Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Tradition v. Contemporary Italian Cuisine


hathor
 Share

Recommended Posts

Maybe this whole 8 page conversation hinges on defining 'contemporary' and 'cutting edge'. Are they same?

To me: no.

Cutting edge is using techniques and toys (Pacojet, Thermomix, water baths) that aren't found in a traditional restaurant. Cutting edge is using alginate, and chemical components that I have trouble spelling or remembering.

Fine.

So, what is contemporary?

I'm asking because I'm not at all sure of the answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cutting edge is using techniques and toys (Pacojet, Thermomix, water baths) that aren't found in a traditional restaurant. Cutting edge is using alginate, and chemical components that I have trouble spelling or remembering.

Perhaps this is the wrong thread to pose this question on, but the above so succinctly describes what I think of as cutting edg. My question is, how do cutting edge chefs justify the use of chemical components purely for affect when the whole idea of rejecting processed foods is to avoid unnecessary chemicals in food? Are we not getting away from the very thing that sets most of us on the path of learning to cook in the first place?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe this whole 8 page conversation hinges on defining 'contemporary' and 'cutting edge'.  Are they same?

To me: no.

Cutting edge is using techniques and toys (Pacojet, Thermomix, water baths) that aren't found in a traditional restaurant. Cutting edge is using alginate, and chemical components that I have trouble spelling or remembering.

Fine.

So, what is contemporary?

I'm asking because I'm not at all sure of the answer.

How about these definitions as a start? Feel free to take exception.

Experimental Cuisine incorporates many previously unknown or reformulated ingredients and/or techniques. Presentation is often in an abstract or avant-garde manner and great significance is placed on originality.

Contemporary or Modern Cuisine is composed of both regional and imported ingredients prepared using a mixture of traditional and modern techniques. Presentation is dictated by current tastes and trends.

Traditional Cuisine is local, regional ingredients prepared using traditional methods, the primary objective is to faithfully reproduce the regional food of the past. Presentation is often intentionally rustic.

Additionally: I felt the term "Cutting Edge" to be less specific than those above so I didn't use it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

A little bump here.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of dining with Docsconz and his wife and friends (I'm sorry...I don't know your screen name, Joe) at Fiamma in Soho in NY. Chef Trabocchi is the new chef-partner there and he is a solid example of contemporary Italian cuisine.

He came out at the end of our fabulous dinner extravaganza and talked a bit about his frustration at not being considered Italian enough. He is from the Le Marche, he is a blue blood Italian, but because he cooks in a style that is not traditional, the critics question his Italian-ness.

All thru the 11 or so courses of this dinner, this was a recurring theme: would you consider this dish Italian? or this dish? (examples: raw tuna cubes with citrus peel on a bed of sorrel foam, or kobe beef carpaccio with soy marinated tofu center, or kobe beef tartare with a poached quail egg and round of parmigiano crisp).

So, here's my question: once you have crossed over the border into truly contemporary, molecular cuisines, have you left national borders behind? Is contemporary food region-less or nation-less?

Have all those years of embracing the flavors found in a particular terriore led us to now embrace pan-contemporary dining?

P.S. I'm really hoping that Docsconz will post some of those photos from the dinner because it was truly exciting and both provocative and comfortable and above all delicous.

Edited by hathor (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

would you consider this dish Italian? or this dish?  (examples: raw tuna cubes with citrus peel on a bed of sorrel foam, or kobe beef carpaccio with soy marinated tofu center, or kobe beef tartare with a poached quail egg and round of parmigiano crisp). 

I don't see how anybody in his right mind could call the dishes "Italian" (no matter how exquisite they may have been). They could have been presented by a modern chef born in France, or Japan, or anywhere, equally.

So, here's my question: once you have crossed over the border into truly contemporary, molecular cuisines, have you left national borders behind?  Is contemporary food region-less or nation-less?

Have all those years of embracing the flavors found in a particular terriore led us to now embrace pan-contemporary dining?

Yes, contemporary food is region-less and nation-less. We now have only pan-global contemporary cuisine. You get raw sushi grade tuna, and things marinated with soy, no matter where in the world you dine now.

With people, I think it's great that this evolution has happened, that races have intermingled and intermarried and produced "fused" offspring. There's too much hate and racial prejudice in the world, and once we even everybody out into just "humans", a lot of that should be eliminated, because we won't hate people who are different - we'll all look the same.

