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emhahn

3 Most Important Elements of a Plate...

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Up to now, neither Steve P nor Steve S has given evidence that they would give the same ratings to dishes in blindfolded and unblindfolded conditions

Now this is about the thinnest of lines in the history of eGullet. Let's set the record stright.

1. A well presented dish is a better dish then a poorly presented one.

2. A well presented dish is more enjoyable then a poorly presented one

3. A well presented dish should get a higher rating then a poorly presented one

but;

4. A well presented dish does not taste any different then a poorly presented one. They taste the same.


Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)

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4. A well presented dish does not taste any different then a poorly presented one. They taste the same.

Steve, that's what I call a hypothesis.

I'm asking you to show it's true using scientific method. Not to analyze the physical components. Rather, subjects in controlled conditions reporting on their taste of the dishes.

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But you keep trying to change the context. I agree if you make me hold my nose, a great wine doesn't taste as good anymore. Now what? Because I'm not in the habit of holding my nose when I crack open the Musigny. What does any of that have to do with eating a meal?

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This whole thread baffles me.

For the record, I'm firmly with the two Steves on this issue. I just can't fathom how anyone can possibly think that the physical properties of the food presented in a dish CHANGE depending on how they are presented on a plate.

That's like saying that your dirty car drives far worse than your car after being through the car-wash.

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I just can't fathom how anyone can possibly think that the physical properties of the food presented in a dish CHANGE depending on how they are presented on a plate.

I dont' think anyone has argued that it does.

Steve P -- I'm obviously not getting my point across, but I can't think of any other way to put it. But a blindfold test is not relevant to the point I'm trying to make.


Edited by Stone (log)

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There seem to be two camps here. Those that believe that the molecular arrangement of foodstuffs is taste; and those that maintain that taste is the perception of those food molecules via the sensory organs.

To the first camp, you're both wrong, and unimaginitive.

Just because two blindfolded tasters are able to recognize that what they are tasting is apple juice, doesn't mean that the sensory process is the same in both tasters. In fact, what the tasters are doing is comparing the actual apple juice to stored sensory analogies of other apple juice moments. For all anyone knows these analogies may be quite different. Indeed, all that we do know is that tasters have an ability to recognize, classify and identify things that they taste; not how they do it.

As any of those who have experimented with mind-bending drugs know, sensory perception is liable to change, and it is quite possible to perceive wrongly. Senses work in tandem, not alone: Some people see sound or feel rhythm in colour.

Anyone who posits that one sense doesn't or can't impinge on another, better be either a Nobel Prize-winning brain expert, or a fool.

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Just because two blindfolded tasters are able to recognize that what they are tasting is apple juice, doesn't mean that the sensory process is the same in both tasters. In fact, what the tasters are doing is comparing the actual apple juice to stored sensory analogies of other apple juice moments. For all anyone knows these analogies may be quite different. Indeed, all that we do know is that tasters have an ability to recognize, classify and identify things that they taste; not how they do it.

As any of those who have experimented with mind-bending drugs know, sensory perception is liable to change, and it is quite possible to perceive wrongly. Senses work in tandem, not alone: Some people see sound or feel rhythm in colour.

Anyone who posits that one sense doesn't or can't impinge on another, better be either a Nobel Prize-winning brain expert, or a fool.

I don't think anyone disagrees with this. At least I keep offering different examples of what would make me percieve things differently. But what the hell does the way a person who has five days of sleep deprivation perceive the way things taste have to do with the positive impact of pleasantly plated food?

It's the typical eGuillet scientists, acadamicians and pedants gone mad syndrome. The original question asks about plated food and the effect it has on a diner. It has nothing to do with conditions that are so harsh and severe that one might request to be committed to an insane asylum in order to take time off to get their palate back.

Plated food is an extension of something natural. An ingredient whose DNA is so severely stamped on it that there is an entire craft called cooking that is intended to accentuate the characteristics of that ingredient. And there the limitations of plating lie. It will never get so harsh and severe that we are completely fooled into thinking a steak is a lobster because someone is sticking needles under our toes while we eat and the pain is so terrible that we lose all sense of palate.

