannot tell you all the times when cooking a roast or a prime rib or a whole beef tenderloin in the oven when the meat thermometer said one thing, but my all my senses signaled another.....and i was 99.99% right every time
I'll address the cake tester issue first since that seems directed at me.
First of all, cake testers are by no means a "new" idea to hit cooking. In fact, sticking a thin skewer in meat to feel the temperature probably predates instant read and digital thermometers by many, many, many years. I first learned of the technique from an older chef, trained in classic french cooking who learned it while working for Fredy Giradet in Switzerland in the 80's. I know for a fact that the kitchens of Ripert, Colicchio, Keller, Bolud (and likely many, many more top level chefs) use them in the kitchen for many different things.
It is another tool in the chef's toolkit. When I work the grill, I use a combination of touch, smell, sound, sight and using a cake tester to cook things. Can I tell how a filet is cooked by touch? Of course I can. I've cooked thousands. Slightly harder is a 28oz bone in ribeye, or a porterhouse, or larger steaks. Dry aged steaks can have different feel than a regular steak. A dry aged sirloin feels a lot different than a regular sirloin. Sometimes on a filet the grain of the meat will be loose, or the meat will be extra mushy, so touch might not be the best indicator. I know even the best cooks and chefs sometimes (even very very rarely) have steaks sent back because they "swore it felt medium rare" even when it turned out to be medium. Hell, maybe it only happens once out of every 2000 steaks, or once or twice a year, but it can, and does, still happen to the best cooks.
Again, it's another tool. I'm not suggesting that if you are cooking a banquet for 500 people or working the grill at a turn-and-burn chain restaurant or mid-priced steakhouse you should probe every steak.
But really, just because you and a handful of other chefs on this board haven't heard of this technique makes it no less valid or a replacement for the "art" of cooking. Just because you haven't heard of it before doesn't mean you should just summarily dismiss it because it doesn't jibe with what you think should be done.
Instead of rebelling against ideas that are new and different, maybe some of you would be better served by opening your mind to new things and accepting that you don't know the best/only way for everything. In every aspect of cooking there are probably dozens of ways to do things and, barring the obvious dangerous or outright terrible things, none of them less valid than the other.
That all being said...
I agree that there is a downward trend happening in the industry. Some of it is just the natural course of things. Many things that used to be built by hand are now made by machines. In fact, most things are now made by machine so that saying something is "hand made" is a selling point rather than the norm. This trend is, and has been, working its way into the food industry for decades. You are right durangojo is that it is up to us, as the current generation of chefs, to make sure a lot of this stuff isn't lost. The trend on FoodTV, magazines, etc is to make everything "easy" and to not challenge or scare people.
I also think that there is natural blowback towards things that are new and different. I imagine every time something new comes along there are chefs and cooks who scream that it is taking the art out of cooking. What did the chefs say when gas ovens and stoves first became the norm? I'm sure many of them rebelled against it, instead thinking that wood burning stoves and ovens were the one true way. Now gas is normal. Gas is the standard. Now wood is trendy (wood ovens, wood grills) instead of the only thing available. What did they say about refrigeration? Why do i need to store my food for a long time? I serve fresh food! I don't need to store it! Now, we refrigerate everything. It's normal. What about freezing?
Now we have sous vide, induction cooking, combi-ovens, c-vaps, smoking guns, etc. A lot of current chefs rebel against this stuff. Oh, it takes the SOUL out of cooking. You don't even have to turn on the stove! ("You don't even have to light a wood oven anymore!")
Should we hand back our blenders? Our robot coupes? Our hobart mixers? People said the same thing about these things I'm sure. "Oh, I don't even have to chop my vegetables anymore! Where is the craft in that?" "I don't have to knead dough by hand? A machine does it for me? Where is the bread making art in that?"
Everyone is nostalgic for the previous generation/era, the "good times" and whatnot. To me, this is an exciting time to be a chef. The availability of ingredients on a global scale, the technology being used in service of fine food, and the science behind our understanding of why food behaves the way it does (the chemistry, etc) is at an all time high. We should be embracing a lot of these things instead of being defeatist about them.