But I don't think that cuisines should go through that same process. Now instead of getting a great regional Chinese cuisine one night, and a great regional French cuisine another night, and a great regional Italian cuisine the next night, you're going to get raw tuna, or soy-marinated kobe beef everywhere you go. And dining is going to get really boring.

Just my opinion, anyway.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A little bump here.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of dining with Docsconz and his wife and friends (I'm sorry...I don't know your screen name, Joe) at Fiamma in Soho in NY. Chef Trabocchi is the new chef-partner there and he is a solid example of contemporary Italian cuisine.

He came out at the end of our fabulous dinner extravaganza and talked a bit about his frustration at not being considered Italian enough. He is from the Le Marche, he is a blue blood Italian, but because he cooks in a style that is not traditional, the critics question his Italian-ness.

All thru the 11 or so courses of this dinner, this was a recurring theme: would you consider this dish Italian? or this dish?  (examples: raw tuna cubes with citrus peel on a bed of sorrel foam, or kobe beef carpaccio with soy marinated tofu center, or kobe beef tartare with a poached quail egg and round of parmigiano crisp). 

So, here's my question: once you have crossed over the border into truly contemporary, molecular cuisines, have you left national borders behind?  Is contemporary food region-less or nation-less?

Have all those years of embracing the flavors found in a particular terriore led us to now embrace pan-contemporary dining?

P.S. I'm really hoping that Docsconz will post some of those photos from the dinner because it was truly exciting and  both provocative and comfortable and above all delicous.

Ah, Judith, I am finally getting around to this and will post both to this topic as well as the Fiamma discussion.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

gallery_8158_5432_23001.jpg

What does it mean to be Italian? Is Fiamma an Italian restaurant? Adam Platt, in his recent review of Fiamma in New York magazine said that his friend considered it "French." Certainly the restaurant will not conform to many preconceptions of what being "Italian" means. many people would not consider something Italian unless it consisted of pasta with a sauce much like many people consider Mexican to be nothing more than tacos or burritos. Of course both of those thoughts are laughably simplistic and are unlikely to be shared by anyone reading this set of discussion forums or affiliated with the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts and Letters. We all know that Italian is much more than just pasta and Mexican much more than tacos and burritos even if we didn't prior to becoming a member of this organization.

Some would say that the ingredients define the national or ethnic classification of a dish, a restaurant or a cuisine. If the ingredients don't hale from the region in question or are not native to that region then that automatically excludes consideration of being of a particular cultural origin. If that is true then the classic example of the tomato would mean that much of what is generally considered "Italian" would not be as the tomato hales from the Americas. Ditto the potato for Ireland and much of the rest of the world as well as many other potential examples. Clearly, that is a ridiculous criterion. Ingredients change and evolve and cuisines change and evolve with them.

Italian food is simple and pure of flavor. Certainly much of it is. Don't ell that to my grandmothers or my mother though as they made ethereally complex sauces for their pastas as well as other non-pasta dishes.

It is very difficult to pigeonhole a definition of a cuisine. Some may base it on tradition. That is probably a good starting point and the basis for many preconceptions depending upon one's understanding of the traditions of a country or a region. It turns out that Italy is a very diverse country culturally despite its relatively small size. There are many distinct regions, histories, traditions languages and cultures within that one nation. These have evolved over an extremely long time with each region having a variety of distinct external influences over that time. That is one reason, for example, why the south of Italy, the Mezzogiorno has a very different culinary traditon to that of the north. For years southern Italy was dominated and controlled by the Spanish and before that other European cultures and the Arabs. In many ways, the foods of southern Italy are closer traditionally to those of Spain than they are to Northern Italy. Ferran Adria and other Spanish chefs have taken apart their Catalan and Spanish traditions and reassembled them with respect, but also with creativity and with novelty. Why can't the same thing be done with Italian traditions? That the traditions being dissected may not be familiar to Americans doesn't mean that they are not Italian or not traditions.

Of course, how one feels about one's own view of Italian food and how one feels about the results of this dissection and reconstitution of tradition will go a long way into one's view of whether or not the cuisine conforms to the particular notion of what it means to be "Italian."

This discussion is reflected quite well in the cooking of Fabio Trabocchi now of Fiamma in NYC. I along with some eGullet Society friends and our spouses had the opportunity to dine there this past weekend.

