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Putty Man

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Everything posted by Putty Man

  1. You just know that he's got a cape in the wardrobe.
  2. Can't help thinking that Flinn was a victim of the Matthew Effect. While Heston rose vertiginously to become the demiurge, Flinn, inversely vertiginously, slid into national obscurity. Shame really since, on paper at least, there wasn't much between the two.
  3. Indeed it does. In fact it tells us that merely doing something well is not only insufficient to get oneself noticed and hence generate the necessary trade, but also arguably detrimental. The UK restaurant scene is driven by novelty and gimmickry. Novelty is great since it goes out of its way to avoid comparison. Consequently, it often serves as a mask for mediocrity. Gimmickry is the food-writer's 'readymade'. Foie gras parfait is hard to write about, but if disguised as mandarin it becomes an unstoppable meme.
  4. Not doubt it will be criticized for being retro and basic, but it is nice to have a food show that is about the food rather than about the presenter.
  5. Sous-vide has been used in top kitchens since the 80s. However, it is modernist cuisine that has fetishised outré techniques. You may claim not to be impressed, but MG's most lauded exponents never shut up about the extent gadgetry plays in their cooking. Indeed, scientism has given an added value of food for over a decade.
  6. Unlike JP, I couldn't give a monkey's what people do at home (dinner parties have always been about having one's culinary sensibilities offended), but I have a serious problem with the degree with which culinary accolades are accorded to professionals who practice 'modernism' for the simple reason that they practice modernism (cf San Pellegrino's top 50 ). An Adriá fanboy once tried to argue that this kind of food 'isn't supposed to taste nice'; to which there is little response except to stop paying attention.
  7. Probably. This site seems to be a nexus for gastro-geekery. Personally, what I dislike about 'modernism' is that its practitioners define themselves as somehow apart and above gastronomy, when in actual fact the only fundamental difference is a self-consciousness about what happens to food at a molecular level. What's missing from modernist cuisine are such things as restraint, good-taste, knowledge of culinary history, vision and imagination. Hence so much of its output is characterised by the infantile appeal of brightly-coloured and over-flavoured pap. I can see its appeal for young and gastronomically ignorant technophiles, but credibility requires that the movement achieves a lot more than making stuff very, very soft.
  8. Nice to see Ramsay in this list. Was GR@RHR last month and, it pains me to this, it was outstanding.
  9. This is what I mean by non-problem. Sous-vide did not make this possible since braising and slow-cooking had already been available techniques for millennia.
  10. I think this might be the hang up that's confusing you. The issue with much (not all or even most) food is not in 'solving problems' but in creating art. Thanks, but I'm not at all confused. I have no problem if individuals want to have fun messing around with food. The problem comes in the posturing by many 'modernist' chefs as something other, and vastly more important, than mere chefs. Ferran Adriá may have changed the food scene, but that doesn't mean that he isn't/wasn't a pretentious pseudo-intellectual, or that it was a change for the better. Indeed, 'new' is not a synonym for 'progress'. If there is to be any progress at all, it comes from those not so arrogant to rubbish everything that came before them and who don't make grandiose claims and publish inane manifestos. I can see the appeal for the intellectually challenged, but that doesn't mean that I need share it.
  11. The tendency to not serve bottled water with ice is predicated on the observation that it seems somewhat absurd to select a beverage precisely because it does not come from the the mains water supply and then add frozen cubes of mains water.
  12. [this] point couldn't be more wrong, as many eG threads, restaurants and chefs can attest. Don't dis what you don't understand. Everything new isn't a bad thing. Progress happens, my friend. Your concept of progress is endearing, and of course, sous-vide is certainly new (well, relatively), but in order to demonstrate progress novelty is not a sufficient condition. The type of question that needs to be answered is, "is making meat as soft as butter an improvement?". The answer, at least my answer, is that it is not. Perhaps, if you have dental issues, infantile feeding habits or are under the impression that turning food into brightly coloured paps and wobbly gels is clever, you might get excited about some of the solutions to the non-problems that have been 'solved' by modernist cuisine. However, I fall into none of the former categories and am thus left unimpressed. The fact that, as you correctly note, "many eG threads, restaurants and chefs can attest" to the wonder of sous-vide may have more to do with the fact that many of these individuals are highly susceptible to fads and hopping on bandwagons.
