Saturday, October 13, 2007

Oh, come on.

Excuse my rambling. I've got half an eye on the Red Sox game.

Anthony Bourdain is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
In an article in People magazine (it was posted on, NO, I don't read People), Bourdain tore into "celebrity chef" Rachael Ray for her promotion of Dunkin' Donuts.

"I'm not a very ethical guy. I don't have a lot of principles. But somehow this seems to me over the line. Juvenile diabetes has exploded. Half of Americans don't have necks. And she's up their saying, 'Eat some [...] Dunkin' Donuts. You look great in that swimsuit – eat another doughnut! That's evil," Bourdain said.

Take a minute to find the irony of this coming from a man who:
1. claims to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day - is there any better example of people being conned into doing something bad for them thanks to good advertising?)
2: goes to great lengths to prove that his body is an amusement park, not a temple, and
3: whom I wouldn't be surprised to find on my front step one day in a white-collared shirt and tie trying to convince me how much happier my life would be if I would just drink a pint of duck fat a day.

Of course, we ARE talking about Dunkin' Donuts here (which doesn't hold a candle to the flavor of duck confit, in my opinion), but it's a little condescending and elitist to eschew one kind of fat over another, just because you think your palate is more refined.

And what has the world come to where people care to hear the thoughts of a chef who wrote some overblown, testosterone-laced half-work of fiction about life in a professional kitchen? (For that matter, what has this world come to where people care what I think about Anthony Bourdain?) (Just a personal note - yes, Kitchen Confidential was entertaining. But true? Don't believe everything you read.)

But I'm gonna tell you anyway. Being a cook, I get asked fairly often what I think about Rachael Ray, Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse, and the rest of the Food Network crew. The popular action among professional cooks is to brush them aside as a waste of space, "not real chefs," and
(especially in Emeril's case) "sellouts." In my humble opinion, this is the thoughtless idiocy of the cooks who got into this business because they believed the lies Bourdain spews. But let's overlook all of that in favor of what these cooks, and as a whole, the Food Network, have done for the restaurant business. Long story short, a television network dedicated to happy, exciting personalities introducing the mass public to different styles of food, different kinds of cuisine, and more interesting ingredients can only be good for the restaurant business.
As a cook, I might get castigated for this opinion, but I find it verrrrry difficult to argue. It allows the restaurant I work in to serve things like beet sorbets, goat cheese, and mache, instead of the same old steak/mushroom/red wine, pasta/chicken/vegetable/cream sauce, and romaine lettuce/caesar dressing/roasted garlic combinations. Educating the public about what we do is GOOD. In my view, it's like what television did for Major League Baseball (and, to reverse-engineer that statement, what the lack of television coverage has done to the NHL). Expand the market, expand the fan base. How could this be any more clear?

Anyways. On to another topic. I've been sitting in my apartment almost all day (save for about an hour outside - it's just one of them days), so I've got a lot to say. Bear with me.
I watched the Top Chef reunion special today. I hate reunion specials. I did have an interesting debate with myself, though (wow, could I possibly come off as any more of a loser?). Bravo set up a montage during the special of (the eventual winner) Hung's use of the sous vide technique. Sous vide entails vacuum-sealing any kind of food in plastic and poaching it slowly in water. It's a fairly "new" technique, invented in the 1970s in France but is quickly coming into fashion as chefs realize that a tough meat cooked by the sous vide method comes out of that plastic bag exquisitely tender.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of it. Aesthetically (can I use that word to talk about flavor and texture? Let's run with it.), I like my food to have some texture. A melt-in-your-mouth braise, to me, tastes and feels entirely different than something poached for four hours in a bag. But more importantly, at what point do we let machines do all of the work? At what point to we keep our hands off altogether and turn into a Jetsons-esque eating culture, in which all of our food comes out of a robot? If a food doesn't have soul, it doesn't have anything. (It sounds cliched, but it's true.) If things continue the way they are, we'll lose the ability to cook altogether.
But where is the line drawn? I'd fervently argue for technological innovations like gas burners, brulee torches, and deep-fryers. Does this make me a hypocrite? Or just unwilling to let the standards slip any more? Does it even matter, as long as the food comes out great?

The Red Sox have lost in grand fashion (giving up 7 runs in the 11th (Thanks, Eric Gagne! - and you've gotta click on this link - it's hilarious AND and apt metaphor.) )- I think that's it from me. I have nothing else even remotely relevant to say.

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