Spring Ingredients...

After reading an excerpt obtained from the web about Ferran Adria's take on a few things that have come into their own in this new millenia, stating this and that about everything from molecular gastronomy to sensory enhancement to technology to elements of taste, one of the most provocative of the statements, albeit quite true and honest, was the topic of ingredients. Specifically...that unique, stellar and the most interesting and freshest of them are now taken for granted and more so...expected! In this day and age, when simply having fresh asparagus in spring is no longer the norm, but the expected, they tend to sort of fall out of the limelight that they once held. Now on one hand, it is great to see the evolution of our communities and customers tastes, education and expectations, which inevitably hold us as chefs to much greater and higher standards. Bravo for that! And yet, it is so expected at times and in places that the only left it seems, is to alter it, if even by chemically or molecular done practices. I do agree and support the notion that this forward movement is driving out the mediocrity, poor sourcing, substandard quality and commonplace methods of operation in restaurants just to make a higher profit margin for some ignorant cat who is more concerned about making payments on his or her Mercedes than giving good product, and is most likely in bed with the large volume brokers, huge corporate suppliers or perhaps...just simply does not give a shit or know any better. Touche! For those that know me, I am one that definitely supports high quality products, locally foraged and found ingredients, fauna from the best of humane breeders and ranchers and ecosystem-friendly harvested sea life. The list goes on. I have built my reputation and career on purity. Extreme high quality. Hell, I have been spoiled in many circumstances with the best of products and resources, and am probably preaching to the choir. I am fortunate that I am able to perfect and present my craft to those discerning diners who enjoy, and yes, expect great products in which I provide for them. It pushes me to do even better. And yes, I do at times become over-analytical about the products in order to "create something new" out of them at the expense of the naturalness of itself. I am a victim and a proponent. So...as I ramble on about this, know that I am on the same page of this and will continue to do my part to help the cause, support the calibre of ingredients to weed out the piss-poor mates who give the rest of us cooks a bad name and to always maintain what I can to make the farmer-chef connection a sustainable one. But I do offer you this...we can not let the simple thought of the freshest of ingredients become mundane or un-important, if even by nature of habit, as it can tend to be when everything becomes no longer special due to overindulgence. We can not lose sight of and continue to appreciate the very nature of what sparked the topic. The beautiful thing that nature brings us...the ingredient. What does this mean??? Probably nothing more than just the statement and observation itself. Am I saying that we should not strive to promote the best of ingredients in fear that they will not be special sometime in the future? No. Just saying to think about it. Information to our clientele is paramount and the more we communicate to them about what we are doing, the more in touch they will become with our practices and ingredients. In the long run to me, it is far better to have the best product taken for granted than to have shitty product with only a few instances of good ingredients be the norm. The article also mirrored the use of high-tech equipment and very sophisticated techniques as the same, but that is another post! Enjoy the ingredients brought to us from the Chef's Garden!


Blogger Michael Walsh said...

You hit the nail on the head with this post my friend!!! The consumer base has become what i call 'dumb-educated' in that diners might think they are getting something special by ordering Asparagus in Ohio in December, when in fact they are getting something horrible. Something that is vile to our economy, environment, and palete.

Big Box, mega-purveyors are equally at fault with half-assed restaurantures who open restaurants where nothing is actually cooked, and or prepped there, then turn out a lie when it comes to describing their establishment. This is especially prevelant in mid-western moderatly prices establishments where everything on the menu is deep fried, pre-chared, or boil in bag from sysco. Even when you are up a notch from this type of restaurant, I have been ordered by owners to order x amount of dollars from a mega-purveyor because they in fact own half of our bar (dishwasher, glass sink, soda guns) and that is how the game is played.

I as a fellow chef feel very discouraged in alot of ways because of many peoples preceptions about the simplicity of our work. We are not just cooks, we are researchers, shoppers, educators, mentors, leaders, but we do it all because of our passion for good food. I can tell you i've done everything i can to help all the people around me, in and outside the restaurant to understand the importance of good food, good ingrediants, and the total effect these have on the world as a whole. Thanks for the thought provoking post, and please check out my thoughts on some similar items at, http://viewfromthekitchen.blogspot.com/2007/04/2500-miles-worth-of-diesel-fuel-fair.html

7:46:00 PM  
Blogger cuisinier said...

Hey Michael, thanks for the reply. I was also trying(hopefully successfully) to convey my sincere appreciation for that same knowledge when true to form and honest, as I have found that the public is much more savvy and well traveled and dined. We as chefs benefit from that and in some cases...die by that! Never ending saga I am sure. At the end of the day, just cook good food I guess. Keep the faith. Bill

1:34:00 PM  

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