Mark, to a certain extent cuisines at the haute level are becoming less nationally recognizable, but no less distinctive and interesting so long as the food is the product of an original mind melded with expert technique. I, personally neve find that boring. It would be, though, if everything became cookie-cutter and always driven by trends.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark, I disagree with your argument in a couple of places. First, as John has noted a few times, there's no mutual exclusivity here. Where each has merit and an audience, traditional and contemporary can, should and usually will coexist. Second, global influences don't necessarily equal homogenization. I've had very different takes on the raw-fish idea that were contemporary yet maintained clear stylistic ties to a cuisine. To cite some New York examples, I think comparing what Dave Pasternack does with crudo at Esca to what Michael Psilakis does with raw meze at Anthos to what Nobu does with new style sashimi to what Todd Mitgang does at Crave is the opposite of boring.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Adam Platt, in his recent review of Fiamma in New York magazine said that his friend considered it "French." 

This has been a common theme in the recent reviews of Fiamma. Today in the New York Times, Frank Bruni gave the restaurant three stars but called it French:

Fiamma is about as Italian as a poodle in a Prada scarf.

It owes its accessories — the olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, many of the cheeses (fontina, burrata, ricotta salata) — to Italy. It owes its classically indulgent soul to France.

Alan Richman's review, for Bloomberg, is titled "Fiamma's Kobe Tartare Doesn't Say 'Italian' to Me."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark, I disagree with your argument in a couple of places. First, as John has noted a few times, there's no mutual exclusivity here. Where each has merit and an audience, traditional and contemporary can, should and usually will coexist. Second, global influences don't necessarily equal homogenization. I've had very different takes on the raw-fish idea that were contemporary yet maintained clear stylistic ties to a cuisine. To cite some New York examples, I think comparing what Dave Pasternack does with crudo at Esca to what Michael Psilakis does with raw meze at Anthos to what Nobu does with new style sashimi to what Todd Mitgang does at Crave is the opposite of boring.

FG, I think you know what I meant when I said "boring", but let me back up a moment. The question posed was, do you think this is Italian: raw tuna cubes with citrus peel on a bed of sorrel foam, or kobe beef carpaccio with soy marinated tofu center, or kobe beef tartare with a poached quail egg and round of parmigiano crisp - and I said that no, I don't.

But you're comparing raw fish preparations of chefs of varying heritages and nationalities, and I'm still saying what I was saying many pages ago, that in the race to become "pan global", one day when you have a craving for duck confit, or paella, or lasagne bolognese, you're going to find that they stopped knowing how to make those dishes, and that no matter where you go, we're having raw fish with soy or citrus, albeit with a French inspiration here or an Italian inspiration there. So when you trek next to Emilia Romagna, or to the Southwest of France, and the menu is all raw fish and foams, don't come crying to me that you had a craving for comfort food and there wasn't any. :shock:

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But you're comparing raw fish preparations of chefs of varying heritages and nationalities, and I'm still saying what I was saying many pages ago, that in the race to become "pan global", one day when you have a craving for duck confit, or paella, or lasagne bolognese, you're going to find that they stopped knowing how to make those dishes, and that no matter where you go, we're having raw fish with soy or citrus, albeit with a French inspiration here or an Italian inspiration there.  So when you trek next to Emilia Romagna, or to the Southwest of France, and the menu is all raw fish and foams, don't come crying to me that you had a craving for comfort food and there wasn't any.  :shock:

Do you really think that is likely? I don't. The market simply won't allow that so long as the underlying ingredients are still available. What we are looking at is chefs trying to distinguish themselves in high-end dining. There will always be a need and a demand for its underpinnings. The bigger concern is that ingredients themselves may become too homogenized thereby losing culinary diversity. I'm not worried about that happening as top chefs have a desire and a need to be creative even while needing to present something approachable to their clientele.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hate cutting edge cuisine because is for the affluent. This is a figment of the imagination when chefs try to achieve unsurpased falvours that are forbidden to most people(price). I agree with most Italians that threre are two kinds of Italy and I assume the same applies to most countries Europe is not USA neither ingredients are the same so benchmarkings are skewed.

Indeed many countries like ingredients in Europe are not the same and why should they be?this is what makes food ingredients exciting to cook with or match the flavours that is the essence of good cooking achieve the best with the lowest denominator ingredients. For me this is the real cuisine at its best.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hate cutting edge cuisine because is for the affluent.

Piazzola, disregarding fairness or justice in life, there are people with disposable incomes who can indulge themselves, and they finance the 'art' of contemporary cuisine. How many Renaissance artists would have been able to support themselves without the help of a patron. Dining patrons do the same for chefs.

