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Smoking and Taste for Chefs and Eaters


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Bourdain covers this best...maybe you should ask for a non smoking chef to go with your non smoking table...and please ensure he's fully rested, has a happy home life, is alert and interested in the days work, and isn't pissed off at the management for his working conditions....but then, yuou may have beem enjoying a smoking chefs cooking without realising it

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This is not a matter of trust per se, but rather comparative abilities to TASTE things as they are.  Chefs and food critics who smoke simply canno6t be tasting all of the flavors available.  And quirks aside, technique can produce some fine food, but I know that I might be getting less than I could be getting had the chef not smoked.

This is such complete and utter bullshit that I can't let it stand unchallenged. Your experience that your palate improved after quitting does not lead invevitably to the generalization that all palates would improve. It's probably true to some extent, but that doesn't mean that the chef or reviewer's palate wasn't more sensitive and advanced than yours in the first place. It also does not mean that the reviewer is in any way unfit to review a restaurant because he or she smokes.

I smoke. My palate is fine. I quit for eight years and didn't notice any improvement in my ability to taste things. The one advantage to quitting was that I didn't get winded during sex anymore, but that certainly wouldn't improve my abilities as a restaurant reviewer (except under very special circumstances :raz:).

Your premise is flawed. Your conclusions are flawed. And your biases are showing. It ain't pretty.

Chad

edited for spelling

Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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It would seem to me that YOUR biases are showing, Chad; being that you're an admitted smoker and all.

Yes, very true. My biases are showing. However, my bias is not pro-smoking. I applaud anyone who quits. They've done themselves a great service. I am, however, deeply annoyed by zealous ex-smokers. You know, the ones with pictures of diseased lungs in their wallets and a mission to convert all and sundry now that they've found the true light.

So annoyance was a partial prompt for my response. The bigger reason, though, was the flawed logic. That bugs me even more. If you follow the logic just a couple of steps further, we could conclude that people with asthma, allergies or sinus problems shouldn't be allowed to be chefs or restaurant reviewers either because their "compromised" palates would preclude them from tasting all the subtle nuances in the food.

An interesting anecdote: When I was reading "Soul of a Chef" not long ago, Michael Ruhlman recounts a conversation with Thomas Keller about his signature dish "oysters and pearls." Keller admits, sheepishly, that he's never tried it. Like Beethoven composing after deafness had set in, Keller simply knew that the flavor combination would work.

Should he not be allowed to serve the dish? After all, not tasting the food would be the biggest compromise of one's palate there is, short of having one's tongue cut off.

As we venture further and further into absurdity, the reasoning breaks down and reveals itself as specious. That's my point.

Chad

Edited by Chad (log)

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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This is not a matter of trust per se, but rather comparative abilities to TASTE things as they are.  Chefs and food critics who smoke simply canno6t be tasting all of the flavors available.  And quirks aside, technique can produce some fine food, but I know that I might be getting less than I could be getting had the chef not smoked.

This is such complete and utter bullshit that I can't let it stand unchallenged. Your experience that your palate improved after quitting does not lead invevitably to the generalization that all palates would improve. It's probably true to some extent, but that doesn't mean that the chef or reviewer's palate wasn't more sensitive and advanced than yours in the first place. It also does not mean that the reviewer is in any way unfit to review a restaurant because he or she smokes.

I smoke. My palate is fine. I quit for eight years and didn't notice any improvement in my ability to taste things. The one advantage to quitting was that I didn't get winded during sex anymore, but that certainly wouldn't improve my abilities as a restaurant reviewer (except under very special circumstances :raz:).

Your premise is flawed. Your conclusions are flawed. And your biases are showing. It ain't pretty.

Chad

edited for spelling

As I responded to Tommy , you're STUCk with the palate you've got. You have absolutely no idea how fine your palate is. And that is precisely my point. Yours is damaged and you wont admit it, yours is not a "clean" palate, but you wont admit it. The bullshit resides within you.

Edited by Rich Pawlak (log)

Rich Pawlak

 

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The NY Times wine staff does twice monthly wine tastings, with three reporters and a professional wine person exploring about a dozen wines. It's highly unusual that all four agree on the tastes of any wine.

For one wine, Hesser will find floral, Prial will smell pineapple, and the others will have their impressions. There are experienced people who perceive different tastes in the same wine, at the same time, with the same foods.

If a person is a critic, eating regularly for analysis purposes, it seems reasonable that the person will be consistent in their reviewing, even allowing for smoking, or a cocktail before dinner, or a line of coke, as long as they're consistent in their uses. Probably holds true for a chef, too.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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my palate was aware of many more flavor nuances after I quit smoking.

This, IMHO, is the key statement.

But generalizations are so tricky.

EMPHASIS ADDED BECAUSE MATTHEWB IS SHOWING GREAT SENSE HERE.

I quite smoking 16 years ago. My palate is far more developed now. Because I no longer smoke? Hell no! because I've learned a lot since 1987. I had a pretty goddamn good palate back then, quite open to nuance in food and wine. It would be false logic to say that the absence of smoking led the improvement in my palate.

No chef I worked for -- whether a smoker or not -- ever put a dish on the menu without extensive tastings and comments by a lot of people. So the scientific sampling included smokers and non.

