Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Answer: What happened to the classics?

A friend & talented chef recently posted on his blog, Chef Tenner Weekly a request to go on strike with him, a strike against the new & innovative. A question was posed, What happened to the classics?? Why does everything have to be new & innovative? I suggest you read the interesting post before you continue and then make a decision that reflects who you are as a foodie, chef or serious home cook.

I am the first to tell you that my menu at Tastings is by far new & innovative,no where near what restaurants like Alinea & WD-50 are doing, but we do use new and innovative techniques and products that we feel help to enhance our cuisine and give our guests a new and innovative dining experience if they choose to eat that particular dish.

Using products like ultra tex 3 to thicken a liquid(that otherwise would need heavy reduction or flavor changing agents) with no change in flavor whatsoever, soy lethicin to produce a lighter & healthier and what I believe is a more attractive alternative to a traditional sauce, agar agar to make hot gels, tapioca maltodextrin to give oils and other fat based products a new texture and visual appeal(and these are just some of the more popular and easy to use products). These new & innovative products give me a much broader range of possibilities when I am trying to develop a dish, it gives me another layer of flavor and texture to further enhance the dishes my team & I create, including new renditions of the classics. Take our very traditional Berkshire Braised Pork Shank over house cured pancetta and butter beans with Almond Milk Air. Many would say without trying the dish, that the almond Milk is not needed, but after experiencing the dish it is apparent that the almond Milk(made in house) is aerated and produces a very appealing look and added layer of flavor to bring the dish to the next level.

I understand and respect Chef Tenners reasoning and argument,and he is one of the most intellectual chefs I know. I also see a culinary world that is changing right before our eyes. A culinary world that wants to experience food in a new & non traditional manner.A culinary world that is using the classic building blocks to combine the old & the new and create a new form of art.

Believe me, I could eat amazing cheese on a freshly baked baguette with a bottle of red wine all day, to me a perfect meal. I could also take that cheese and create a liquid filled cheese sphere with dehydrated crostini and a film of red wine gel and experience a new,exciting, fun and refined rendition of a very traditional French lunch.

I honestly believe it is a serious part of my job as a chef to make sure that the classic and the traditional is not forgotten, it is where all my knowledge comes from, it is how I got to be in the position where I am today. But I also feel that my job as a chef is to continue to learn and explore the new possibilities, try and take food to the next level and teach these new techniques to young chefs who have proven their ability to preserve the tradition of classic international gastronomy.

First and foremost the product has to be the finest product that you can get your hands on, then if you can support your local farmers and fisherman do it....utilize your traditional training and combine it with innovative, new and fun techniques and products that still tastes amazing.....Ill be making a reservation at your place.

I will not be joining the strike........

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

richard,
I commend your innovation and inspiration. I too believe that the two worlds can coexist...tradition and innovation. when my strike has ended and I have had my fill of hand made classics, i will join you at the table of progress. But I stand firm in my belief that we'll never fully appreciate the future if we don't understand the past; and I see far too many young cooks skipping the step of learning from history. The restaurant world has ironically seperated us from what food means to its indigenous cultures. Kudos to you chef for your convictions.