Its not fair that a lot of people go hungry every day, but that's food for another topic and another cause.

Why the strident tone Markk? I'm asking sincerely and with curiosity. I enjoy your posts and your point of view, but I'm confused why you feel that the state of contemporary cuisine will lead us all down the path of homogenized sameness. To me, nothing is further than the truth as all the high end artsy fartsy chefs are pushing flavors and techniques into very personal explorations, not unlike high end visual medium artists.

Chef Trobacchi is using his unique Italian sensibility to push flavors in a direction that excite him. He can't not be Italian, he respects his roots and is using them as roots are intended to be used: a foundation for a plant to flourish and grow.

Markk, I don't think you need worry about losing the culture of comfort food; everyone needs and wants comfort food so there will always be a place for it. But, the idea of what is comfort has been and will continue to evolve.

I had an interesting juxtaposition of experiences this week. On Monday, I went to a lecture by Herve This and Mitchell Davis on molecular gastronomy. On Tuesday, I went to a class of bread baking by Richard Bertinet. There is room in my kitchen for both philosophies, and that's what keeps me interested in cooking and eating and food.

P.S. Oh, techno people of eGullet...my e-mail notification on topics is still totally random and unpredictable. Just letting you know that the problem still exists. Thank you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He can't not be Italian, he respects his roots and is using them as roots are intended to be used: a  foundation for a plant to flourish and grow.

Very eloquently expressed idea, Judith, and couldn't agree more. I feel like we could fill in that "He" with a number of chefs in Italy, the US, and elsewhere, and the sentence would still fit like a glove. Fortadei may disagree (but I suppose that disagreement is exactly what makes eGullet the perfect place for debates such as this!) :raz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He can't not be Italian, he respects his roots and is using them as roots are intended to be used: a  foundation for a plant to flourish and grow.

Very eloquently expressed idea, Judith, and couldn't agree more. I feel like we could fill in that "He" with a number of chefs in Italy, the US, and elsewhere, and the sentence would still fit like a glove. Fortadei may disagree (but I suppose that disagreement is exactly what makes eGullet the perfect place for debates such as this!) :raz:

You're correct,I do disagree.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He can't not be Italian, he respects his roots and is using them as roots are intended to be used: a  foundation for a plant to flourish and grow.

Very eloquently expressed idea, Judith, and couldn't agree more. I feel like we could fill in that "He" with a number of chefs in Italy, the US, and elsewhere, and the sentence would still fit like a glove. Fortadei may disagree (but I suppose that disagreement is exactly what makes eGullet the perfect place for debates such as this!) :raz:

You're correct,I do disagree.

My apologies for misspelling your name, fortedei! Could you explain a little bit about why/how you disagree with hathor's comment. Must a chef be more strictly loyal to his culinary roots in order to respect them, in your opinion? If so, would you say it is possible for Italian cuisine to evolve without such rebels?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He can't not be Italian, he respects his roots and is using them as roots are intended to be used: a  foundation for a plant to flourish and grow.

Very eloquently expressed idea, Judith, and couldn't agree more. I feel like we could fill in that "He" with a number of chefs in Italy, the US, and elsewhere, and the sentence would still fit like a glove. Fortadei may disagree (but I suppose that disagreement is exactly what makes eGullet the perfect place for debates such as this!) :raz:

You're correct,I do disagree.

My apologies for misspelling your name, fortedei! Could you explain a little bit about why/how you disagree with hathor's comment. Must a chef be more strictly loyal to his culinary roots in order to respect them, in your opinion? If so, would you say it is possible for Italian cuisine to evolve without such rebels?

No apologies necessary about the spelling of my name.

Below is what I said on this thread in September. Also go to the entry on Apr 21 2006 and in fact the entire thread of Identità Golose 2006.

"Culinary tradition is always changing. Nothing is static. Evolution, however, takes a lot of time. When "evolution" happens on a time table which is speeded up, most often it ends up being a fad; fads happen very quickly and they disappear equally so. We'll see if what has happened very recently with ten restaurants in Italy is something that remains longer term, and becomes a tradition in some restaurants , or whether it is a fad. As I said in a prior post, very few Italians go to these ten restaurants and those that go to the others that are trying something different, never go back because they can’t stand different food which is poorly prepared. That is not what Italians do. I saw the nuova cucina, up close and personal in the 80s. At the time, food magazines and foodies, particularly in America and France thought it was a great break with a cuisine which was too traditional (and Italian restaurateurs readily went along, because if the French are doing it “we can do it better”) . Actually, Beppe Cantarelli and Franco Colombani had begun going back to regional cuisine just a few years before, so nuova cucina was trying to change something which hadn’t fully changed yet. It flamed out very quickly and a lot of restaurants got hurt.

