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by the Daily Gullet Staff

In the days of Escoffier and classic haute cuisine, there was little controversy surrounding the simulation and proper execution of what appeared on the platter. Haute cuisine meant copying the dishes of Escoffier as faithfully as possible; the closer you got, the better you were. This approach was universally accepted, understood -- and appreciated.

Maybe it started with nouvelle cusine, maybe earlier. Perhaps the genesis of today's avant garde movement gave it real focus. But there's no denying that traditional culinary attitudes have given way to advancement, augmentation and innovation. Among avant-garde restaurants and chefs, revolution is the norm. A laboratory milieu, an atmosphere of culinary invention, and careful documentation has permeated the professional kitchen. Online food media like eG Forums encourage diners to distribute photographs of new dishes found the world over -- within hours of their capture.

Our understanding of culinary ethics has not kept up with this evolution.

On 14 March 2006, eGullet Society member Sam Mason (aka Willie Lee) noted similarities between dishes served at Interlude (a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia) and dishes from American avant-garde restaurants WD-50 (Wylie Dufresne's New York restaurant, where Mason is the pastry chef) and Minibar (Jose Andres's Washington, DC restaurant). Soon after, other Society members noted similarities to dishes from Alinea (Grant Achatz's Chicago restaurant), and suggested a substantial pattern of duplication. Chef/proprietor Robin Wickens of Interlude, also an eGullet Society member, responded to the claims.

Information about the dishes was gleaned from a series of photographs resident on the Interlude restaurant website. When we checked, the photographs weren't there.

The eGullet Society doesn't have an official position on this matter, but it's appropriate to publish the following for two reasons. First, by presumably removing the photographs from its website, Interlude has made examination of the evidence impossible, unless we bring these photos to light in a journalistic context. Second, we believe the Interlude controversy is not a simple matter of a lone Australian restaurant copying a few dishes from halfway around the world. Rather, it's one of the most significant issues facing the global culinary community today. The eGullet Society and its membership, including most of the world's foremost avant-garde chefs as well as a broad range of consumers and commentators, is a natural nexus for discussion of those issues. Of course, it is our hope that these discussions will influence the understanding of ethics in cuisine, and perhaps worldwide public policy in such matters.

Interested parties can judge for themselves the extent and severity of the emulation. We look forward to constructive, civil eG Forums comment and discussion. We have invited several chefs and restaurateurs to weigh in.

(Images from the Interlude web site appear as the first in each pair. The second in each of the first four pairs are from Alinea; the last is from the WD-50 web site.)

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gallery_29805_2685_1084.jpggallery_29805_2685_502.jpg

gallery_29805_2685_14923.jpggallery_29805_2685_31040.jpg

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You forgot this.

The problem goes much deeper than the scope of the current topic. The truth is, much of what I have seen at most restaurants has been done by food processors decades before. They make billions, we stay in poverty and fight in a saturated market. The Interlude situation is just one of countless examples examples how due to lack of funding, restaurants will continue to copy off each other. So I dont blame Chef Robin entirely, (although the evidence deserves a slap on the wrist).

Freakonomics is a great place to start.

My hope is to not turn this into a bashing subject rather one that tries to solve the many problems in restaurants. That may be another thread, but one that must not be ignored.


Edited by inventolux (log)

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It costs nothing to credit a source.

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It costs nothing to credit a source.

At Schnack we try to give credit where do; we are of course making very simple food so there isn't any presentation level to it…. Which is a debate in of itself (is there only 1 way to present a great recipe?).

Our Beer Milk shake we created ourselves but then found ref. as far back as Steinbeck’s' Canary Row.

Our Mac N' Cheese is based on a published recipe in some weekend newspaper "magazine" from Home, and then redone to fit our needs.

We offer a Camellia Grill Chili Cheese Omelet and have always said so.

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I agree, they absolutely should give credit.

I would also find it understandable if a chef asked an imitator to take a dish off his or her menu if, for instance, it was all the same ingredients but poorly executed in the original chef's opinion. If work is innovative it could be a real problem if you have inferior versions cropping up all over the place-- with or without credit.

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This was a PM I sent to an E-gullet moderator before I saw any visual reference. I was made aware of the thread after the pics were taken away. After seeing the photos I think the thing I take away the most is from the caviar dish. Even though it is copied, Alineas dish is bright green, the caviar onyx. That makes this discussion even deeper. Even with credit, that dish would be a poor representation of Alinea, perhaps mislead a future guest . That has nothing to do with being creative or stealing ideas, thats craftmanship.

