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chefessay

Most Important/Influential Chefs in Recent History?

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Hello,

I'm a college student currently trying to do research for a paper topic that looks in depth into any creative field to try and identify what leads to creative success. I've chosen to study the culinary arts and as part of the process am attempting to find rankings, lists, surveys done that list the top chefs of the recent history (1900-present).

Ideally, these would be more academic/professional in nature (i.e. not focused on Top Chef contestants). If anyone had any knowledge on any lists made by food publications it would be tremendously helpful!

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Top chefs need not be influential. Innovators and market leaders are two different groups.

For example Waters and Keller had more influence than Puck, but Puck made far more money.

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Right, I should clarify it's focusing on innovators and chef's who add something new that influenced the field. Not people who are market leaders/made money/won contests (although the two may overlap sometimes)

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There are two ways to think about this. The one you have in mind, it seems, is influential restaurant chefs. On that, there are several good articles, e.g., here, here and here. IMHO, though, the more interesting question is cooks who had a transforming influence on everyday cooking. In America, that would be folks like Fannie Farmer, Irma Rombauer, Julia Child, James Beard and Craig Claiborne.

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Thanks for those links, pbear, I enjoyed them. I agree with you that the question can be answered in different ways. For example, Escoffier was responsible for establishing the management structure of professional kitchens that has been used for over 100 years, and changed the way cooking as a profession was viewed. These changes are hugely significant but totally different to the influence someone like Julia Child & Jamie Oliver might have on a generation of home cooks, or the changes that Harold McGee could be said to have instigated even though he's not a cook.

One thing I learned from Modernist Cuisine was that restaurant food being served to diners on the plate is relatively recent. Before then (the early 70s?) meals were dished up at the table. That alone is a big change, but once again not directly related to the food...

Interesting question.

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building on pbears list, I agree with Julia Child and James Beard and add Jacques Pepin. Chefs like Waters and Keller, imho, have had more influence on other restaurant chefs than on the rest of us.


Edited by Norm Matthews (log)

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It will be totally personal opinions.

However, if you are talking about USA, I would go further than 1900 to present.

Thomas Jefferson change the direction of cooking in the USA, and that is a fact, not an opinion.

A few weeks ago, even President Obama took French president Hollande thru Monticello to show Jefferson's kitchen/farm.

dcarch

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building on pbears list, I agree with Julia Child and James Beard and add Jacques Pepin. Chefs like Waters and Keller, imho, have had more influence on other restaurant chefs than on the rest of us.

Living in the backyard of Waters and Keller, I can easily see how they influenced people other than chefs and restaurateurs. Alice, for example, influenced how our food was grown and produced, at one time even buying produce from local Berkeley residents. She influenced the way food is prepared and served in schools, including establishing school gardens in some instances. She was influential in getting fast food and junk food places removed from close proximity to school yards. People in our community looked at what she did with food, and in the social-political realm, and took their cue from her, following her lead, going off in new culinary directions, and even changing their shopping habits and how they packed a lunch for their school-age kids.

She, Peet's, and the Cheese Board formed the backbone of the Gourmet Ghetto, which spawned bakeries, cafes, quality coffee shops, and so on. Likewise, in addition to helping places like Monterey Market, Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Fish and Tokyo Fish Market grow and reach out to new customers, their influence affected how people across the country ate and shopped.

Likewise, but perhaps to a lesser degree, Keller has had his influence, but not so much in community relations as in how people aspired to increase their skills wrt cooking and food preparation and how and what they chose to eat. I think Waters has the greater influence on "the rest of us," but Keller's contribution, while, IMO, smaller, is nonetheless important.

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You need some narrowing of focus: perhaps consider one region (Cali chefs, or the Deep South) or a particular subset of American cuisine (Modernist or Asian fusion). Or examine a particular range of years (say, post WWII to 1975). Food is everywhere, all the time (unilke most creative discipines). You don't eat a poem for breakfast or examine sculpture 3X a day. So you can't approach the culinary world in an art-survey fashion.

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Top chefs need not be influential. Innovators and market leaders are two different groups.

For example Waters and Keller had more influence than Puck, but Puck made far more money.

I think Wolfgang was pretty influential. He spawned a whole generation of pizzas.

Don't overlook the import of Jean-Louis Palladin; there's a great story about him in the current Food Arts.

FWIW, Bourdain has probably influenced more kids to go into the biz than any other chef in recent memory.

Jacques, Julia, James, Michel Guerard, Richard Olney, Jeremiah Tower.

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Top chefs need not be influential. Innovators and market leaders are two different groups.

For example Waters and Keller had more influence than Puck, but Puck made far more money.

I think Wolfgang was pretty influential. He spawned a whole generation of pizzas.

Don't overlook the import of Jean-Louis Palladin; there's a great story about him in the current Food Arts.

FWIW, Bourdain has probably influenced more kids to go into the biz than any other chef in recent memory.

Jacques, Julia, James, Michel Guerard, Richard Olney, Jeremiah Tower.

It might be heresy, but as great a personality and teacher as Pepin is, I can't see any result of his influence. He's the master of an out-of-fashion cuisine.

Puck, unfortunately, is influential and spawned all those Cali pizzas. An abomination to put pineapple on pizza.

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Puck, unfortunately, is influential and spawned all those Cali pizzas. An abomination to put pineapple on pizza.

I know; forgetting about the pizzas he was one of the earliest proponents of fusion stuff.

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Puck, unfortunately, is influential and spawned all those Cali pizzas. An abomination to put pineapple on pizza.

I know; forgetting about the pizzas he was one of the earliest proponents of fusion stuff.

True enough.

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This is an extremely US-centric list so far. Most of these haven't had as much impact on the global stage as they have locally.

Totally agree with Ferran Adria as globally influential.