Innovation, in food and other areas, is a great thing in the hands of people who know what they are doing. Unfortunately, most of the top restaurants in Italy (lets say, as rated by the Gambero Rosso, if for no other reason than that guide is a good starting point for the “top” restaurants) have no clue as to what they are doing. Lets be honest; cooking technique, as practiced in Italian restaurants, leaves a lot to be desired (and I’m a fervent Italophile), certainly as compared to that in France. Notice, I’m only speaking of technique, not taste nor combination of ingredients.

We can start with pastry and work our way from there (on the other hand it is truly pathetic when a French chef tries to make pasta or risotto… truly pathetic). France has it all over Italy in terms of technique. As far as I’m aware, only two chefs in Italy, again lets say in the top 20 of Gambero Rosso, had a great deal, if not most, of their training in France. These two, by the way, are head and shoulders above their peers as far as technique goes, and both have Italian souls, a great combination, although one of these two has certainly gone over to the other side with regard to fusion (perhaps in order to get a higher rating in the guides).

Unfortunately in Italy, those who try to innovate, in most cases, are just mucking around. For every Calandre (I haven’t been there, but I’m assuming from comments, that he knows what he is doing) and there are few of them, there are many Fulmines. When you see what Caino has become, you weep for what she was (which was special). Innovation in cooking can be great if you’ve intensively learned the basics of cooking. Most of the “top” chefs in Italy have learned the basics of a very basic (but simply wonderful in my mind) cuisine. When they try to do something more, for the most part, they are just not up to par. Innovation for innovation’s sake is just foolishness and those who are trying to innovate, and are without technical competence, and are not staying within their sphere of competence, are condemned to repeat the failures of the past. It won’t be pleasant to see."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He can't not be Italian, he respects his roots and is using them as roots are intended to be used: a  foundation for a plant to flourish and grow.

Very eloquently expressed idea, Judith, and couldn't agree more. I feel like we could fill in that "He" with a number of chefs in Italy, the US, and elsewhere, and the sentence would still fit like a glove. Fortadei may disagree (but I suppose that disagreement is exactly what makes eGullet the perfect place for debates such as this!) :raz:

You're correct,I do disagree.

My apologies for misspelling your name, fortedei! Could you explain a little bit about why/how you disagree with hathor's comment. Must a chef be more strictly loyal to his culinary roots in order to respect them, in your opinion? If so, would you say it is possible for Italian cuisine to evolve without such rebels?

No apologies necessary about the spelling of my name.

Below is what I said on this thread in September. Also go to the entry on Apr 21 2006 and in fact the entire thread of Identità Golose 2006.

"Culinary tradition is always changing. Nothing is static. Evolution, however, takes a lot of time. When "evolution" happens on a time table which is speeded up, most often it ends up being a fad; fads happen very quickly and they disappear equally so. We'll see if what has happened very recently with ten restaurants in Italy is something that remains longer term, and becomes a tradition in some restaurants , or whether it is a fad. As I said in a prior post, very few Italians go to these ten restaurants and those that go to the others that are trying something different, never go back because they can’t stand different food which is poorly prepared. That is not what Italians do. I saw the nuova cucina, up close and personal in the 80s. At the time, food magazines and foodies, particularly in America and France thought it was a great break with a cuisine which was too traditional (and Italian restaurateurs readily went along, because if the French are doing it “we can do it better”) . Actually, Beppe Cantarelli and Franco Colombani had begun going back to regional cuisine just a few years before, so nuova cucina was trying to change something which hadn’t fully changed yet. It flamed out very quickly and a lot of restaurants got hurt.

Innovation, in food and other areas, is a great thing in the hands of people who know what they are doing. Unfortunately, most of the top restaurants in Italy (lets say, as rated by the Gambero Rosso, if for no other reason than that guide is a good starting point for the “top” restaurants) have no clue as to what they are doing. Lets be honest; cooking technique, as practiced in Italian restaurants, leaves a lot to be desired (and I’m a fervent Italophile), certainly as compared to that in France. Notice, I’m only speaking of technique, not taste nor combination of ingredients.

