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Progressive cuisine is not Dead!


Adam Chef
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This story has been long overdue but to tell you truth there could not be a more relevant time to be discussing this topic!

The topic I am talking about is New Cuisine as we know it today, it does not matter what name you know it by (Molecular Gastronomy, Progressive cuisine, Nueva Cocina, Techno-emotional, Avant Garde, Etc) the principles are all the same. There has been such a hot debate over the naming and defining of our cuisine and not enough work into Evolving it. Now we are at a critical point where people are starting to throw stones and writing an early obituary, let’s see how dead it really is!

There have been 2 contributing factors in the virtual landslide of people ready to bury Progressive cuisine and look for it’s replacement:

The most powerful of the 2 reasons is the announcement of Ferran to close El Bulli for 2 years, this came as a shock to most people during Madrid Fusion and as such the press were not ready to deal with it and started writing fanciful things to make themselves seem informed.

The biggest shame of 2010 came with the total lack of relevant content during Madrid Fusion 2010 and the blatant in your face advertising from big corporations that have no place in a Progressive cuisine congress.

Let’s first look at the 2 triggers then we will look at the overall situation……………………………..

Since the Ferran’s announcement the press have been ready to bury our cuisine and start the search for the new “In” thing. I must have had 30 requests or more for a comment regarding this idea from Media all over the world, I refuse to buy into the theory and as such will not comment as I think it is ridiculous!

Ferran’s announcement has been one which has been coming for a few years now, the 6 months they have off every year is not enough to develop the Cuisine of El Bulli to the satisfaction of Ferran. Ferran said he did not want it to get to the stage where the daily services disrupt the investigation and progression of food, so this is a way that he can investigate and advance in peace. That is the situation pure and simple, Ferran is a big part of Progressive cuisine but not the only part. Believe it or not there are some pretty amazing Chefs all over the world progressing food and concepts, we do not all follow and copy El Bulli like many other “Chefs” out there. So this being said, yes the biggest face of Progressive cuisine is sitting on the bench for 2 years but he will come back stronger than ever in 2014 and in the meantime there are plenty of other Chefs who will continue as per usual!

I am not going to harp on too much for the faults of Madrid Fusion 2010, I think I did that enough in the previous 3 posts. I will say that it is a shame that content has been deemed irrelevant and economics has won the day.

Let’s just discuss the situation in the industry.

Throughout history there have been Chefs who have kept up with the changing fashions in food and eventually have become so lost in what they are doing that no one can relate to what they are doing. Food should never be a fashion because by definition fashions change frequently to be up with the times, thus running for a period of no more than 8 – 10 years. The first indication of a Chef in this category is one who claims to cook “Molecular Gastronomy”, this is the first alarm bell for me as this generally a Chef who only produces copies and cooks to be a celebrity. This is a Chef who cooks with no concept and no theory and he is like a Bower Bird, taking and stealing techniques and entire plates from other Chefs until he has a menu which is made up of nothing but copies (slightly resembling a Shanghai fake good’s market). This is generally the first Chef to change his style and jump on board the next “In” concept and abandon what he has been doing as there is no sentiment anyway due to the fact nothing belongs to him. Just look on the internet and see how many people are reading the latest cook books and reproducing the works of other Chefs in their restaurants, where is the creativity and passion in that?

The second group of Chefs are those who are the pioneers of a concept and are active contributers to the long term future of cuisine, These Chefs cook with heart and all of their creations come from within, not from what they see or read. I like to consider myself as being a part of this group which is populated by many truly amazing Chefs such as: Paul Pairet, Andoni Andruiz, Dani Garcia, Grant Achatz, Ferran and Albert Adria, Alex Atala, Quique Dacosta Wylie Dufresne + many more. Chefs who cook to a Concept and who will never steal for the sake of an easy dish.

What we are doing now cannot be a fashion as we have begun to understand food like never before in History and we are now creating a more intelligent way to cook. Imagine until just recently that we didn’t truly understand the cooking process of an egg, now with research we can now poach the perfect egg inside of the shell (64.5 degrees) which has a melt in your mouth texture or even make the perfect gel from egg yolk (70 degrees) that can be spread like a paste. Or the understanding of fish cookery so when we cook fish it can be the same every time without breaking a single cell on the inside during cooking and keeping all of the natural juices. Or Utilizing the ingredients and natural sugars inside of ketchup to be able to naturally crystallize it into something which tastes like Heinz Ketchup but looks like glass, puts a different spin on a Caprese salad. Or being able to serve whole fish without the bones and without the use of any additive, just by respecting the natural process of re-bonding. This list can go on forever but I think I have made my point. How can intelligent cookery be a fashion? I look at it like Pandora’s box, now that it is opened we cannot pretend that we don’t know whats inside.

There is a part that I agree with and I will be happy to see the end of…………………………….

That is those “Chefs” who have jumped on the back of the “Molecular gastronomy” train and have ridden it all the way to stardom without ever having to create something with their own hands. By purely copying the work of other Chefs there have been many Chefs who have been able to fool media and their diners into thinking that they are performing some kind of intelligent cooking, but instead the truth is that they are like a good parrot being able to see and replicate. I have eaten in many of these places all over the world and each time I am more and more amazed at how little they really understand about what they are doing.

