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Are there any such French Chefs?


Suvir Saran
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If you're thinking spices in general rather than just eastern spices the north african influence may be more pertinant on french cuisine.

I think in London Pierre Koffman and Michel Roux Jnr have had flirtations with spices, or at least fushiony elements to their menus at times, although this may not extend much beyond "oriental spices" and "five spice" &tc.

Also Nico Ladenis and the case of the crispy salmon with spicy oriental sauce. Apparently he had this dish on the menu of his flagship **/*** for a while and soon it was the most popular starter. In his book Nico he says he eventually took it off the menu becos he preferred the smell of truffles to that of spices in the dining room

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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I think in London Pierre Koffman and Michel Roux Jnr have had flirtations with spices, or at least fushiony elements to their menus at times,

Yes, well I said use spices "to a significant degree". You're right some French chefs do flirt with them from time to time but they don't establish a lasting relationship because they are speaking a different culinary language.

If you read Koffman's account of his training and his years as a chef working in various places before opening La Tante Claire it will strike you that despite discussing many aspects of his apprenticeship he appears to have no relationship with spices at all. They just don't come into the picture.

When French chefs do flirt with spices its extremely tentatively done. Its as if they're really wary of these exotic creatures and they really don't have a clue how to handle them.

French chefs are much better at other things, why should they use spices? I wouldn't see it as a culinary advance in any way. They're better off moving forward by making things like bacon and egg ice cream and such and leaving spices to those who know how to speak that lingo.

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I was thinking more of R&B and Blues songs covered by white artists in the sixties. I mean the Stones did passable versions of "I Just Want To Make Love To You" and "Little Red Rooster" but once you've heard the Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf versions-well why bother listening to the Stones do them?

I feel that way about French chefs and spices. Why bother?

Because you want to listen to rock and roll and not the blues. And I'm not making any value judgements either because I would prefer to listen to Muddy Waters sing the blues rather then Mick Jagger. But, not if what you want to listen to is rock and roll. Which is to say they are many people out there who do not appreciate the blues.

When French chefs do flirt with spices its extremely tentatively done. Its as if they're really wary of these exotic creatures and they really don't have a clue how to handle them.

That's because the slightest mistake screws up the food. The last thing French chefs want is their food overspiced. Their cuisine is about properly balancing ingredients.

The only French chef who I can think of who handled curry well is Alain Passard with his scallop in Thai green curry (I think that's it.) It was so mildly curried. But as you ate the dish, the intensity of the curry flavor kept growing and by the end of the dish it was in the forefront. The other chef with the famous curry dish is Bernard Pacaud at L'Ambroisie, which was not impressive when I ate it. But I have to add, the teaspoon of curry powder that I bought at Izrael in Paris and which I add to my pot of mussels and cream is delicious. Thank you.

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That's because the slightest mistake screws up the food.

Well that's the same with lots of ingredients-salt and pepper included- but they use those with confidence.

I think its less an issue of balance than congruity. Spices and other Eastern ingredients just don't work particularly well in the context of most French cuisine. It's like what I said about a Japanese chef serving up Sushi with Mornay Sauce. You can do it, and some people might find it an amusing diversion, but it's not really what the cuisine is all about. It doesn't really fit. So why try to force it to fit?

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Your question seems to assume that there would be value in a French chef doing that. Where would the value be to a French chef and why would that be valuable to people who patronize French restraurants?

To a great extent this is absolutely true. I might also assume that if a French chef mastered Indian spices, they'd no longer seem Indian -- or his food might no longer seem French. I assume the question is not have any French chefs learned to be masters of Indian cooking.

The chef who immediately comes to mind is Olivier Roellinger who cooks in his restaurants in Cancale in Brittany. His interest in spices is very great and claims to be inspired by Cancale's past history as a port of entry into France for the spices of the east. All of the rooms at his inn are named after spices as well. There was nothing particularly Indian or even Asian about his food when I ate there with the possible exception of a small tidbit that reminded me of a satay, but his food was infused with many spices. My impression of our meal was that he had mastered the ingredients to the extent that nothing seemed fused, it all seemed natural as if he came from a place where this was the traditional way to cook. His gastronomic restaurant was, and is, a two star restaurant, but it seemed to offer three star food to me. I'm not sure why you ask, but you may find much more information at his web site linked above. I suspect his work is well documented in his own cookbooks and literature at the inn described his fascination and use of spices

In New York, Andrew Carmellini, who is the chef at Cafe Boulud comes to mind. Interestingly enough, I was just thinking of a meal he cooked for us some months back. This was a meal that may not have reflected what was on the menu, but may have been the best meal I've had at Cafe Boulud. There were herbs and spices of the east throught the meal and I remembered that someone had told me he's a fan of Indian cooking. I don't know how much of this has found its way onto the regular menu, but I can say that of course the spices he used mattered to him.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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Their cuisine is about properly balancing ingredients.

