The Fallacy of Restaurant Trends, Why can’t we just cook well?
In a recent Square Meal restaurant news (published 19 January 2015), there was an item by Dominic Rowntree titled : 2015 restaurant trends: what the insiders say ? The post stated: “…2014 was the year that the London restaurant scene was awash with a barrage of burgers, ramen and lobsters…” I must say that the “barrage of burgers” produced (since late 2012) is the worst, over cooked, dry, only burnt well-done burgers I had ever had in my life, presumably due to a Ministry of Health/Food Standards Agency (FSA) directive: that burgers should be served only Medium well or over or we will all die from mad cows salmonella E. Coli and other diseases?? “At present the guidance from the FSA is that for burgers the meat should be cooked at 158F (70C) for two minutes,” and so all, over zealous chefs burn our burgers to oblivion as if they are priest at a temple incinerating the meat as an offering to the GODS. (The “decorated burger on the right is what is left for you to do when you get a burned sole covered in cheese instead of a real juicy burger) Dominic Rowntree goes on asking: “But what does the New Year hold? We asked some of London’s top chefs and industry experts what to expect from 2015 – and here’s what they predicted.” . Surprisingly all chefs participating in the “quiz” were able to answer this difficult question and … surprise surprise they all thought the trend will be …what they are serving now (more or less)… For instance Robin Gill told us he thinks “fermented ingredients are going to be a big trend this year – kimchi especially”. Come on, give me a break Kimchi is a 2000 years old Korean way to preserve vegetables. Is it possible to say that fruit comfiture (confiture in french “confit” means “preserved”) is going to be trendy next year, OK you have been to Korea and was impressed by Kimchi, a side dish at best or an additive to a dish, the fact that Koreans eat it as a main dish does not qualify it as a main dish in a London restaurant!!! So how can a dish, which is at best is the Korean equivalent of say sophisticated Gherkins or any other spiced pickled vegetable, be considered as the best next thing???? Kimchi photo From: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/tongbaechu-kimchi Our next “delicacy” was “burnt kale”, I must admit that Kale is not my favorite veg. so burnt is fine by me, it is true it contains amazing nutritional qualities, but as a trend at a restaurant? Suggesting “simple and non-complicated classics” are making a comeback, is also problematic the fact they are classics means they’ve always been around and do not require a “COME BACK” The next best thing was the comment regarding “attention going to turn to a far healthier offering”?? Between us any food is already healthy, It keeps us alive innit? (or what is healthy for some is less healthy for others and vice versa) And just last month The US government’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings about its consumption. Do we really know what is health and what is not regarding food and its affect on our health? I think not! The group’s finding that cholesterol in the diet need no longer be considered a “nutrient of concern” stands in contrast to the committee’s findings five years ago, the last time it convened. During those proceedings, as in previous years, the panel deemed the issue of excess cholesterol in the American diet a public health concern. The finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now believe that, for healthy adults, eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease. The greater danger in this regard, these experts believe, lies not in products such as eggs, shrimp or lobster, which are high in cholesterol, but in too many servings of foods heavy with saturated fats, such as fatty meats, whole milk, and butter… (From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/10/feds-poised-to-withdraw-longstanding-warnings-about-dietary-cholesterol/) The idea of moderation in the consumption of food was introduced by the third of the three ancient Chinese emperors began his rule in 2697 BCE. He was called: the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi is the best known of the three early rulers, and for a long time He was assumed to have written the Neijing: The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine, although the work is now believed to have been composed in the 3rd century BC. This ancient book (be it 4700 yers old or 2350 years old already talks about moderation and balance in the food we eat: “Eat breakfast like an Emperor, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper!” It is not difficult to balance the ill effect of all food including fatty offerings by balancing the ingredients within the dish, fatty foods have a warming affect on the stomach (which is warm to begin with) so greens served with fatty meats will balance the ill effect of the fat, or greens which have a cooling affect when served on their own will be thrown into boiling water for a few seconds to “break up” their cooling ill effect on the stomach. (or Blanching in western cooking terms) Blanching is a cooking process wherein a vegetable or fruit, is plunged into boiling water, removed after a few seconds and finally plunged into iced water to stop the cooking process. José Pizarro agrees that healthier foods will come to the fore. In particular, he mentions that pulses will be big this year. “They are wonderfully cheap, versatile and super good for you. Back in Spain we use lentils, chickpeas and beans as the basis for most meals and they are no longer seen as a peasant staple.” All around the Mediterranean Pulses have been used as part of the diet/food for Thousands of years from before the Ancient Greeks to date (mainly as supplements or side dishes or part of the Mezze and not as a concept on it’s own). These are not a peasant staple, when prepared and spiced correctly and accompany the correctly while pairing ingredients, they indeed can be served to Kings, Aristocracy, Princes and Paupers alike. Between us, Food at a restaurant is not sustenance it is an event and as such it must be filled with fun, surprises, a celebration of tastes, colours, twists and indeed sinful. Such “Sins” that derive from luxurious or even “decadent” ingredients, the restaurant’s décor, exquisite wine, and eager company. we do not attend a restaurant every day, why can’t we have something special, out of the ordinary, almost regal, on our visit to a restaurantwhy can’t we be spoiled on the day with delicacies which are not on the “allowed list” good chefs serve balanced dishes anyway containing a variety of ingredients that end up together in a crescendo of tastes. It is therefor “free” from social “Trends” of the hour and relies solely on the artistry and imagination of the chef! “…see fewer gizmos and gadgets in the kitchen???” I say: use whatever is available for you to reach your goal : excellence in cooking. This goes on and on with various ideas and no real cooking. How about: Please excite me with proper cooking this year when I walk into your restaurant, for me this will suffice.