At the end of the day a meal still has to be a meal, it must follow the basic format of a meal and you must feel like you have eaten a meal by the end. This concept of dining being a magic show is only for those Chefs who do not have enough content in what they are doing and need to distract the guests during the meal so they don’t realize the Chef can’t actually cook. In my food there is a lot of Technique and many points of humor in a 27 course menu, but it is there because it serves a purpose or helps to tell the story I want to get across. Let’s look at what makes a meal……………….

Overall feeling of satisfaction by the end without being excessively full or under fed.

Highs and lows during the course of the meal

Balance of temperatures

Balance of textures

Nourishment

Enjoyment!

Did you notice that nowhere in that list did you see the need for 8 courses using spherification in the same menu?

As a final point I would like to say to those of you who are speculating that “Classic cuisine” will be the next Cuisine and that Progressive is Dead, the only part of our cuisine that is dead are those Chefs who imitate without any understanding. They will be the first to adopt what they hear is the next big thing and leave the rest of us free to continue creating and evolving food.

Adam Melonas - Chef

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This concept of dining being a magic show is only for those Chefs who do not have enough content in what they are doing and need to distract the guests during the meal so they dont realize the Chef cant actually cook. In my food there is a lot of Technique and many points of humor in a 27 course menu, but it is there because it serves a purpose or helps to tell the story I want to get across.

So what you're saying is that, if you or one of your heroes do it, it's a valid technique that enhances the experience. If anyone else does it, it's a gimmick to hide their lack of ability. That's kinda arrogant, isn't it? And complete nonsense of course... I'm nowhere near being a top level chef and I can produce an original dish with an element of show that will be cooked properly, well balanced and taste good. If I can do it, I'm sure many others can as well.

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Food should never be a fashion because by definition fashions change frequently to be up with the times, thus running for a period of no more than 8 – 10 years.

Imagine until just recently that we didn’t truly understand the cooking process of an egg, now with research we can now poach the perfect egg inside of the shell (64.5 degrees) which has a melt in your mouth texture or even make the perfect gel from egg yolk (70 degrees) that can be spread like a paste. Or the understanding of fish cookery so when we cook fish it can be the same every time without breaking a single cell on the inside during cooking and keeping all of the natural juices. Or Utilizing the ingredients and natural sugars inside of ketchup to be able to naturally crystallize it into something which tastes like Heinz Ketchup but looks like glass, puts a different spin on a Caprese salad.

Unfortunately, tastes and culture are fluid, even more so now in our tightly connected world of instant global communication. Why do you think your egg is perfect? Do you think that an egg cooked to "melt-in-the-mouth" texture will be universally appealing? That even if such cooking became widespread, people would not eventually become bored with it? That in fact multiple ways of doing things can coexist? Why do I want an egg yolk gel? That doesn't sound very appealing. Can you make something that I can actually chew? I'm sure that what you make is fine, but there have been many claims of perfect things in the past, only to be thrown over for some more perfect thing later. I don't think I would bet against that pattern changing any time soon.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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So what you're saying is that, if you or one of your heroes do it, it's a valid technique that enhances the experience. If anyone else does it, it's a gimmick to hide their lack of ability.

I didn't read it like that at all.

Fair enough. Maybe I missed the point. How do you interpret...

"This concept of dining being a magic show is only for those Chefs who do not have enough content in what they are doing and need to distract the guests during the meal so they don’t realize the Chef can’t actually cook. In my food there is a lot of Technique and many points of humor in a 27 course menu, but it is there because it serves a purpose or helps to tell the story I want to get across."

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Adam: You forgot a 3rd class of people for which progressive cuisine is just food. Sous Vide & Maltodextrin are just another part of their kitchen arsenal. IMO, the "death" of progressive cuisine will come when it's no more exciting than the microwave is today.

PS: I am a guy.

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Adam: You forgot a 3rd class of people for which progressive cuisine is just food. Sous Vide & Maltodextrin are just another part of their kitchen arsenal. IMO, the "death" of progressive cuisine will come when it's no more exciting than the microwave is today.

Yep. I consider myself part of the "it's just food/cooking" group. Me and Adam discussed that in another thread. I think it's unnecessary to advertise (through self-labeling) using modern techniques and ingredients. Just use what you want/need to use and don't worry about whether the customer knows or not. He demonstrated that there can be a benefit to letting people know what you do and how you approach it. It's a valid point. It didn't change my view on the matter but it will probably prevent me from arguing against it from now on.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Dear All,

Thank you for your thoughtful responses and taking the time to write them, this is a topic very close to my heart and I am happy to respond to your points.

I am sorry that I have taken so long to respond, I have been away on a consulting trip in Croatia this week.

Let me respond to you point by point................

