Welcome back to our monthly series of BLANK as Art! As a recap, this is where we uncover, rediscover and often redefine what “art” is.
In our first post, we stated the sheer definition of “art” as: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
While the definition suggests that painting and sculpture are the common visual forms, we understand, as a people, that many other categories can fit into the art definition. Our aim is to get you to look at the world a little differently. Walk past a specific cloud formation and be moved emotionally or hear a piece of music and sense the beauty.
Today we explore the sheer art form of food.
This is a hot-button topic that has been lighting up the chat rooms for a few years now. One could make the argument that the birth of Food Television created a band of Celebrity Chefs that all use creativity and the desire to move emotion in order to stand out among the many in their field. For me we need look no further that painters use a palette to express themselves and chefs use your palate to do the same. This coincidence cannot be overlooked.
I myself come deeply rooted in the world of food and beverage. 15 years in the trenches of fine dining management have given me an intimate connection to the plight of executive chefs and their desire to move you emotionally.
Here then are 4 reasons that food is art!
Nowadays, in almost every setting outside the cafeteria line, chefs are using the plate as their canvas. The preparation of the food is but a footnote in the overall presentation of what your senses are about to receive. Some use large plates with small portions of food to suggest the expanse of the dining experience, the vastness of possibilities and the gentle application of color, texture and layers to unveil their long thought out masterpiece to the recipient. Not unlike real art, the greater the thought in plating is the higher price you are going to pay for it.
If you have ever been lucky enough to get a sneak peek into a fine dining kitchen on a Saturday night at 8 pm, you have been privy to “the dance”. This is the carefully orchestrated and timed movements of the kitchen staff moving in every direction imaginable in order to stay on top of the relentless ticket machine spitting out demands. Each member responsible for the two-three foot workspace in front of them, but invariably needing items outside the designated area that require ducking, diving and swirling rhythmically as to not upset their neighbor clad in all white and focused on their own personal task at hand. Bodies flying everywhere, some holding knives, and never coming into contact. With the executive chef at the helm like a conductor monitoring all the movements in the ant colony closely for any room for improvement and efficiency. The scene is awe-inspiring and true art in the purest form.
This is where the rubber hit the road for me in food as art. Before my first stint in fine dining, I had eaten great food and I had sipped fine wine, but I had never taken the suggestion from the brainchild born from two mighty artisans in their craft and married the two. When the Executive Chef and the Sommelier get together to discuss flavor profiles and ingredients in their own respective inventories, amazing things happen. When a perfectly cooked rib eye steak is paired with an old vine zinfandel and the black pepper notes from the wine swirl on the palate with the butter richness of the beef, the term cathartic is inept. If you go into a place with a sommelier be sure and utilize their suggestion based on your appetite that evening. This is art in the purest form.
Leave it to Pixar to simplify our own thought processes and present them in a way that we can all understand. The catalyst of this movie is that the ice-cold curmudgeon of a food critic serves one purpose in his lonely existence. That is to pick apart all forms of food and exposé the flaws to the public. That is until he has the peasants dish prepared for him of ratatouille. On the first bite, he is whisked back to his childhood, to an easier happier time. The surrounding light is golden and suggestions of his mother and her maternal love envelop him. Immediately his impenetrable exterior is shattered and he is reintroduced to his love for dining. This is the power of food as an art form and is replicated in individuals daily all around the world.
There is no doubt that food is art. Anything that attacks one, or more of our senses and causes a severe redirection of that sense is certainly art. Anything that requires such planning, thinking, and practice in the hopes of flawless execution and emotional appeal is art. The only problem now is where am I going to find a steak and glass of old vine zinfandel at 9 am?