  13. Can't stand the tendency of inventing non-problems in order to flamboyantly solve them with outré techno-nonsense. Sous-vide meat is an example that springs readily to mind. Additionally, and not unconnectedly, is the rarely stated but often used premise that a dish is better the more convoluted the cooking process is. This is also nonsense.
  14. Although one might imagine that an increase in media possibilities might engender more diverse opinion, it appears to be the inverse with opinion being usurped by a kind of deluded consensus. So, yes, more opinion, but fewer opinions.
  15. I'm not sure whether Jon does nail it, actually. For all the wonders of Twitter and blogs they are not conducive debate since people can, and generally do, unfollow, block and delete any coherent disagreement. Indeed, Twitter is similar to a school playground in which alpha individuals pronounce whilst betas and omegas tweet phatically; in other words it's fundamentally immature. It strikes me that a moderated forum is, in principal, the only way to have a meaningful debate. Of course, a forum can be well or poorly moderated, but that's another question. As I argue upthread, to debate requires confidence in one's own critical faculties. The fact that there is little debate is not caused by fragmented media, but by the near total reification of food as fashion. Out with the difficult questions and in with the 'in' seems to sum it up nicely. In this sense, it's understandable that people want to blog and tweet about their meals since the industry is now so geared towards ostentation.
  16. The main reason seems to be that there are far fewer opinions amongst diners. In the past you had, for want of a better term, 'connoisseurs'; individuals who knew what they expected from a meal. Chefs were still part of the hospitality industry had not yet become leading scientists and social activists. This dialectic led to a kind of normative gastronomic truce. However, in the past 2 decades, food PR has become ever more sophisticated and now the role of diner has been effectively reduced to that of sycophant who not only thinks himself lucky to have 'scored' a table, but is docile enough to be dictated to in terms of how he should eat and enjoy his meal. Egullet 10 years ago was characterized by a normative debate between those compliant enough to accept that chefs should be their own judge and jury, and those that had faith in their own critical faculties. This latter group has all but given up; we've lost the battle. The eunuchs have won.
  17. Okay Scott, I've said my piece and since I'm not preparing a monograph on the subject I think I'm just going to have to leave it. However, before I remove my tinfoil hat, I can't resist taking up this comment. Are you suggesting that the qualities that made the classic once good no longer hold today? Or was it perhaps tired and out of touch when it was current? If the answer to either of these questions is, 'yes', I'd be fascinated to know on what basis something that was once good can be no longer good, unless, of course, you see dining in terms of social currency. Indeed, if this were the case this would probably account for our differing opinions.
  18. Yes, I have. On several occasions when it was rather charming brasserie and once as 2*. This latter visit was great, interesting food, well cooked with many of the well-documented surprises and tricks. However, it was amateurish, sometimes inconsistent, slightly arrogant and self-important and certainly not world class by a country mile -- in fact, not even comparable to 2* in France. Anyway, before this thread goes completely off-topic, I'd like to restate my argument that Michelin's elevation of the FD was strategic rather than based on merit; that it was a reaction to the the 50 best list and the power of buzz in nations with weak culinary traditions, and that subsequent Michelin operations in the UK and US have tended to follow this reactive methodology, which, in gastronomic terms tends to make the guide of diminishing worth the further it strays from its French roots.
  19. This is what I meant about protecting one's investment. Unfortunately, to a sceptic like me, it all sounds rather deluded.
  20. This depends on whether one believes that rank is an expression of ability or whether the rank itself confers qualities upon its holder. An extreme example would be Usain Bolt. There seems to be no doubt that he is currently the fastest human on the planet and thus his rank is entirely indicative of ability. At the other end of the spectrum we the Queen. She didn't actually do anything to earn her rank, yet the fact that she is the Queen confers upon her a significant status. I would argue that when the FD got its third star, it wasn't a 3* restaurant in any meaningful sense. However, given that most of us rely on guides to undertake the job of ranking on our behalf, the fact that the FD became a 3* restaurant meant that it was a 3* restaurant.