Tri2Cook,

Thank you for your points, we have debated before and I respect your points of view very much. I am sorry that you seem to of read it in an offensive way. To respond to your point about if me or my heroes do it then it is ok........... First these heroes are not my heroes but actually friends of mine and the reason we are friends is because there is a mutual respect due to the fact that each of us are doing conceptual food while still staying honest and never copying or stealing another Chef's work. I have an amazing amount of respect for Chefs of all types of cuisines, from traditional to Progressive and everything in between. I believe each and every Chef should cook what they are best at and what they love the most (you can taste how much the Chef loves what he is doing in his cuisine), the easiest but shortest road is that of copying. On the charge of Arrogance................ Guilty, I believe you need to be arrogant as a Chef (But only a little as I agree that too much is a very bad thing also) as you must believe in what you do 110% and not change what you do just because you get a bad comment or 2. Food is very subjective and as such you will have many people every week who do not like what you do, if you are not firm in your cuisine than you could doubt what you are doing. Once again these are just my opinions and obviously not going to be shared by everyone. I still stand by my point that food should never be a magic show and we need to always remember that it is a meal and there are certain guidelines. And on the point of bad Chefs hiding bad work in numbers, this for me is very true! How many times have you eaten an Assiette of something and felt that it was "good" but if you tried to remember 1 of the items the next day you are bound to of forgotten, this is because the more items there are on a plate the less focus there is on one in particular. This is the same with the doing things for the sake of a show, Chefs can use Liquid Nitrogen in the restaurant 3 or 4 times in the same meal and have the guest believing that they are practicing "Molecular Gastronomy".

Hi Moopheus,

Thanks for your comments, I agree on the most part. I would like to look at what we are doing today as understanding food and not cooking to a fashion. With the techniques Chefs are creating all over the world they can be used in any form of cuisine, and as a great example I have a fabrication and design company which I have used a few of our new techniques in a project which sells 5 million units every year. "Molecular Gastronomy" as a Discipline and as a straight cuisine I am sure will not survive too much longer as there have been too many Chefs abusing it and using it in it's most basic form to Showoff what they have learned. I think people have always wanted food with a concept and a cuisine they can relate to, my hope is that the next "Fashion" in food will be one where people will learn to be able to interpret themselves in a culinary way, this way the Guest will always win.

Hi Shalmanese,

You are 100% right!!!!! Everything we use in the kitchen is just food............. What some people like to call Chemicals are just food Additives which actually are taken from components of other living matter. Items like Transglutaminase are no more or less food than a carrot, but one seems to be more accepted than the other. The day people accept all ingredients for the edible food items that they are will be a great day!

Have a great weekend!

Edited by Adam Chef (log)

Adam Melonas - Chef

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Adam, just to be clear, I wasn't and am not the least bit offended. I'm very difficult to offend, I just kinda suck at typing things in a way that sounds like I intend it to. Anyway, I just wanted to be clear on what you were trying to get across. It sounded like you were going for a double standard where a select group can do something and it's art but if anyone else does it, it's just a distraction to hide their lack of skill. Apologies if I misinterpreted. I guess my only other question would be: does it really matter how someone chooses to present their food as long as the flavor is their? What I mean is, is it possible for one persons magic show to be another persons art? To the organic raw enthusiast, steaming a carrot might be a magic show to hide the inability to choose a quality carrot. I think there is room for the formal and the fun in progressive cuisine... both can be done well and both can be butchered.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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In my food there is a lot of Technique and many points of humor in a 27 course menu, but it is there because it serves a purpose or helps to tell the story I want to get across. Let’s look at what makes a meal……………….

Overall feeling of satisfaction by the end without being excessively full or under fed.

Highs and lows during the course of the meal

Balance of temperatures

Balance of textures

Nourishment

Enjoyment!

Did you notice that nowhere in that list did you see the need for 8 courses using spherification in the same menu?

That would be a trendy, long winded story of 27 vignettes as opposed to the standard 5 points of Freytag's dramatic pyramid, the dining allegory being hors d'oeuvre->first->main->cheese->dessert/coffee. There is no reason to offer so many courses other than for the sake and distinction of serving so many courses. It highlights a lack of restraint, adderall or spastic composure and without a syllabus/take-home-menu is too much for the diner to retain. Portion sizes in a 27 course meal, though one might be a scented toothpick or belching carrot do not constitute anything more than a 1 bite hors d’oeuvre and can not successfully be paired with libations save for a few drops from a pipette. One notable exception of fierce gluttony would be Jim Harrison’s 37 course lunch at marc Meneau’s L’Espérance, an epic feast worthy of Trimalchio.

I had a 30 course meal at José Andres’ Minibar 6 years ago, a series of morsels; a truffle scented napkin, a mojito spray, deconstructed this and that, conch shooters, cotton candy foie gras and so on. Many of the “courses” (more like the gustatory anthropomorphism of beat poetry or stuttering) were exceptionally flavorful, technically interesting and well balanced. Others –a medium rare lobster medallion skewered on a plastic syringe filled with cool lobster stock is what I think about when I have to vomit during a proper hangover. We were recommended to sip either sparkling wine or water so as not to confuse the palate. It was an enjoyable evening, like going to an auto show and seeing awe(ful) inspiring prototype vehicles that provide a showcase for engineering visions, showmanship, theory and whimsy…though in the end they may not be practical.

A well imagined menu can be offered with 5, even 3 courses, comprised of composed plates that feature a protein, vegetable, fruit, starch or legume with appropriate garnishing elements which fulfill the aforementioned balancing requirements and have themed continuity by virtue of the season, ingredient or tradition. Most get pleasure from being able to savor, explore, understand and contemplate a dish while consuming it and entertaining fellow guests as opposed to what boils down to a formal, seated cocktail party with 27 courses of a single stuffed olive or single slice of cucumber providing the vehicle for faux caviar or whatever.

