Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Preach it, Alton

What does foam do? Cover up bad cooking, by and large.

Show me you can cook a carrot properly. Show me you can cook a carrot perfectly 100 times....then we'll talk about the little white powders.

David Chang has taken to the Twitterverse criticizing the Alton Brown video above. So, I thought perhaps an explanation was in order. First, everyone should know that I have the greatest respect for Chang and love his restaurants....LOVE his restaurants.

Here's my problem: I don't understand why practitioners of modernist cuisine are so insecure. There is very little to argue in Brown's points.(with the notable exception of 'it's not food') Yes, it is imperative to have a cook who can reproduce a perfectly executed chicken breast 100 times. Yes, it is imperative to great cuisine to have cooks who can execute a perfectly cooked carrot 100 times. And above all, it is imperative to have cooks who know how to properly use salt. Are too many 'wet behind the ears' cooks straight out of culinary school too interested in 'meat glue' and not interested enough in how to light the pilot on the oven,the best way to pit a cherry or the proper time to pick beans? Yes. His point that foams generally cover up bad basic cooking is also, in my experience, very true. In the wrong hands is spherification a bad idea? Yes. Is it over done? Yes, in the same manner that bacon cupcakes were never a good idea. Chang himself just tweeted last week that 'Cooks today not as skilled as past generations, labor laws too stringent, not a bad thing but certainly the demise of dining in general' I've got to think he's referring to the 'basics' not their ability to use methylcellulose.

In the end, Alton Brown isn't blazing any trails with his comments. It's been said before, but I can't agree with Chang that he's 'mostly wrong', because he's not.

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