Not to make this long and boring, a few points on what I think is an important aspect of the future of dining - the differences of concept between Europe and the US:
- Every French, Spanish, British and Italian restaurateur now looks to the US as an example of what to do, as the pioneers in the newer concepts of restaurant dining. The stuffy 'luxury' European restaurant is a dying breed because, first, it's too damn expensive and far-removed from 21st century lifestyles, and second, because the less formal, more fun but equally professional, modern American restaurants have become everyone's model. So whatever the future holds in store, one thing is pretty sure - we'll see it in the US first. The admiration for the rhythm, the atmosphere, the excitement, the pizzazz of the better, modern restaurants in the US is widespread throughout the world, IMHO.
- As to what we'll be eating in these Americanized restaurants worldwide, it's such a fast-evolving scene that predictions are quite difficult. Ever more high-tech-aided 'molecular gastronomy'? I don't know. Even in Spain, the supposed beacon of technological light, I see that my colleague the journalist Rafael García Santos, the greatest mover and shaker of the El Bulli revolution in the media (and through his yearly symposium, Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía), is starting to despair about so many young cooks producing culinary caricatures with lots of sous-vide and liquid nitrogen.
- This was to be expected. Ridiculous excess killed Nouvelle Cuisine (or, at least, Nouvelle Cuisine's glamorous image) 25 years ago. The same may happen in Spain and perhaps elsewhere in the near future. Me, I believe in blatant eclecticism to keep the fun going and, at the same time, to keep in touch with our roots. So a restaurant (thinking here of places like Celler de Can Roca in Spain or like Blue Hill in New York, where Bux and Mrs. B took me a few months ago...) where they would offer, on the same menu, wisely balanced dollops of sheer, brilliant (scarce!) raw materials, of high tech (for me, a little bit of liquid nitrogen perhaps, and a lot more of sous-vide, which is a great technique), of cheeky but well-judged fusion that works, and of a little raw, unadorned tradition that can't be improved on... That would be my idea of a nice food experience in the 21st century. With wines chosen with the same eclecticism, that would enhance the one defining, decisive aspect of the whole experience: Pleasure!
- Lately, in Madrid, I've noticed how two chefs who come from totally opposite ends of the spectrum, Abraham García of Viridiana (traditional low-tech training, little interest in foams and syringes, but an open mind to fusion for more than 20 years) and Sergi Arola of La Broche (Adrià's No. 2 man for years, and a child of high tech) are actually coinciding in their interest in fun and 'real' food, which translates into their refined versions of 'street food' from Spain, Turkey, Morocco or Mexico...
- Then again, unpredictable things happen in dining: something is deemed unsafe, or politically incorrect, and we change our eating habits. The other night at Viridiana, with the charming proprietors of Frascati, the fine San Francisco bistrot, we enjoyed Abraham's terrific signature dish, duck foie gras (house-smoked on maple cuttings, served on rich brioche with a few drops of sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry and a rose-petal chutney) as if it were the last platter of foie gras in our lives! This was because, as they reminded me, next year there will be no more foie gras in California...
Victor de la Serna
El Mundo, Madrid
Edited by vserna, 26 September 2005 - 11:28 AM.