As for technique vs technical wankery, I posit from experience that there is no need to fuse octopus with Transglutaminase. Octopus has more than enough natural protein and gelatin to fuse itself on its own if poached in a small enough vessel in properly seasoned liquid, then pressed into a form. The signature “octopop” preparation (using transglutaminase) clashes with your delineation of progressive techniques and when/why to practice it. It would make more sense to use the meat glue for a product that is not able to stick on its own rather than over-thinking and complicating a naturally occurring process with “magical”, unnecessary sleight of hand.

Certain techniques and recipes you use and formulate are indeed interesting, but there is no need to hyperventilate from the alleged demise of progressive cuisine. Though there may be 1 less celebrity chef making fried oil bon-bons, there is a slew of unknown disciples and students intent of looking forward in as much as there are engineers keen on making lighter, stronger materials.

Myself, I look backwards for inspiration in an effort to preserve and revive many forgotten, traditional, regional and esoteric elements of French cookery.

Also, in the spirit of tradition, authenticity and purity, after following some of the links on your flattering Wikipedia entry, Bordelaise sauce requires red wine and bone marrow to fall into the spectrum of such an appellation.

Edited by Baron d'Apcher (log)
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As for technique vs technical wankery, I posit from experience that there is no need to fuse octopus with Transglutaminase. Octopus has more than enough natural protein and gelatin to fuse itself on its own if poached in a small enough vessel in properly seasoned liquid, then pressed into a form. The signature “octopop” preparation (using transglutaminase) clashes with your delineation of progressive techniques and when/why to practice it. It would make more sense to use the meat glue for a product that is not able to stick on its own rather than over-thinking and complicating a naturally occurring process with “magical”, unnecessary sleight of hand.

But what if what you want to do with said octopus doesn't include "poached in a small enough vessel in properly seasoned liquid, then pressed into a form" as part of the process? That's kinda like saying there's no need to bake a potato when it will cook just fine by cutting it into pieces and boiling it in a pot of salted water. The end result is two cooked potatoes but they will be entirely different in taste, texture and form.

I don't think there should be a when/why disclaimer applied to "progressive" techniques. They're just techniques. Cooking something in a temperature controlled water bath is no different (from the validity perspective) than cooking it in a temperature controlled oven. Nobody has an oven that just has an on and off switch, they're all controlled by some form of thermostat that allows you to select the temperature you want to work with. Why would adding transglutaminase as a binder be any less valid than adding egg white or gelatin as a binder? If anything, the transglutaminase could be viewed as more valid. Other than the "scary" name, it's a more food-worthy binding agent. It won't alter flavor or texture as egg white and gelatin can. The "no binder is necessary" clause is fine but sometimes when you're cooking for paying customers and not just for friends and family a little insurance against failure of the natural process is one less thing to worry about when it's busy.

I personally would kinda like to see the many names of "progressive" cuisine disappear simply for the fact that it causes many people to automatically raise their gaurd against it when they might be perfectly happy with the food if it were prepared the same way without the foreknowledge that that was the case.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Dear "Baron"

I have to first of all thank you for your comments, you have done wonders to demonstrate the kinds of people who go into food with a closed mind and spend so much time looking backwards that they eventually you will turn around and find the world has left you behind. Everyday I am faced with the traditionalists who would rather not see food evolve at all, as I can see from your website you are also very traditional (Apart from the sock puppet with the fish in his mouth, very modern). I myself personally love the food you have on your website and I am a very big fan of all traditional cookery in the world, be it Chinese, French, Arabic, Spanish, Greek, etc, Etc! I love the concepts of traditional as they come with such a rich history and time balanced flavor. On the flip side I create new cuisine on a daily basis, but I like to think I am using traditional cuisine as the backbone to everything that I do. What I do not do is try to believe that what I do is the best and tell people they should all be doing as I do, when you tell me............

A well imagined menu can be offered with 5, even 3 courses, comprised of composed plates that feature a protein, vegetable, fruit, starch or legume with appropriate garnishing elements which fulfill the aforementioned balancing requirements and have themed continuity by virtue of the season, ingredient or tradition. Most get pleasure from being able to savor, explore, understand and contemplate a dish while consuming it and entertaining fellow guests as opposed to what boils down to a formal, seated cocktail party with 27 courses of a single stuffed olive or single slice of cucumber providing the vehicle for faux caviar or whatever.

I find this a little entertaining as the thought of eating a meal of the same format in every restaurant is a little absurd. What ever happened to "Variety is the spice of life"?

There are a lot of things which I will not bother responding to as I hope the people reading this forum are a little more open minded than yourself.

But I must respond to your claim about the octopus, particularly after a statement like: "I posit from experience that there is no need to fuse octopus with Transglutaminase" I find this very amusing to say the least....................... In your vast experience you must of understood that the protein which will fuse the octopus is actually a Collagen, and of course you would also be aware that when heated Collagen will denature and melt? So how am I going to serve the octopus warmed and balancing on natural dill stalks which sway with movement? No to even mention the fact that they get dipped into a 80 degree kappa gel, which would also deform them from the first moment. So thank you for your obviously very valid comments, but I will respectfully continue preparing it the way I always have.

