Check out the San Pellegrino Top 50 Best Restaurants. Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark takes the #1 spot, Daniel in NYC rises 33 spots into the top 10 along with Alinea (up 3) and Per Se (down 4) and French Landry drops 20 spots to #32. Eleven Madison Park, WD~50 make the list for the first time. Way to go Eleven Madison Park (see my blog entry from April 19th).
Posts Tagged ‘Food Media’
Last night I watched Future Food featuring Chefs Homaru Cantu and Ben Roche of Moto restaurant in Chicago. To say it was interesting is an understatement. Before I launch into my thoughts, let me give you some background. Several years ago, during one of my eating trips to Chicago, I had the pleasure of visiting Moto restaurant and meeting Chef Cantu. At just over 6 feet tall, Omar, as he is called, is often referred to as the Edison of edibles due to the wide array of patents he holds in a variety of disciplines including food. He has a reputation for innovation and for seeing the world of food through a very unusual and creative set of lenses. My meal and experience at Moto offered positive proof of Cantu’s pension for the unusual as well as theatrical in culinary arts. That Omar has a new show out on Planet Green called Future Food makes total sense to me based on what I saw three years ago. Omar has a great knowledge of food, science, design, and theater and the show allows his wide variety of talents to truly shine through.
Cantu is a pedigreed chef who graduated from Western Culinary Institute prior to it becoming part of the Le Cordon Bleu empire. He has an inspiring rags-to-riches history, having spent time homeless early in life prior to pulling himself up by the straps of his non-skid, rubber soled, kitchen boots. Roche is a gifted alumnus of the world renowned International Baking & Pastry Institute at Johnson & Wales University. Both are mad scientists.
I enjoyed watching Future Food last night and think the show will do well. The chemistry between Cantu and Roche (no pun intended) is electric at times and the two demonstrate cooking techniques and an approach to creativity that will be of interest to most who have a passion for food or food related entertainment. Like Moto restaurant, the show
itself places a tremendous emphasis on the theatrics and shock value of creating molecular gastronomy treats like sushi made from “tuna” which is composed of compressed watermelon that has been infused with nori. Striking in appearance and similarity to tuna, the item looked identical to the real thing but its flavor was just the opposite and appeared to fall flat. When Cantu and Roche conducted a taste test of the tuna, several who tasted the item in a local Chicago supermarket appeared to think they were eating the real thing but realized quickly that the item wasn’t tuna. They were less impressed by the flavor than the look of the dish. But is the show about flavor and taste or about technique, curiosity, creativity, and theatrics? Is the restaurant business just about the food today or is it about more than that?
Either way, I like these guys both in person and on TV. They are, at times, out of their minds with odd-ball creativity and we need people in foodservice who occupy the fringe. I also think that exposing more Americans to this sort of creative approach to food and cooking, regardless of whether you
like molecular gastronomy or not, will add richness to our national food dialog. Some will disagree as there are many in the culinary world who hate the notion of molecular gastronomy. The night I dined at Moto, Mario Batali (another guy I think the world of) was there. After being served and edible menu (edible ink printed on a thin cracker and baked), one of his first comments was “what is this Frankenfood?” Mario’s preference for eating (and cooking) flavorful, traditional food could not be suppressed at the dinner table that night nor should it have been. Although I doubt Batali fully enjoyed his meal, I do know that the meal made him think. Is this part of the Cantu-Roche plan? Probably.
The boundaries between art and science have been blurring in recent years particularly in culinary arts. Much has been written about this phenomenon from the more general musings of Daniel Pink in a Whole New Mind to the more technical and complex writings of David Edwards in Artscience: Creativity in the post-Google Generation. Pink proposes a future where the right-brained creative set (chefs included) rise up against a social norm created by left brain conformists due to changing market forces. Artscience, on the other hand, describes how new realms of creativity are being born at the intersection of art and science resulting in new forms of reality. Edwards, a professor of biomedical engineering at Harvard, provides a direct culinary example of the theory he proposes in Artscience with LeWhif. He used his expertise in pulmonary drug delivery to create a food that you breathe and monetized it via LeWhif. Ever consider inhaling chocolate to sate your craving? It seems odd to even think about this, but it’s compelling none the less. The same is true of Cantu’s work.
The notion of food taking on new and unusual forms is not new, contrary to popular belief. Cantu’s culinary aesthetic
and personal history mirror those of what many consider the originator of haute cuisine; Chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833). As any culinary school graduate knows, Carême, after recoving from being orpahned at a young age, became the darling of 19th century elite for his bizzare creativity and elaborate pastry pièces montées. These creations, like Cantu and Roche’s watermelon tuna, were created out of one ingredient (often sugar and flour) but constructed to look like something entirely different (a bird, flower, building etc.) Carême, like Cantu, Roche and Edwards today, was also capable of interdisciplinary transfer when coming up with new ideas. He studied history and architecture and plyed his craft with a heavy influence from both. He also studied politics and positioned himself with people who provided him the widest exposure including a stint as chef for the now famous Tallyrand (Charles Maurice de Tallyrand-Périgord, 1754-1838). Cantu has positioned himself using similar tactics. This stuff isn’t new, it’s just reframed for a contemporary audience and culture.