Is there a cuisine that's not about properly balancing ingredients, at least in terms of the adherents of that cuisine?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I think its less an issue of balance than congruity. Spices and other Eastern ingredients just don't work particularly well in the context of most French cuisine. It's like what I said about a Japanese chef serving up Sushi with Mornay Sauce. You can do it, and some people might find it an amusing diversion, but it's not really what the cuisine is all about. It doesn't really fit. So why try to force it to fit?

Because people like me are willing to pay for it to be done correctly. And on occassion it is done correctly. But since you aren't, why do you comment about it?

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Because people like me are willing to pay for it to be done correctly. And on occassion it is done correctly. But since you aren't, why do you comment about it?

Sorry? Why do I comment about what? :unsure:

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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Sorry Bux, I was speaking of the balance between spicing and proteins in French cuisine as opposed to how Indian cuisine approaches the concept of balance.

Tony - I was saying that since you are not keen on "fused" cuisine, why do you comment on it? I would think that you would just ignore it and let the people who are interested in it waste their money looking for the perfect meal?

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I think its less an issue of balance than congruity. Spices and other Eastern ingredients just don't work particularly well in the context of most French cuisine. It's like what I said about a Japanese chef serving up Sushi with Mornay Sauce. You can do it, and some people might find it an amusing diversion, but it's not really what the cuisine is all about. It doesn't really fit. So why try to force it to fit?

Because people like me are willing to pay for it to be done correctly. And on occassion it is done correctly. But since you aren't, why do you comment about it?

It would seem to me that the first poster spoke about forcing a use. If it's done correctly, it seems to me that is not forced. Nevertheless, Finch's comment seems reasonble and on topic. Why do you challenge his right to post his comments?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I am over the days trying to follow this thread. But I am constantly flummoxed by the fact that when Steve posts a quote, it never shows the author. Steve...can I, or someone else, help you learn how to quote? I mean absolutely no offense by this...just sometimes I want to go back to the quote you refer to and it is difficult to find it.

Lobster.

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Irish Cream - I'm putty in your hands.

Ooooooooohhh...I like that! :wub: You just click the word "quote" on the post you are going to quote from...then you go down to the post (below where you are gonna write yout post) and delete what you don't want. Then write your post.

Lobster.

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I didn't say that there was no such thing as good "fused cuisine". I just said that there is very little of it done well by French chefs. I've enjoyed Peter Gordon's cooking at the old Sugar Club twice and had some excellent meals in Sydney and Melbourne which were brimming over with fusion ideas. My meal at Bayona in NO last year showed some creative spicing and some unusual ingredients.

Its the French (and the Italians) who don't know how to do it and that's because the're steeped in their own traditional culinary language and don't see the need to make much of an effort to learn a new one.

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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I'm alway inclined to dismiss generalities. :laugh: Okay, many of us tend to speak in general terms, but we need to be aware that there are usually going to be brilliant exceptions. It's been my feeling that because generations of French chefs have been so well trained in the classics, they are less able to work in "fusion" modes, but that when they do, they do it better than Americans who are less restricted in their thinking and all too eager to create. In either case, the few who can successfully create are small and the ones who fail tend to fail according to their national character, but it doesn't really matter whether the food is too loose or too tight if just doesn't work -- unless you have a plate that tends to forgive easier in one direction or the other.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Suvir, are you interested in how spices play in to Pastry? It seems to me that there has been more experimentation in that realm due to the trend of bridging savory ingredients with pastry. This generally leads to traditionally savory spices being infused with part of the dessert.

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Suvir, are you interested in how spices play in to Pastry?  It seems to me that there has been more experimentation in that realm due to the trend of bridging savory ingredients with pastry.  This generally leads to traditionally savory spices being infused with part of the dessert.

Ben

Ben, maybe we should talk of that too.. though for my purpose with what I need for now, savory is the limitation.

But you know how much I love pastry.. and I would love to see us talk about that too. :smile:

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