Thank you for your comments, It was a pleasure debating with you.

Dear Tri2Cook

I love your thoughtful responses and insight, but the last paragraph for me sums it up perfectly and I could not agree with you more!

Thank you for once again for providing an objective balance to the comments chain,

Kind Regards,

Adam Melonas - Chef

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A well aged piece of meat cooked correctly, a Caesar salad (thank you Mexico) with the proper amount of simple ingredients, fried onions and mushrooms to accompany this,

what a fantastic meal this is! No ingredients have names I cannot recognize, nor hours upon hours of trying to make same look like its not what it is.

Oh yes, the other two pieces of this divine meal missing are, bread, yeast salt and flour in some combination perfectly cooked and a sweet for desert.

Close-minded...hmmmmm...Hey "What's the Beef" ?

Please go ahead and experiment to your hearts desire. We are not close minded just appreciate food, in its original condition, cooked and spiced well.

That's why they make vanilla and chocolate, different flavors for different people.

for me all this is Much ado about nothing.

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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Hi Steve,

Thanks for your comments, I actually 100% agree with you! The meal you described sounds fantastic!

To back this up with a short story I will tell you about my favorite plate in the world.................... I am an Australian who has been living outside of Australia and without fail the meal I spend most time dreaming about while I am away is a Aged grain fed 700g T-bone steak which is served with a Caesar salad, French fries and half mushroom half green pepper sauce. All washed down with a great Australian red wine. While I am vacationing back in Australia I will often eat this 3 or 4 times during my stay.

This is the type of meal you can eat everyday and not get bored or tired of it, so on your point about food tasting natural I agree. But spare a thought for the time when Yeast would of been considered a scientific revelation, that bread you are eating contains a scientific reaction so it is able to rise and it is made of flour but doesn't taste like flour in it's original state (Luckily), it now tastes like bread as it has gone through it's transformation.

The category of food I am talking about in this forum is discovery dining, this is a type of food you cannot eat everyday as such is a special occasion cuisine. It is not about scented napkins and pipettes, but instead about exploring all the possibilities of ways we can prepare food to get the most out of them and to also give the guest an enjoyable journey while eating their meal. But at the end of the day if it has 3 courses it will always have a beginning a middle and an end, the only difference is there are more parts in between which allows the Chef to fully express himself though his cuisine. I respect all kinds of cuisine and I have never once said anything against traditional or more basic forms of cuisine. Here in Spain it is just the way we prepare meals, the average amount of plates you will receive in a gastronomic restaurant is about 12 courses and will go up to 42 parts, this is not through lack of restraint but in fact to tell a complete story.

But once again, you are completely right about your example of a great meal, I am now going out to find a good steak restaurant for dinner!

Kind Regards,

Adam Melonas - Chef

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I was not aware that the octopus lolipop was to be eaten warm; consequently your technique is appropriate, though were it to be eaten cold it could be fabricated with century old techniques of poaching, clarification and the application of aspic. As for the use of carrageenan extracts as thickening agents, they have been used for centuries (on an industrial scale since the 1930's) and may not qualify as progressive.

What I do not do is try to believe that what I do is the best and tell people they should all be doing as I do…

Your original post suggests otherwise, repudiating celebrity starved chefs who allegedly “steal” techniques and do not have their own theory while applauding and validating your own use of said techniques (divinely inspired and learned?) and plugging a dubiously flattering Wikipedia entry in your signature.

...a Chef...who claims to cook “Molecular Gastronomy”, this is the first alarm bell for me as this generally a Chef who only produces copies and cooks to be a celebrity. This is a Chef who cooks with no concept and no theory and he is like a Bower Bird, taking and stealing techniques and entire plates from other Chefs until he has a menu which is made up of nothing but copies (slightly resembling a Shanghai fake good’s market). This is generally the first Chef to change his style and jump on board the next “In” concept and abandon what he has been doing as there is no sentiment anyway due to the fact nothing belongs to him. Just look on the internet and see how many people are reading the latest cook books and reproducing the works of other Chefs in their restaurants, where is the creativity and passion in that?

The second group of Chefs are those who are the pioneers of a concept and are active contributers to the long term future of cuisine, These Chefs cook with heart and all of their creations come from within, not from what they see or read.* I like to consider myself as being a part of this group which is populated by many truly amazing Chefs such as: Paul Pairet, Andoni Andruiz, Dani Garcia, Grant Achatz, Ferran and Albert Adria, Alex Atala, Quique Dacosta Wylie Dufresne + many more. Chefs who cook to a Concept and who will never steal for the sake of an easy dish... By purely copying the work of other Chefs there have been many Chefs who have been able to fool media and their diners into thinking that they are performing some kind of intelligent cooking, but instead the truth is that they are like a good parrot being able to see and replicate. I have eaten in many of these places all over the world and each time I am more and more amazed at how little they really understand about what they are doing.

As far as “intelligent” cooking (simple, efficient, consistent) with the use of meat glue is concerned, I prefer to see monkfish tails stuck head to tail to reduce waste, increase yield rather than the confection of a novelty which for me does not represent a dish as much as it does gimmickry. Intelligent cooking is demarcated by producing something flavorful efficiently, successfully, consistently with little waste and occupying as little cookware or space as possible.