Was Carême’s aesthetic the “frankenfood” of its day? Highly likely. One can only speculate, but I am sure the average pesant passing by Carême’s Parisian pâtisserie was shocked and confused by his flaboyant creations sitting in the shop window not to mention they were starving to deaty (let them eat cake!) Mario’s classical preferences aside, I think many of the nonprofessional viewing audience who watched Future Food last night woke up this morning with questions in their mind about what they saw. And that’s the point. The conversation about molecular gastronomy has been taken to another level with Future Food and Cantu and Roche along with the folks at the Green Channel have incited it. Will this eventually lead to home cooks chasing down a gallon of liquid nitrogen (do not try this at home) so they can cook on their own anti-griddle? Will stay-at-home moms and dads begin Cryovacing (yes that’s a verb) watermelon to see what happens? Time will tell.
Back in March of 2006 a group of us met with Bill Shaw, President and C.O.O., of Marriott International and he stated the following: “Previous experience embeds a given paradigm. Moving to a new context requires a shift in paradigm and a concentrated effort to get past old ways.” Shaw’s statement probably links with the premise of Future Food but, as a classical chef, I am not completely ready to leave my “old ways” in the kitchen. For now, however, I think we should encourage Cantu and Roche to keep the conversation going and see where it takes us! Future Food does not represent the future of food…yet!
For some time I have wondered why so many people in the food world are fascinated by Twitter. Chefs have been using Twitter regularly for a couple of years now and in some cases gained national attention for their tweets. Their posts are harmless anecdotes in some cases and in others can be quite harmful. New York Times food writer Julia Moskin captured in a February 2010 article examples of how chefs are behaving badly through the use of Twitter. Twitter appears to be some sort of digital megaphone that people are using in a knee jerk way. I don’t get it.
However, I do know that Twitter has proven to be a useful way to connect buyers and sellers. The popular press has reported via several high profile stories, about the multitude of food trucks using Twitter as a serious marketing tool. Celebrity chefs and popular restaurants have caught on as well and now you can follow your favorite on Twitter. Twitter appears to be a serious marketing tool.
After reading Moskin’s story I signed up for an account and searched out a chef that I would enjoy following. Chef Chris Cosentino (@OffalChris) fit the bill. Chris was one of my students back in the 1990’s and was mentioned in Moskin’s story. With a new Twitter account of my own (@satedepicure) and some time exploring the Twitter environment, my understanding of Twitter was starting to clarify.
Final clarity was found when I met Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and chairman of Twitter. Jack presented a one hour session to a group of us about his background, the founding of Twitter, and where Twitter is headed strategically. Jack, like many an internet prodigy, is a wonderfully articulate guy who exudes a high degree of authenticity and intellect.
He’s clean cut, casual, and travels the planet with an iphone and a days worth of razor stubble on his chin. Dorsey created Twitter out of pure curiosity as a utility to help people communicate in singular or broadcast form in as simple a way as possible. As a result, he liberated digital communication by creating a system that allows anyone to communicate or “tweet” to the entire planet in 140 characters or less using a cheap mobile phone with text messaging capability. Dorsey repeatedly mentioned three characteristics that make Twitter unique. He stated that Twitter provides users immediacy, transparency, and simplicity when it comes to communication. These three factors are catalysts that enable greater human interaction. Think of the tweets as triggers for increased human interaction and feelings of connectivity. I finally get it.
Twitter provides chefs and restaurateurs with an inexpensive tool for connecting on a regular basis with their customers and for broadcasting brief real time messages to their broader constituents. Due to Twitter’s architecture, these constituents can respond to such a post providing additional perspective and transparency. In effect these additional posts pull the truth out of a message (in theory). The whole process is extremely simple and, in the best cases, trigger human interaction. In the worst cases, Twitter is a tool that can enable some chefs to be reckless in a very public way. Like any tool in the kitchen, Twitter can be beneficial of detrimental; it all depends on how you use it.
Before the year is over Emeril Lagasse is likely to have three shows airing nationally on three different networks: “Emeril Green” (Discovery Communication’s Planet Green), “The Emeril Lagasse Show” (ION Television), and “Emeril’s
Fresh Food Fast” (Scripps Networks Cooking Channel). “Emeril Green” is a fantastic show currently airing that is recorded on location at Whole Foods market. “The Emeril Lagasse Show” launches on the ION Television network later this month. The show will feature a recorded prime-time talk show with a “live entertainment meets cooking show” format. This is a configuration Emeril is familiar with and one that allows Emeril to shine.
When the Food Network ceased production of Emeril’s flagship “Emeril Live” back in 2007 I wasn’t surprised. The Food Network’s transition away from cooking instruction by cream of the crop professionals like Emeril and toward food-related entertainment has been happening for some time. Scripps Networks, parent of The Food Network appears to be aware of this shift and the need to correct it. Scripps’ announcement of the creation of the Cooking Channel, The Food Networks younger more practical sibling, could represent a return to the old Food Network’s roots. Having Emeril join in the launch of Cooking Channel is simply a matter of history repeating itself. Emeril has the talent and clout to move this fledgling forward even with the other two shows airing concurrently.
Emeril is a guy who carries a load beyond what is humanly possible when you consider the number of successful
restaurants, ventures, television shows and philanthropic causes he is committed to. Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to interact with him in person on multiple occasions and even though he is flat out busy, he always radiates a deep love of food, positive attitude and authentic personality. The last time I saw him was in November 2009. It was toward the end of the night at his annual Carnivale du Vin fundraiser for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation and he was sitting at a table near the front of the room listening to the Neville Brothers play their last few songs. He looked exhausted but when I approached he leaned forward, grabbed my hand, shook it and thanked me for attending. Emeril is never too tired to be positive. That night he and some of the world’s greatest chefs including his buddies Mario Batali and Charlie