And it is in that context of the reasonable likelihood of what the dining experience is like that I say that I expect to be able to see through how food can be manipulated this way by a chef. Not sleep deprived, not barefoot on hot coals, not while they are blowing eucalyptus in the room, and not eating while sitting upside down. We are talking about whether or not a chef can make me think Choice beef is Prime because he primped it properly. Well the answer to that question is that he can't. But yes, if the meat happens to be choice, he can improve my dining experience to the point that he might get me to say I enjoyed my meal, by serving a nicely trimmed steak that is garnished properly and cooked properly. But that will never cover up my ability to detect the reduction in quality between Choice and Prime meat.

Boy that felt good.


Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)

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There seem to be two camps here. Those that believe that the molecular arrangement of foodstuffs is taste; and those that maintain that taste is the perception of those food molecules via the sensory organs.

How about a third camp: taste is the cognitive apprehension of the perception of those food molecules via the sensory organs. In other words: there are molecules on the plate, the sensory organs (gustatory and olfactory) receive them, and the brain makes sense of those sensory signals. Taste is not just perceived, it is interpreted.

And this suggests that expectations matter. For example: knowing that you are in an Italian as opposed to a French restaurant. Knowing that the dish you are about to taste is a stew, not a grilled item. Knowing that you are in a haute cuisine restaurant as opposed to a more casual place.

Now he of the perfect palate (something he has now reminded us of several times, and how good it feels to him when he does) says that setting and expectations make no difference at all.

Serve him a dish of blue goo, and he will taste it and say, "Before that was puréed and coloured, it was cassoulet, and the duck was a 9 month old white Pekin. The beans came from Soissons and the breadcrumbs were from a loaf baked last Thursday by Mme Dupont next door." This feat of judgement is possible because in his case there is a direct circuit from the tongue that tastes to the mouth that announces what the stuff is. The higher cognitive functions are bypassed.

But I would assert that for ordinary mortals (even skilled food critics), setting and context may not affect sensory perception, but they do affect the brain's interpretation of those sensory signals.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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How about a third camp: taste is the cognitive apprehension of the perception of those food molecules via the sensory organs. In other words: there are molecules on the plate, the sensory organs (gustatory and olfactory) receive them, and the brain makes sense of those sensory signals. Taste is not just perceived, it is interpreted.

I can agree wholeheartedly with the above. And I can even agree in part with the following;

And this suggests that expectations matter. For example: knowing that you are in an Italian as opposed to a French restaurant. Knowing that the dish you are about to taste is a stew, not a grilled item. Knowing that you are in a haute cuisine restaurant as opposed to a more casual place.

But the problem with the second quote is that if you expected French, and they served you Italian, you could probably detect it because there are things about them that make them unique tasting. But when you get to this one, you miss completely.

Serve him a dish of blue goo, and he will taste it and say, "Before that was puréed and coloured, it was cassoulet, and the duck was a 9 month old white Pekin. The beans came from Soissons and the breadcrumbs were from a loaf baked last Thursday by Mme Dupont next door." This feat of judgement is possible because in his case there is a direct circuit from the tongue that tastes to the mouth that announces what the stuff is. The higher cognitive functions are bypassed.

This, and I'm not saying I could do this, but there are similiar examples I could probably manage, which I'm sure is the same for many people here, is just a matter of practice providing you have the aptitude.

You know before I was a semi-professional eater, and a media mogul, I was a musician. A pretty good one who could have done it professionally for a living. But as good as I was, I was not talented enough to sit down and listen to a pianist play a complex chord and recite by ear, every single one of the ten notes he played in order. But there are many people who can do that. And could I have learned how to do that? Possibly, if I had the aptitude.

But because I couldn't do it, it didn't give me grounds to deny that others could. And knowing what I know, that great art and craft, whether it be food, wine, music etc., is the product of such great specificity, something that is practiced by people who are so expert and have such great talent, it makes me loathe to accept any premise that it's greatness is based on an illusion. And diners aside, any food critic who can't see through the type of illusion being described on this thread isn't worth their weight in sel de mer.


Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)

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And this suggests that expectations matter. For example: knowing that you are in an Italian as opposed to a French restaurant. Knowing that the dish you are about to taste is a stew, not a grilled item. Knowing that you are in a haute cuisine restaurant as opposed to a more casual place.