While I choose not to use lab flavored theory & practice (with the exceptions of curing salts and the occasional vacuum cookery) I have friends who do study and replicate the works of those in your “pioneering circle” (just as almost everyone at some point has copied/imitated/personalized the style of their admired predecessors –be they cooks, artists, writers, athletes of craftsmen) in an effort to understand and eventually tailor them to their fit and their trials should not be poopooed as fashionable or condemned to bandwagon fallacy.

My ham in aspic or chicken in chaud froid are pure showmanship, as is your octopus lolipop, though my copying of fundamental techniques should not diminish the quality or soul of the dish. Our epicurean philosophies are in different orbits and will likely never cross. I do not feel threatened by your new ideas, nor should you fear the old ones I dig up. I’ve deconstructed plenty of things, but then realized I like my lettuce as it is, not frozen, powdered nor puréed. What I object to is the notion that unknown chefs are not deemed worthy by you of replicating and experimenting with techniques that you have not necessarily invented, but rather adopted for original presentations using well established methods studied by an earlier generation than yours; Mssrs. Kurti, This, McGee, Adrià, Blumenthal, Dufrense, Gagnaire...etc. While you may recognize a chef's use of hydrocolloids and gums or whatever from another book or restaurant, most dining guests will not and budding chefs might not have the resources to experiment in their own time on their dime.

*You will be hard pressed to find any chef worth a damn who does not have a library of books or internet resources that they use for education, reference and inspiration.

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Thank you once again for your wise insight Baron,

As much as I appreciate your approval or disapproval in any techniques I may or may not use I really do not need it.

As I mentioned in my previous comment, I love traditional cuisine and as such I really like what you do as I will always respect classic technique, because at the end of the day all new cuisine is always created on the back of traditional techniques. Creating new techniques and dishes without taking into consideration what has been done before would be like a body without bones.

My problem has never been people using any techniques to make their menus, but instead the use of purely new techniques that they do not understand and constructing a menu of things just for show. This is happening all over the world as I am travelling every month and it is disheartening to eat in the "Best restaurant in the city" and finding the same replicas in every place (but perhaps with the addition or subtraction of an ingredient). I want to eat in restaurants to see food through different Chef's eyes and see how they interpret their vision, if I wanted to eat dishes which they have copied from the internet or the latest cook book I would rather stay at home. Chefs who cook true classic cuisine are true craftsmen and as mentioned before I have a great deal of admiration for them.

Food is very subjective, but at the end of the day what you serve to people still has to have the basic concepts and satisfaction of a meal, if we can add discovery and enjoyment to this then we will give the guest an experience to remember.

* I also have a wall of cookbooks numbering in excess of 1000 (classic cookery, Nouvelle cuisine, Progressive Cuisine, Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, theoretical, production industry handbooks, Psychology, design, Chemistry, I even have the Shrek Cookbook), But I choose to use these to understand the different styles which different Chefs have so I can see the world through their eyes when I open their books. Never to inspire dishes nor copy anything.

Adam Melonas - Chef

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I still don't understand how people claiming to only support "classical cookery" are only really talking about techniques and concepts only around for a century or two. Flame on meat is classical to me, and that's still how I like my steak. But hell, if I can cook that steak sousvide to the perfect doneness before throwing it over the flame then I am sure going to do it.

Personally when I go out to eat it is either to get something I can't make myself at home without investing an absurd amount of time creating. So that usually means a tasting menu, I find them enlivening and inspirational.

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Exactly, I can imagine just this conversation going on 100 years ago about thermostats in ovens. What's all this "bi metallic strip hooked up to a diode" business? What's wrong with good old fashioned holding your arm into the cavity and counting until you can't stand it? All this new fangled technology is taking the soul out of cooking! Sure, sometimes my roasts come out burnt and sometimes they come out raw and sometimes, I need to wait an extra 3 hours for the oven to cool down before I can even put the roast in but that's no reason to be going with all these fancy mechanical contraptions!

I tell you, in 100 years, thermostatically controlled ovens will be a long forgotten fad while everyone still has their good old fashioned wood burning stove!

PS: I am a guy.

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@ Adam, Agreed. And for what it is worth, MadridLab is a worthwhile read.

However,

... I choose to use these to understand the different styles which different Chefs have so I can see the world through their eyes when I open their books. Never to inspire dishes nor copy anything.

I understand the austere pride of self tutelage (though a 3 year Hyatt Hotel Apprentice might qualify as a grounded, recognized period of study. Most chefs or other tradesmen truly learn their trade after the formative years of school), but there is no shame in acknowledging influences and inspiration which offer more credibility to a self-taught pedigree and a more romantic narrative than “I just came up with it in my orgone box”. Airplane rivets inspired the 1933 Bugatti type 59 GP, organic lines in nature inspired Mucha and Art Deco, Auvegnat panoramas inspire Michel Bras and he has inspired the chefs of San Sebastian as well as your friends.

“‘His influence is massive. What he planted seeds for was a culinary revolution,’ asserts David Chang whilst Wiley Dufresne admits, ‘he has been copied by every chef in the world. We’ve all taken a page out of the Bras book – the smear, the spoon drag, putting food on a plate like it fell off a tree.’