Anyway, here are my thoughts from a few days ago.

3/17 - Atlanta

I'll start here.

Taking someones dish, every detail, and presenting it in the exact same way sounds unbelievable to me. I haven't seen these pics, but it sounds as if they are exactly the same. If that is the case, with no credit, it's messed up.

I believe using the new techniques, elements, chemicals, enzymes, equipment, is fair game. That is for the progression of the movement. I'm sure Wylie and the Activa folks want people to use their product. We use TG, many different types. We have even made shrimp noodles. However the flavors are different and so is the presentation. If asked about how we came up with it ? We say Wylie introduced it. Hey, WD is a bad ass, and we are big fans.

I have a dish right now called oysters "in" pearls. it is inspired by liquid nitrogen, but is also an homage to Thomas Keller. The dish is nothing like TKs signature. But it speaks to my personality and training. I'm sure you could say that we are copying Heston by using LN2. I don't think so. Again, if asked we tell the truth.

We have used vapors before. Grant gave us that idea. Again we would be honest about it, and would never use the same flavors.

It's OK to do a cover song, just give credit. At Blais we would often say, " in the style of " and now if we feel that we get too close we will call the dish a "remix"

To straight out copy, without giving credit, and know that... That must be a real creepy feeling.

However, there are times when we come up with something, and then find out someone is doing it. Of course there is usually major difference. But it is possible for 2 minds that are seperated to have similar ideas. I don't think 2 people could come up with the noodles and smoked yogurt though.

We are now working on Ille flotant. And it will float literally. I know Cantu is doing this in some form but probably not calling it in the style of lando Carlissien, ha!

I do however have a problem with the fact that traditional dishes don't get scrutinized. If I served a ripe peach on a plate " in it's natural state" there wouldn't be any controversy. At least here, I would be applauded for following Alice Waters. Theres nothing wrong with that, but how many restos serve roasted beets with goat cheese. Delicious, but that shit is stolen every day...

This is my perspective as it relates to me, A chef involved in "the movement" but under the radar.

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You forgot this.

The problem goes much deeper than the scope of the current topic. The truth is, much of what I have seen at most restaurants has been done by food processors decades before.

It's funny you should mention that because we were just discussing that matter.

First let me say I am not, as far as I know, sympathetic with outright plagiarism, but I have the following questions because in some places I feel as though hairs are being split:

Where is the line drawn?

Should you only be obliged to credit if you duplicate another dish exactly?

Or should you be obliged to credit if you use a new technique known to be brought into

being by another?

If you do something that has been done by a corporation or giant food processor - should you be obliged to credit?

What about other people that work in your restaurant that come up with ideas for dishes or techniques but then move on

because they were stages or consultants or designers?

What if you adopt the readily identifiable concepts of a known working chef?

Should they be credited?

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You forgot this.

The problem goes much deeper than the scope of the current topic. The truth is, much of what I have seen at most restaurants has been done by food processors decades before.

It's funny you should mention that because we were just discussing that matter.

First let me say I am not, as far as I know, sympathetic with outright plagiarism, but I have the following questions because in some places I feel as though hairs are being split:

Where is the line drawn?

Should you only be obliged to credit if you duplicate another dish exactly?

Or should you be obliged to credit if you use a new technique known to be brought into

being by another?

If you do something that has been done by a corporation or giant food processor - should you be obliged to credit?

What about other people that work in your restaurant that come up with ideas for dishes or techniques but then move on

because they were stages or consultants or designers?

What if you adopt the readily identifiable concepts of a known working chef?

Should they be credited?

Yes, out of respect one should credit another party if they choose to make a carbon copy of a dish. I also agree with Fat Guy on his earlier post.

Your next question about where is the line drawn. That will take time and evolution to answer. I just dont know. If we take it all the way then lets just give Einstein credit for everything because we all use his laws of physics everytime we transfer energy to food.

The question about people who move on:

I have posted this before, everyone who works in my restaurant or wants to step into my kitchen (effective 6/05) has to sign an NDA. This includes all engineers, scientists etc. While they are employed they are entitled to an ESOP with Cantu Designs. Dependant on time spent and other factors once the program begins. The key is keeping the idea quiet until something is filed (which is basically keeping it in my head for a while). After something has been filed, then its up for discussion with the team and can be ammended by those under the NDA. Stages are no longer permitted for several reasons. One being why should one of my employees put in a lengthy commitment when someone else can simply walk in off the street and gain from the benefit of their hard work? Now someone can simply dine and probably just figure out most things that way. But the real interesting things that happen may never make it to the table and that isnt something we just hand over.