We can start with pastry and work our way from there (on the other hand it is truly pathetic when a French chef tries to make pasta or risotto… truly pathetic). France has it all over Italy in terms of technique. As far as I’m aware, only two chefs in Italy, again lets say in the top 20 of Gambero Rosso, had a great deal, if not most, of their training in France. These two, by the way, are head and shoulders above their peers as far as technique goes, and both have Italian souls, a great combination, although one of these two has certainly gone over to the other side with regard to fusion (perhaps in order to get a higher rating in the guides).

Unfortunately in Italy, those who try to innovate, in most cases, are just mucking around. For every Calandre (I haven’t been there, but I’m assuming from comments, that he knows what he is doing) and there are few of them, there are many Fulmines. When you see what Caino has become, you weep for what she was (which was special). Innovation in cooking can be great if you’ve intensively learned the basics of cooking. Most of the “top” chefs in Italy have learned the basics of a very basic (but simply wonderful in my mind) cuisine. When they try to do something more, for the most part, they are just not up to par. Innovation for innovation’s sake is just foolishness and those who are trying to innovate, and are without technical competence, and are not staying within their sphere of competence, are condemned to repeat the failures of the past. It won’t be pleasant to see."

I agree conceptually with you. Innovation is not easy, whereas screwing it up is. It is this very difficulty that has given the concept a bad name in certain circles because it has not been done well. When it is though, I believe it to be truly special and the epitome of fine dining. Where we may or may not disagree is the specific examples of good and bad innovative practice.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you want innovation instead of stagnation, you need to have tolerance for risk. Of every thousand new dishes, perhaps only one -- if that -- will represent a meaningful contribution to culinary history. But if you don't try to make, serve and gauge reactions to the thousand, you can't get the one.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe that there are two roads a chef can take if that chef really wants to make a name for himself. The first is to be a traditionalist and be as good within that tradition as one can possibly be. I met a number of Spanish chefs like that last year at the CIA's "Spain and the World Table" Conference. It is a wonderful thing when one can be recognized as a true master of a cuisine and deserving of absolute respect. The other avenue is to be daring and original. When successful, not only is that chef worthy of the same respect as the master traditionalist, but perhaps even more, because that chef has successfully navigated uncharted grounds and contributed to gastronomic evolution. Within either road the vast majority of chefs , traditional or innovative, produce an acceptable product though lacking in true greatness. Of course, as with any endeavor, true greatness is only ever achieved by a few. Nevertheless we can and should appreciate the efforts of those who honestly aspire to it.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you want innovation instead of stagnation, you need to have tolerance for risk. Of every thousand new dishes, perhaps only one -- if that -- will represent a meaningful contribution to culinary history. But if you don't try to make, serve and gauge reactions to the thousand, you can't get the one.

I agree about the innovation and stagnation.

Do you think Italians who go to restaurants that cost 125 plus euros per person, without wine, want to take a risk, a risk that the chef is not capable of properly preparing an "innovation"? Noooooooooooooooooooo!

Perhaps Americans and Japanese are willing but Italians are not. If there is risk that is going to being taken, at least have the person "preparing the risk" know what he or she is doing, before subjecting customers to it. There are few, perhaps not any, Italian chefs cooking in Italy that are taking these risks... and who really truly truly know the fundamentals (techniques) of cooking.

At least that has been my experience. Before anyone brings up the "Senagallia duo", La Madonnina and Uliassi, or the big man in San Vincenzo, I would suggest that if you believe these three really know what technique is all about, I would say that we are on different pages.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

..., I would suggest that if you believe these three really know what technique is all about, I would say that we are on different pages.

Fortedei,

As someone with no classic technique at all, I ask this question in all innocence and with genuine curiosity (i.e., no sarcasm). Could you give some specific examples (naming names even) of where/how/why the lack of French technique is a problem in an Italian kitchen. Why can't there be two parallel schools? You yourself said (didn't you?) that the French can't cook pasta and risotto. There is plenty of Italian technique, or don't you count something like the making of paper-thin Emilian tagliatelle because its origin is the home kitchen, not the professional?

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

..., I would suggest that if you believe these three really know what technique is all about, I would say that we are on different pages.