Bee Movie led you to noodle with honey. That probably counts as inspiration and if those particular dishes were to win awards it would be nice to give a nod to the folks at DreamWorks. I get my inspiration from Gallagher, large breasted women, Languedoc and the collected works of Escoffier and Alexandre Dumas, which I shamelessly endorse and credit despite dropping out of culinary school after 3 months.

The spherifications are likely not a process that you have invented (I think the esteemed Adrià did, in 2003, and then inverse shperification in 2005 by adding calcium chlorate; you’ve probably read his books) and surely your introduction to it as well as sous-vide, methylcellulose, meat glue, agar agar, hydrocolloids, maltodextrine, lactic acid fermentation, gel based pasta, rice & yogurt (Persian Tah-chin or Indian Thaydir sadam) and a slew of other additives/techniques in your repertoire came from someone else’s epicurean work or other, either read, heard or seen. If it suddenly occurred to you one morning while brushing your teeth that you were able to understand the foundations and fundamentals of molecular whathaveyou and copy incorporate the processes into your preparations, well then that is remarkable and you should pitch your story to the folks at DreamWorks.

If the success of “progressive” cookery is dependant on authentic and properly understood techniques then there should be a free flowing exchange of information between its progenitors and patrons. Using freely published material found in print or binary in an effort to understand techniques isn’t really stealing and if the results are satisfying to both chef and guest; no harm no foul…and then there are those who insist on making whatever is on IdeasInFood and you should expose them as creatively impotent frauds if they are a detriment to your style -though I saw urchin ice cream on a menu back in May 2009 and Gray Kunz may have done an urchin custard a decade earlier. Who is copying who? Or perhaps there are simply nuanced coincidence? Dante Boccuzi was serving saffron braised octopus terrine (precursor for the octopop) in 2002 (Art Culinaire #66).

Edited by Baron d'Apcher (log)
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I love this discussion, and it is very curious to see the path it has taken................

Thanks for your comments guys (even you Baron :-), this is what cooking is all about! Being able to discuss these topics openly and thus gain a little more insight through the perspective of others.

Ciao

Adam Melonas - Chef

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This is a very interesting discussion, and something that as a Chef is close to my heart... I think there's alot of misconceptions about what molecular gastronomy is and isn't... Molecular gastronomy has nothing to do with the form a meal takes, the use of chemicals, etc... It's merely the science of what happens to food at the molecular level - understanding this is something every cook should strive for, even if their kitchen consists of stones over a wood fire.

Personally, I dislike meals with 10+ courses, or gimmickery. I could care less if a steak is cooked sous vide or on a wood fire, as long as it tastes good. But I use concepts of the molecular gastronomy movement every day - creating mousses of every texture by varying protein, fat, sugar and water content, creating different textures in meats through various means, altering taste by altering texture, etc...

I dislike the idea that traditional cooking and 'progressive' cooking are unique styles... Why can't I use ancient cooking techniques in conjunction with modern knowledge, and flavours that aren't traditional to any culture? Why can't I open a hotdog stand where I use modern techniques?

Furthermore, even many 'progressive' chefs are limited by certain preconceptions, such as that there needs to be 'meat' in a dish... The vegetable world is so much more varied and holds so many more possibilities than simply constructing every dish around an animal protein. Even something as seemingly mundane as bread holds infinite possibilities that few explore, there's all sorts of grains, pseudo-grains, rising techniques, etc..., not to mention vegetable and fruit matter than can be added, and animal products as well...

Personally, I think true progress will be made when we stop thinking that progressive cuisine is a 'style', and simply open up to all ideas, both ancient and modern... Anyhow, my post is more a rambling than anything, but hopefully can add to this discussion.

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Personally, I think true progress will be made when we stop thinking that progressive cuisine is a 'style', and simply open up to all ideas, both ancient and modern...

You managed to sum it up much better than I did but that's what I was getting at. It's all about cooking.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Interesting. End of last year I was served overcooked beet juice caviar as part as 4 different spoons on a plate. I don't know if that happens all over the place but having done caviar(s) myself at home I was highly disappointed because it just felt lame, tasted boring and was executed badly. I used it in a steak tatar which I saw morimoto doing, this way I could get basil flavor into it without messing up the creamy texture that it had. Now that made perfect sense to me.

I find it interesting Adam that you say don't copy don't inspire. I think if you are a chef and you put the techniques you use in print you sort of want that. It should be seen as a compliment if others pick up your techniques.

P.s. Sorry that NYC didn't work out for you, I read about that. I hope you give it another shot.

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Mikeb,

Bravo! Very well said! And I totally agree!

JK1002,

You have just demonstrated perfectly in your first paragraph everything that is bad with people who take a technique they don't understand and call it a dish. Fabricated caviar was only a dish on it's own when it was a new technique which nobody knew about, today it is almost a "Normal" kitchen technique. Today it is perfectly fine to use this as a part of a balanced dish as you did in the Tartar, it is now a hidden technique used to achieve an effect. I have never had a problem with people using existing techniques as everyone cannot create new techniques for every dish in their menu, but I think it is important to acknowledge the creator instead of claiming it as one of your own. I also agree that mimic is the best form of flattery except in the case when people come to your restaurant and claim you are the one mimicking another who has taken from you. Plus there have been many famous cases here in Spain of some high profile Chefs publishing and/or demonstrating in conferences the work of other high profile Chefs.