The current global locavore passion seems to have a direct route back to Rene Redzipi.

We also have a rash of dude food appearing around the world. David Chang possibly needs inclusion on the list, I'm sure US based correspondents can add other pioneers in this area.

The list also wouldn't be complete without Michel Bras. Go to any fine dining restaurant today and you can see his influence in presentation.

If you are doing a research paper, what I'd do is look at the key food trends that have emerged over time and then track back to the source. Examples could be codifying cooking (Escoffier), emergence of fusion food, locavore, slow food movement, nouvelle cuisine, modernist, etc. A paper looking at their emergence chronologically would be very useful as no advance appears without being influenced by what preceded it.

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This is an extremely US-centric list so far. Most of these haven't had as much impact on the global stage as they have locally.

Totally agree with Ferran Adria as globally influential.

The current global locavore passion seems to have a direct route back to Rene Redzipi.

We also have a rash of dude food appearing around the world. David Chang possibly needs inclusion on the list, I'm sure US based correspondents can add other pioneers in this area.

The list also wouldn't be complete without Michel Bras. Go to any fine dining restaurant today and you can see his influence in presentation.

If you are doing a research paper, what I'd do is look at the key food trends that have emerged over time and then track back to the source. Examples could be codifying cooking (Escoffier), emergence of fusion food, locavore, slow food movement, nouvelle cuisine, modernist, etc. A paper looking at their emergence chronologically would be very useful as no advance appears without being influenced by what preceded it.

Even then I wouldn't say the additional suggestions make it more "global". Everything that has been mentioned here so far concerns Western/European-based food, including Wolfgang Puck's "Asian"-influenced fusion food.

The OP should clarify if he/she is looking for influential chefs on a global scale (that includes Indian [including all the regional ones], Chinese [ditto; also Hong Kong], Japanese [including that Japanese-Western fusion going on], SE Asian, South African, Western Asian/Middle-Eastern, Brazilian, etc etc etc cuisines) or is limiting the request to only Western/European cuisines or to only the USA let alone North America (and THAT would include Mexican cuisine).

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Chefessay, how long is this research paper to be? As many others have said, you need to narrow your scope or you'll end up with a three volume set not a research paper.

I will toss in Rick Bayless as my contribution as an important/influential chef.

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There is also another way to look at this.

How about chef Peng Chang-kuei - or, even chef T.T. Wang - who between them is said to be responsible for the modern version of that ubiquitous dish called "General Tso's Chicken" (and variants of the spelling) found in almost every Chinese Take-out and most Chinese/Chinese-American restaurants in the USA and even outside the US, and which is thought of as being synonymous with Chinese-American cuisine? Now that's influential. For that matter, it has been re-exported into China/Hong Kong and even Singapore and Malaysia, as examples of the reach of this dish!

Or "Chicken Tikka Masala" - who was that Bangladeshi chef in Northern England who is said to have invented it (so some claim; India has competing claims) and which is now ubiquitous all over the world and was even declared to be Britain's National Dish by a government minister, no less, at one point?

--------

As for the USA, I would second the suggestions of Rick Bayless and David Chang, amongst others, and also toss in Grant Achatz (even if I think he sometimes over-salts). How about Dan Barber?

I mentioned Brazil previously - how about Alex Atala of D.O.M. in São Paulo, Brazil, then, in the idiom of Western-styled food, outside of the USA? Rene Redzepi has spoken of him as "mesmerizing the continent", I believe.

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It'd be nice to have a measure of influence in order to separate the famous/popular from the truly influential.

Perhaps ...# of imitators...# famous chefs who trained under him/her...

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Wow! Thanks for the feedback everyone. Just as an update and to clarify a few things:

The focus of chefs I am looking for is anyone who has and an important/influential innovations(s) that made a global impact on fine dining. It's intentionally broad with no specification on region. However, the fact it must be fine dining/gourmet cuisine I think naturally gave it a Western bias.

I went out and found a series of rankings by chefs and food critics and took those list and aggregated and will be looking into the 8 chefs who appear most frequently on the lists. For anyone curious the list ended up being:

Alexis Soyer

Augsuste Escoffier

Paul Bocuse

Alice Waters

Joel Robuchon

Alain Ducasse

Marco Pierre White

Ferran Adria

And the articles came from:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/drosengarten/2012/10/29/top-ten-most-important-chefs-of-my-lifetime/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-2011767/Marco-Pierre-White-Heston-Blumenthal-The-greatest-chefs-Raymond-Blanc.html#ixzz1RrDDjFxV

http://www.amazon.com/Great-Grand-Famous-Signature-Dishes/dp/0980466725

http://forums.egullet.org/topic/53445-restaurant-magazine-top-20-chefs-of-all-time/

http://www.rantlifestyle.com/2013/12/07/top-20-chefs-time/

http://www.thebraiser.com/a-brief-history-of-celebrity-chefs/#2

http://1hautecuisine.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/most-influential-chefs-of-all-time/

http://www.life123.com/career-money/careers/chefs/most-famous-chefs-of-all-time.shtml

If anyone has any more sources (or better ones!) I can still revise the list. Just need something to back it up.

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Fine Dining by your definition is Western Cuisine. ("global impact on fine dining.") I still don't see any consideration for things other than the notion of what "fine dining" is by Western definitions.

I suspect that you would consider high-end meals in Hong Kong, for example, to be outside your conception of what "fine end" dining would be.


Edited by huiray (log)

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I will toss in Rick Bayless as my contribution as an important/influential chef.

You must be kidding

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chefessay, that looks like a creditable list. Not definitive, of course - no lists are. And, of course, the list is skewed by the criteria you chose - all lists are. Most importantly, ISTM an eminently suitable list for purposes of your class assignment.

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