While I agree that expectations matter, I think your logic is flawed.

Let’s say that apple juice consists of 10 flavour bearing molecules.

Taster A correctly identifies it as apple juice on the basis of molecules 1-5

Taster B correctly identifies it as apple juice on the basis of molecules 6-10

Both are capable of identification, yet neither perceive it in the same way.

Let’s say that a third taster, ignorant of both the apple and its juices, tastes the juice. What does he perceive/interpret? Does he taste apple juice, or just some of the ten flavour bearing molecules?

Taste does not exist in a vacuum, and each taster may perceive something quite distinct. However, what is undeniable is that tasters are able to link this perception correctly to an item if they are already sufficiently familiar with that item.

Let's then say that we repeat the process, but this time blindfolds are removed, and the apple juice is dyed with flavourless red colouring. The ignoramus will taste the same thing, as will A and B, but it will be A and B (if anyone) who have problems with identification. What this suggests is that a knowledge of what something looks like, when subverted, can be confounding. It doesn't really suggest much more.

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"Taste is perception. If you've modified the diner's perception, you've modified the taste."

"What you and everyone else keeps on saying is, in an example where your tastebuds are impaired (and that can be done visually as well) you will taste things differently."

In 100% agreement.


--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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"Taste is perception. If you've modified the diner's perception, you've modified the taste."

"What you and everyone else keeps on saying is, in an example where your tastebuds are impaired (and that can be done visually as well) you will taste things differently."

In 100% agreement.

And that's the point:

Taste is perception.

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You mean you can make a bottle of 1900 Margaux taste like mineral water by manipulating the environment? What does the mineral water taste like then?

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That's like saying that your dirty car drives far worse than your car after being through the car-wash.

Dude, mine does.

I'm serious.


Noise is music. All else is food.

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Im not as good as a a FG or a Plotnicki on this one but I do know (for me)

Presentation is very imortant on enjoying the cuisine...

The cuisine should utilize the architecture of the presentation to further enhance the enjoyment of the experience of dining at said place...

I want to remember.  Whether that it is the way the dish was orchestrated and conceived, the stucture , or combination of both...thats what I look for...

i want to enjoy it all, on all fronts...i dont care where my senses go...

Well, I'll be gobsmacked. Nice one.

awbrig gets it.

Nick

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This thread is going to hell in a handbasket, so there's nothing new there :laugh:

I suggest we abandon the regurgitated discussion about analytical tasting, which has nothing to do with the case, tra-la. And I'd like to re-state what I think we started to discuss because I think it's an interesting, and still undiscussed, issue relating in particular to rational assessment of restaurant food.

Chef cooks a roast Bresse chicken

He presents you with one secateured quarter of the chicken on a plain white plate

He presents you with a second quarter of the same chicken, sliced in a staggered pile, on a fancy bone china plate, with a lacy drizzle of red and green around the rim of the plate, a few strands of palm frond looped around a sprig of parsley, and a tiny, beautifully sculpted ice statue of a chicken at the side.

Does the chicken taste the same in both cases ? Assume you don't eat the drizzle or any of the other decorations on the plate :raz:

If you were writing a review of the restaurant, how would you compare the two dishes in terms of their taste ? I emphasise in terms of taste so let's please ignore words like enjoyment, pleasure, dining experience and so on.

If you think the second dish "tastes better" then suggest the maximum order of magnitude that could hypothetically be achieved for the difference, like maybe 1% better or 50% better.

Now suppose the first dish was cooked using Bresse chicken, and the second dish used a $6 frozen chicken from a supermarket. Do you think that it could be hypothetically possible for the fancified frozen chicken to "taste as good" as the simple Bresse chicken ?

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I emphasise in terms of taste so let's please ignore words like enjoyment, pleasure, dining experience and so on.

problem with this way of stating it is, people mostly go to a restaurant for enjoyment etc.

as for the taste issue, you know the answers :raz:


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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This argument has recycled itself twice already......

The original question I asked was this:

There are three things that are most important about each plate that goes out:

Presentation - *(undeniably important)

Taste - *(also, undeniably important)

Whether the food is HOT or it's COLD (also, undeniably important, duh!)!