The article in NBC was not totally correct, I will still be opening in NYC but I just have been delayed. I now have an incredible location which I will officially announce very soon.

Thank for your comments,

Adam Melonas - Chef

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I have never had a problem with people using existing techniques as everyone cannot create new techniques for every dish in their menu, but I think it is important to acknowledge the creator instead of claiming it as one of your own.

There is a curious flavor of hypocrisy, pretzel logic and distortion of “technique” in your ethos/edict. In your first post you decry the copying of techniques under the assumption of celebrity aspirations, (though your celebrity is defined by those techniques) and neutered conceptual theory, affirm that food should never be a magic show (many of your preparations suggest sleight of hand “how’d he do that” techniques to general admission diners), then later assert that you neither copy nor are inspired from books. A few queries:

1. Must a chef acknowledge who invented the particular technique for clarification and spherification when serving consommé caviar? To who and where?

2. What is the statute of limitations for distinguishing new from existing or old techniques?

3. Which chefs falsely claim to have invented a technique that they are using?

4. Who do you credit for creating techniques that you use, eg: transglutaminase to fuse items in your Rubik’s cube (another non-threatening coincidence) or sous-vide and TG for your signature dish (both of which were developed in the 1960-70’s by the industrial food processing industry for the former and 3M’s Scotchpak or George Pralus who recommended to the Troisgros Bros that poaching their foie gras in a bag would reduce the weight loss from 40% to 5% for the later)?

As for the marginal beet caviar, it is possible that its humdrum taste/execution was part of a burgeoning repertoire, that the chef had not yet perfected the technique, or that the beet juice simply wasn’t seasoned enough which is not a valid reason to dismiss the chef nor the procedure. Perfection is rarely achieved in one attempt. It demands trials which are necessary in understanding the limits of cookery (time, heat, water, salt, etc…).

Chefs should not stop serving poached fish if on the occasion that a guest has had it, it is overcooked; just as white-knuckle winter sports should not be abolished on account of injuries or death. Few dining experiences will be perfect from soup to nuts since the organic elements differ from day to day –weather conditions, meat marbling, sugar content of vegetables- and as those who have traveled during the holidays or gone out on a weekend night can attest, things don’t always run smoothly when it gets crowded. If anyone wants incontestable consistency on their terms, consider dining from a vending machine.

If chefs do not have the blessing to experiment, progress and fully understand these techniques and presumably serve their beta versions so long as they have dining merit (since they likely have to cover the costs of their food purchases and do not have the luxury of closing for 6 months to test prototypes), how will they be able to determine who is doing it right or wrong, or does that privilege rest only in the stifling hands of the “progressive” molecular monarchy?

I still don't understand how people claiming to only support "classical cookery" are only really talking about techniques and concepts only around for a century or two. Flame on meat is classical to me, and that's still how I like my steak. But hell, if I can cook that steak sousvide to the perfect doneness before throwing it over the flame then I am sure going to do it.

Personally when I go out to eat it is either to get something I can't make myself at home without investing an absurd amount of time creating. So that usually means a tasting menu, I find them enlivening and inspirational.

Unless that plastic bag can be reused it is a liability to the environment for the sake of selfish personal pleasure (gluttony?).

The proud human element of cooking is nudged aside with industrial techniques such as sous-vide and reducing ingredients to mere numbers. A craftsman's worth should be determined on technique (mastery) rather than a technique (method) and the ability for a conscious, thinking body to reproduce as close to the same repeatedly despite varying product, environment, circumstances, whathaveyous. I prefer the charming nuances of hand craft over the sterile, factory uniformity; the same human element that draws us to consistently reliable and unique musical, athletic or theatrical entertainment, hand-blown drinking glasses, hand-made clothing and the satisfaction of building a table from hand-cut lumber instead of assembling one with hex keys and instructions.

I prefer the craftsmanship of a 17 ruby pocket watch over a quartz Casio, even if the rubber wrist-ticker keeps more consistent time and you can jog with it. Necessities, comestible or material, can be distilled down to a matter of taste and an appreciation of origins, labor, history and pride...or at the very least anecdotes that sift out shallow girls at parties if I have the courage to talk to any. Perhaps it is nostalgia for a rumored time when presidents wrote their own speeches, passersby said hello and someone in the room knew how to sew a button. The loss of telegraph manufacturers for humanity is negligible and an inevitable consequence of modernization, but since the proliferation of cellular telephones, who remembers their best friends' numbers today like they did growing up. Buddies & horns will likely exist for the rest of our terrestrial lives but certain fundamental operations are crippled by the more faster and streamlined evolution of what “functions” and “functioning things” require of us.

I do not entirely dismiss vacuum cookery nor fear its immediate pinko proliferation, but feel that traditional methods of fire & steel provide more satisfaction to epicureans than warm -n- plastic, much like driving a standard transmission feels better than an automatic or how hand writing a menu with a Waterman elicits more joy than tickling the qwerty.

Edited by Baron d'Apcher (log)
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