Fortedei,

As someone with no classic technique at all, I ask this question in all innocence and with genuine curiosity (i.e., no sarcasm). Could you give some specific examples (naming names even) of where/how/why the lack of French technique is a problem in an Italian kitchen. Why can't there be two parallel schools? You yourself said (didn't you?) that the French can't cook pasta and risotto. There is plenty of Italian technique, or don't you count something like the making of paper-thin Emilian tagliatelle because its origin is the home kitchen, not the professional?

I think you misunderstood me. More, probably, I didn't make myself very clear. My apologies for that.

Lack of French technique is almost never a problem (In a second, I'll get to the one time I believe it is) in an Italian kitchen, as long as the Italian chef in the kitchen stays within his or her sphere of competence. As you pointed out, I had said that the French (and Americans by the way) simply don’t have a clue about pasta, not only not knowing how to make it (either stuffed or not), but they don’t even know how to sauce it properly. And yes, I agree 100 % that paper thin Emilian tagliatelle needs real skill, as much as anything in French cuisine. Risotto is even worse than pasta in the hands of the French… even the most skilled French chef turns it into a disaster; why do they even bother to try. They have no risotto soul. Those two are the standouts of course, but the Italian technique is superb in “simple” ,but very difficult dishes like grilled meats and fish. In more difficult to make (make very well!) dishes e.g. lattuga ripiena and mesciua ( which exist in another form in French cuisine) to name just two, I’d say that the Italians have it all over the French in terms of technique; and the list could go on. So… there is no general problem with a lack of French technique in an Italian kitchen. Italians do quite well thank you.

There are, however, two specific problems. The first is when an Italian chef tries to do something, as I said, out of his/her sphere of competence and that is what we are dealing with when we speak of the “cutting edge.” Adria is evidently genius; perhaps Alajmo is as well. I can tell you that the duo in Senagallia and the big man in San Vincenzo are not. When they try to duplicate what Adria is doing, they might as well be following it out of an Italian food magazine (which many are). Couple that with the extraordinary technical skill needed to pull off “cutting edge” cuisine and you have a disaster. I’ve mentioned in the past two of the restaurants that have tried and failed, and there are many more. That was what my comments were meant to say and again, sorry if they were not clear.

The one area (other than deviating from one’s sphere of competence) that I think Italian chefs could be immeasurably helped by French technique is in pastry. In my mind (overall; not just a pastry or two or three from a particular cuisine, of which there are many great ones) there is only French pastry at the top and all the others at the bottom… no one in between. I’m sure those German dessert lovers will be all over me. When the Italians try to do pastry, it is so bad compared to the French, that it is sad to see. It doesn’t have to be that way… the Italians just need to swallow their pride and learn how to make great pastry.

That’s how this Italophile sees things. By the way, the two chefs that I’ve encountered that have the best technique (notice I didn’t say best restaurants), are Paolo Masieri of Paolo and Barbara in San Remo and Phillipe Leveille of Miramonte L’Altro in Concesio. In my mind, no one has even come close to the two of them in my 35 years of eating in restaurants in Italy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Similar Content

    • By daniel123456789876543
      I have been making pancetta for the first time. I have experience with the curing process doing things like bacon and cold smoked salmon in the past but this is the first time I have ever hanged anything.
       
      After a week of curing it has had 11 days  hanging so far (I was planning on taking it to 28 days hanging) Although I foolishly forgot to weigh it. 
      It smells really good like some awesome salami and the outer rim of the pancetta looks lovely and rich and dark.
      It was a recipe by Kuhlman in one of their charcuterie books.
      But when I inspected it today it had the mould growing on it as in the pics below. I have since scrubbed the mould off with white wine vinegar and returned it to the cellar. Is it wise to continue?
       
      Daniel
       
       
       


    • By shain
      Makes 40 cookies, 2 loaves. 
       
      50-60 g very aromatic olive oil
      80 g honey 
      120 to 150 g sugar (I use 120 because I like it only gently sweet) 
      2 eggs
      2 teaspoons of fine lemon zest, from apx 1 lemon 
      230 g flour 
      1 teaspoon salt 
      1 teaspoon baking powder 
      75 g lightly toasted peeled pistachios
      50 g lightly toasted almonds (you can replace some with pine nuts) 
      Optional: a little rosemary or anise seed
      Optional: more olive oil for brushing
       