So, are we back to where we began, or is the frivolous detail going to stand in front of the original question?

Just asking.......

Eric:

In the original post, you broke it down in order/magnitude of importance, with presentation being most important. Worth twice as much as taste. Do you actually grade your students using this scale?

Correct my logic, but for the practical purpose of training culinary students, shouldn't taste come first? If the taste isn't on when it's in the pan, then what's the point of plating it? Without taste, presentation seems irrelevant.

Also, isn't temperature a factor in both taste and presentation? Every dish has its own optimal temp range, some narrower than others, no? So the narrower the temp range, the greater the limitation on plating time (ie presentation possibilities). I think that 25 percent across the board is unfair.

In any case, has anything in this thread made you reconsider your model?

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I emphasise in terms of taste so let's please ignore words like enjoyment, pleasure, dining experience and so on.

problem with this way of stating it is, people mostly go to a restaurant for enjoyment etc.

But no, Oraklet, that's not a problem at all. People don't mostly go to a restaurant for enjoyment. People go for a combination of reasons, but in general I would guess that the number one reason for most people is the taste of the food. When I describe a restaurant experience, I have no hesitation in making the taste of the food the primary discriminator, followed by quality of service, and then ambience, and so on. Other people would place those in a different sequence of priority, and indeed my own priorities change from time to time.

But for most of the people, most of the time, I think taste is the top priority. And I think that is especially true of members of eGullet.

as for the taste issue, you know the answers :raz:

Well before reading some of the comments on this thread, I thought I knew the answer, but now I'm not at all sure. That's why I asked the question :raz:

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hmm. yes. well. er...

"People don't mostly go to a restaurant for enjoyment"

but yes, the total enjoyment of taste, presentation, surroundings etc. - and i guess most diners do not analyze it into single elements. to them, a steak seems to taste better in good company. this is where egulletteers will be more prone to differ.

and i'll stick to my statement: a chef or a gourmet will be able to switch on his analytical apparatus at any time, should he wish to make an objective judgement of what's before him.


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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What I find amazing about this thread, is that people seem to have forgotten that the goal is serving food and they have turned it into a science project. And if that is the goal, the job of a chef is to extend the natural qualities of the ingredients he is working with. Who would want to surpress the unique qualities of a Bresse chicken by serving it in a pile of mush, just so they can prove they can manipulate diners by serving a prettified Purdue chicken?

That is why all of those questions about diners being manipulated are irrelevent. Once your goal is to trick people, you aren't talking about dining anymore. And yes, I understand that the new wave of cooking "tricks" diners because it presents things in a way we might be unaccustomed to. And they do this by surpression, enhancement , presentation etc. But, and ChefG can correct me if I am wrong, they still cling to the same premise as more traditional chefs. Their goal is to enhance what is on your plate.

Of course this means that if someone like ChefG notices that Foie pushed through a tamis has the texture of ice cream, he can play that "trick" on us because we are not used to seeing it in that format. But he is still enhancing a natural quality of top quality Foie gras. And buried somewhere deep in the flavor of that dish is the essence of great Foie.

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Some of the arguments being advanced here are fallacious because they are based on a logical error. Lord Michael pretty much spotted it. When it is claimed that since presentation doesn't affect the physical and chemical properties of the food on the plate (arguable, but let it go), and that therefore presentation does not affect taste, the implicit (and sometimes explicit) premise is that the physical and chemical properties of the food (or some sub-set of them) are identical to the food's taste. Without that premise, the conclusion wouldn't follow.

A logical rule: Identity statements, if true, are necessarily true.*

Call the relevant physical-chemical properties of a dish "A". Call the taste of the dish "B". If A is identical to B, then necessarily A is identical to B (by the logical rule above). It follows, trivially, that it is not possibly the case that A is not identical to B. In other words, that those physical-chemical properties will ever produce a different taste. Since this is clearly false - it is possible to have A and not B (and it doesn't matter whether taste varies through impairment, aberration, strange birth signs, or magic), A is not identical to B.

And if that premise is false, the argument that since presentation does not affect A, it cannot affect B is simply invalid.

QED.

*No time to teach why. See Kripke, S.A. Naming and Necessity.

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I would be if I was responsible for modal logic. I just paid attention some of the time.

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