  21. Fair enough, I'll restate what I've already claimed upthread, but with a few details. Outside, and unlike, France, Michelin has given up on being an arbiter of taste and now merely follows the pack (although shuffling it a tad in order to remain enigmatic). For me the seminal example is the Fat Duck, although MPW set the scene. MPW was the first Brit who was perceived to be a chef in the stereotypical mould favoured by Michelin. His cooking was never on a par with Koffman, Mosimann or the Rouxs, but who cares? Like Frank Bruno, Britishness trumped talent. With the advent of the internet, the most recent Anglophone colony, and a first generation of adult users, what counted was 'buzz'. When Heston took up Adriá's postmodernism, it was Heston who got most of the attention for the simple fact that Heston as cooking in English. Sure, hardcore foodies know that HB's debt to el Bulli is huge, but again, compared to Heston's self-effacing British laddishness, Adriá is a rather gauche wog. By elevating the FD to 3* status Michelin also elevated a purported British gastronomic ingenuity to a similar status in the English speaking world. Seemingly no one in the UK didn't want to hitch their cart to this renaissance and peripheral participants suddenly had the chance to take centre stage. Prior to HB, the term British food critic was an oxymoron, but said individuals have worked hard to consolidate their position on a global stage and entities such as Jay Rayner distribute gastronomic pomposity throughout the English speaking world in exchange for coin. My contention, is that Michelin was a late arrival to this back-slapping party, but was astute enough to realise that the UK no longer wished to be dictated to by the French, irrespective as to whether the French had a valid claim to superior gastronomic knowledge. What follows is a clever, but cynical, recycling of an inbred and deluded nation's opinion of its culinary importance. After all, is Michelin really in the business of educating palates, or are they more interested in sales? One might wish to argue that the FD has grown into its global reputation, I wouldn't. Cranking out thousands of tasting menus a week, no matter how many chemicals one uses and how complex the recipes, smacks of making hay. Of course, I'd do the same in such a fickle market. However, there was no way that when the FD got 3• it deserved them on any scale. Michelin merely confirmed that Bray was a sort of culinary Carnaby St. This is certainly in accordance with how Michelin would like you to see them. Michelin will never be completely right for anyone. What matters is the degree to which Michelin diverges. When this divergence is patently due to the ability of PRs to unduly influence the media, then, I argue, it does matter. This is an empirical claim, and as such easy to point out that it is simply not true. PR employees register multiple Twitter accounts and harp on endlessly about the wonders of their clients. Indeed, a certain chef has been the benifiaciary of thousands of tweets affirming his, not obvious, sexual-attractiveness all paid for by the supermarket for which he works. This is because being sexy sells more food, and if your neighbour fancies X then you'll probably fancy him too.
  22. The trope, used by Gill and many other Anglophone commentators, that at some point in the past starred establishments were 'cold', 'hushed' and 'religious' is simply not true. Alain Chapel, the Ostau de Baumaniere, Michel Guerard, Troisgras, The Waterside Inn, Le Gavroche are/were all extremely comfortable and indulgent affairs and anything but the former. These comments, and the fact that they ring true to so many, say more about those that hold such opinions than they do about the type of restaurant that they seek to impute. For decades, the British have had a massive insecurity complex about any form of eating out. In places like the ones cited above, the feeling of intimidation stems from an inability to enjoy what's on offer. But to conflate these remarkable restaurants with the horrendous hotel dining rooms of the 60s and 70s, which were indeed often 'cold', 'hushed' and 'religious', is just a public profession of ignorance. Sadly little has changed in our psyche, we still feel very unsure of ourselves and our choices of restaurant are based more than the pathological avoidance of faux pas than any kind of culinary enthusiasm. In order to hedge our investment and maximise social capital we tend to choose the 'it' place over the subtle place. Diners are grateful to have 'scored a table' and the fact we are already participating in a desirable activity almost destroys our critical faculties before we've even set foot in the restaurant. Indeed, since we dine for instrumental purposes, we are careful to protect our investments and when, several hundred pounds the poorer, we roll out of Dabbous/Noma/Fat Duck etc. we make sure to say that it was the best, most mind-blowing meal we ever had. The meal is not for eating, but for showing off like Louboutin shoes or Cath Kidston clad children. Which all means that in the UK and USA 'fine-dining' is not diner-led; i.e. directed by a knowledgable clientele, but rather PR-led in which marketeers prey upon our insecurities and ignorance. One gets the guidebooks one deserves, and our current examples merely respond to the market's clamour for manuals of etiquette that serve to shore up the social currency of the neurotically class conscious.
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