      Heat oven to 170 deg C.
      In mixer (or by hand), mix oil, honey, sugar, lemon, egg and if desired, the optional spices - until uniform. 
      Separately mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. 
      Add flour mixture to mixer bowel with liquids and fold until uniform. Dough will be sticky and quite stiff. Don't knead or over mix. 
      Add nuts and fold until well dispersed. 
      On a parchment lined baking tray, create two even loaves of dough. 
      With moist hands, shape each to be rectangular and somewhat flat - apx 2cm heigh, 6cm wide and 25cm long. 
      Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden and baked throughout, yet somewhat soft and sliceable. Rotate pan if needed for even baking. 
      Remove from tray and let chill slightly or completely. 
      Using a sharp serrated knife, gently slice to thin 1/2 cm thick cookies. Each loaf should yield 20 slices. 
      Lay slices on tray and bake for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes until complelty dry and lightly golden. 
      Brush with extra olive oil, if desired. This will and more olive flavor. 
      Let chill completely before removing from tray. 
      Cookies keep well in a closed container and are best served with desert wines or herbal tea. 
       
        
    • By psantucc
      My own recipe, though influenced by many sources.
      Santucci's Practical Torrone (Christmas Nougat)
      180g honey (½ cup)
      100g egg whites (2 eggs)
      350g sugar (1 ½ cups)
      50g water (2 tablespoons)
      450g (1 pound) roasted nuts
      5-10 drops orange oil
      2 sheets (8 ½” x 11”) Ostia (aka wafer, edible paper)
      Combine honey, water, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Skim foam (if any is seen) off the honey when it reaches the boil.
      In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
      Cook the honey mixture to 280° F (137° C). Remove from the heat. With the mixer on high speed, slowly pour the mixture into the egg whites. Continue to whisk until volume has increased by about half and the mixture just starts to lose gloss – only about 5 minutes.
      Reduce the mixer speed and add the orange oil and nuts. When they are thoroughly mixed in, spread the resulting nougat over a sheet of Ostia. Try to cover the sheet as evenly as possible- the nougat is sticky and will make things difficult. When it is evenly covered, top with the other sheet of Ostia.
      Leave to cool and crystallize completely in the open air before cutting, preferably overnight.
      Note: I call this 'practical' Torrone because the recipe is made for home confectioners of reasonable skill to be able to easily understand what and how much to buy and what to do with it. The ingredient portions are biased for my country, the USA, but I saw no point in using English ounces for the weight-based version – those of us who prefer weight generally prefer it in grams.
      Tips and tricks:
      1.Keep nuts in a warm oven ( about 150° F / 65° C ) until you add them. Adding room temperature or colder nuts will reduce working time.
      2.Getting the nougat spread between sheets of Ostia is the trickiest part of the process. I use buttered caramel rulers on the outside edges of the bottom sheet, pour and press nougat in place, and then press the top layer on with an offset spatula. If you don't have caramel rulers, try spreading the nougat with an offset spatula, topping with the other sheet, and rolling with a pin to smooth. I advise against trying to cast the slab in any kind of fixed side pan, as the stickiness will make it very difficult to remove.
      3.Score the top layer of Ostia before cutting through. Once scored, a straight down cut with a Chef's knife works well. Cut into six 8 1/2” long bars and wrap in parchment or waxed paper to store, then cut into smaller rectangles to serve.
      4.There are many possible alternate flavorings. 1-10 Lemon oil or 1 t. (5 ml) vanilla or almond extract work well and are traditional flavors. Candied orange peel and/or orange zest can also be added.
      5.I use half pistachio and half almonds as the nuts. Hazelnuts (filberts) are also traditional. Any common nut should work.
      6.Ostia is available from confectionery suppliers. I get 8-1/2” x 11” sheets from www.sugarcraft.com under the name 'wafer paper'.
      This recipe is copyright 2009 by Patrick J. Santucci. Contact the author on eGullet under the username psantucc.
    • By Paul Bacino
      1 C Northern Beans soaked over-night in
      4-6C Water or Chxn Stock
      1/2 t Cayenne Pepper
      1//2 t Granulated garlic
      1 twig Dried oregano-- dried from last yr
      2 Bay
      pinch of salt ( yes ) and few pepper corns
      in the Morning; All into the Slow Cooker for 5 hrs. ( Crock Pot )
      I removed half the liquor and added chicken stock here back in . to this I added diced cooked Italian sausage about 1 whole .. simmer in a pot.. I transferred to... then add 1/2 head of shopped chicory ( curly endive ) finish cooking 15 mins
      cheers
      Most measurements again are from feel
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...