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Hey rich.I'm a chef based in london....so what you say :shock:

How do you explain the fact that when I was a smoker I represented my country in culinary competitions...won the friggin things and then went on to do the "Grand Prix Pierre Taittinger"

I've now quit smoking, but I still taste things just the way I did originally!! :shock: Also explain to me why a HUGE ammount of 3 star chefs smoke and so do there staff.....am I to believe that THEY can't be trusted?

If you think that smoking is the worst thing that a chef or restaurant reviewer can do then you clearly don't know enough about the restaurant game or being a good chef!!, Coffee, curry, chilies, MSG...etc, etc all can damage your taste buds and all can soften your ability to judge flavours over time. :wacko:

My advice to you...put up or shut up, you've got nothing new to add and frankly your view is getting slightly old tired and long in the tooth. Your also of an age where your ment to be showing some maturity....clearly you are insecure enough to become personal and reduce other peoples reading pleaseures with your childish manners.

Your personal habits and remarks have ruined this post for me and others....just as chefs and reviews have ruined there reviews and food by smoking!!!! :laugh:

When your almost 50 you really should have more important things to discuss here so why not expand our minds with your middle age wisdom and tell us something that we don't know, common teach me a thing or 2 about food then!!! as you don't smoke I'd emagine that this would be relitively easy{PS before you flame me....I don't smoke so I clearly know what I'm saying..well according to your views anyway :raz: }

Edited by Verbena (log)
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  • 2 years later...

I'm not wanting to create a rant on the evils of tobacco.

I'm speaking as a sometime non smoker, smoker, and ex smoker.

I'm curious to hear what chefs, cooks and diners have to say about the taste buds and creativity of smokers.

Some of my favourite chefs have been (or are) smokers. They've achieved some amazing things. These include the youngest ever Michelin 3* chef, Marco Pierre White.

The question I have is... do you think that cigarette smoking (or smoking anything else for that matter) can have a positive effect on the output of a chef or cook? If so, why?

Edited by fatmat (log)
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Current smoker, getting ready to quit because I know I SHOULD. Don't have any desire to, but am tired of being nagged by family (and trying to set a good example for my mom who really needs to quit). I am always amazed at how many chefs/cooks smoke (also -and off topic- dancers). It truly doesn't seem to impair their taste at all. Speaking as an on-and-off smoker in the past, I think that AGE has more to do with that than smoking.

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I can't think of any possitive effect that smoking could have on a cook/chef. I guess I could say it helps them relax, but I'm a non smoker, and I've found ways to calm myself throughout and after the frensy of a professional kitchen rush.

However, I really don't think there's something negative about a chef smoking. I'm not sure smoking inhibits your taste buds. It makes sence to me, and I've heard people that quit... they say that they can "taste better", whatever that means. But I assume the chef is used to his/her taste buds and atuned to them, so they learn to adapt.

Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

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I'm not sure how true this is, but a smoking chef supposedly has a tendency to go heavier on seasoning.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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I'm not sure how true this is, but a smoking chef supposedly has a tendency to go heavier on seasoning.

I agree with that, I think that smokers can go a little heavy on flavour in general. That's not always a bad thing - especially with good solid food. Delicacy is not always a good thing

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I quit smoking 8 months ago after smoking non-stop for 18 years (I always said, no one likes a quitter :hmmm: ).

About 2-3 months into the quit my sense of smell dramatically improved and about 5-6 months into it my taste buds came back! I didn't know they were gone but now that they are back I am in taste heaven. The difference is extreme.

I won't get into where the hell my metabolism went off to or the 20lbs it left in its place.

Mike

-Mike & Andrea

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I won't get into where the hell my metabolism went off to or the 20lbs it left in its place.

Mike

Are you just eating more or is more of it sticking (literally, I suppose) with you?

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I won't get into where the hell my metabolism went off to or the 20lbs it left in its place.

Mike

Are you just eating more or is more of it sticking (literally, I suppose) with you?

I think its just sticking more. I have always eaten well and haven't adjusted that at all post smoking.

-Mike & Andrea

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I think the taste thing may depend on the length of time a smoker has smoked. My father, a confirmed smoker, had to have his food very highly seasoned as does my 89 year old mom. She grabs the salt shaker before she tastes anything. I believe this is due to 60+ years of heavy smoking.

I quit 30 years ago and gained the obligatory 20 pounds. I have read that quitting does slow down the metabolism. That one will gain weight even though they don't change their eating habits.

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Are you talking cigarettes or tobacco in general?

As an off shoot to my culinary obsession I have taken up smoking cigars. Like good wine and spirits, cigars are not smoked for the buzz or as a habit but to enjoy the complex flavors in a good cigar. I like to retire after dinner with a fine single malt scotch, port, bourbon or rum and a nice cigar. It is very enjoyable and relaxing. I know a few chefs and restaurant owners that smoke cigars. I don't think it has a negative effect and the only positive is that they are tuned in to complex flavors whether it is in food, drink or tobacco.

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Are you talking cigarettes or tobacco in general?

As an off shoot to my culinary obsession I have taken up smoking cigars.  Like good wine and spirits, cigars are not smoked for the buzz or as a habit but to enjoy the complex flavors in a good cigar.  I like to retire after dinner with a fine single malt scotch, port, bourbon or rum and a nice cigar.  It is very enjoyable and relaxing.  I know a few chefs and restaurant owners that smoke cigars.  I don't think it has a negative effect and the only positive is that they are tuned in to complex flavors whether it is in food, drink or tobacco.

I'm mostly talking about habitual smoking, but if occasional smoking has an effect, then I'm curious as to what folks think

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