It will more harm than good to disclose the information prior to filing because it could become a nightmare to figure out who owns and creates what. Dont misinterpret this as not being open source, most of it is. Yet even with open source someone still owns the IP. This subject may be the focus of a large article in Fast Company next month that will be more broad and informative.

My goals are not to own every idea on the block, they are much different than that.

The link below is closer to what I want to achieve.

http://web.mit.edu/Invent/


Edited by inventolux (log)

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This argument is one of intellectual property. I'm not a lawyer, but it would be interesting to hear the legal perspective on patents and copyrights as it applies to food.

This controversy arises from the shift from anonymous popular cuisine to "cocina del autor" or signed art. A very similar thing happened to painting, which was largely anonymous or produced collectively in workshops until the Renaissance. Even until very recent times, innovation was not necessarily the basis for artistic acclaim. Now, of course, art must be signed and original, and the artist is a privileged figure. Cooks are also changing status, and practices are changing.

Personally, I think it took more innovation to invent mayonnaise than the shrimp noodle, but we don't say that only the inventor has the exclusive right to use mayo. Even dishes of recent invention--say carpaccio or Caesar salad or buffalo wings--have disseminated into the general kitchen ether without an author's signature. Anyone who has worked on a cookbook of popular recipes knows what a nightmare it is to credit sources properly. Recipes have always been passed from cook to cook.

I have a long-standing habit of photographing my food for notes (without flash and with a low-noise camera), but lately some restaurants with pretentions to originality have started to object, probably because they fear their signature dishes will be copied. It will be interesting to see what the future holds as cooks try to climb from artisan to artist.

Edit: As a writer, I believe in crediting sources and am firmly against plagiarism. However, it's hard to blame a restaurant for doing what cooks and restaurants have always done-copy dishes, with minor changes.


Edited by Culinista (log)

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This argument is one of intellectual property.

That may be part of the argument, but plagiarism is an issue primarily of ethics. You can copy the works of Shakespeare, which are in the public domain, without violating any intellectual property laws, but if you claim them as your own you're a plagiarist.

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My point is that there used to not be such a thing as food plagiarism--it was not an issue since it was accepted practice. It is only in this most recent movement where cooks have wanted to be recognized as inventors that it has become an issue.

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.My goals are not to own every idea on the block, they are much different than that.

This is closer to what I want to achieve.

It's funny because the link in your post went to http://http:web.mit.edu/Invent/ - which because of the accidental doubling of http: takes me to the Microsoft home page... I hope that was an accident. :laugh:

Nice quick edit.

All joking aside (even though it doesn't look like it):

I just read an article where a judge blocked the sale of an album by Notorious B.I.G.

for a song that simply used PART of another song.

Is this the ultimate goal?

To own the rights to something so exclusively that you can stop others from doing it?


Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

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I can certainly, as a chef, understand the feelings of disappointment or annoyance that come with someone wholesale copying a dish that you've made. Especially when not only do they duplicate flavors, but also presentation. It's a natural reaction if you've put a lot of work into something.

On the other hand, as has been pointed out above, where does the line get drawn? How many restaurants throughout the world now offer a molten center chocolate cake, without attribution; something which does not go back a whole lot of time in culinary history? At what point does something pass from being a chef's signature to just part of the repertoire of cuisine? Does using a different herb in your foam really make your dish different on a fundamental level from anything being done by dozens of other chefs? Heck, when it comes down to it, isn't offering up something dusted with "cheese dust" just copying Kraft Mac & Cheese, with a different presentation?

I remember when I was in cooking school being taught "cutting edge" recipes that were blatantly lifted from local chefs, and presented to us as if they were very simply "the new way to cook". I know I, and many of my fellow students, went out into the world and began using those very recipes, and presentations, over and over (remember when we were all zigzagging 2-3 sauces across the plate, under the food?).

If the sincerest form of flattery is imitation, let them imitate. In reality, who cares if a restaurant in Melbourne offers up a dish from a restaurant in New York, and pretends it's their own? Is it really going to matter ten years from now? 5? 1? a month? If you do it well, and your own customers appreciate it, isn't that what's important?

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1. Although this isn't really on-topic, it's hard for me to understand why sizzleteeth or anyone else would be shocked by the notion that someone can't sample someone else's record without paying a licensing fee. (This isn't some judge going off on some crazy legal tangent; it's well-accepted law -- and it seems hard to argue with.)

2. The following is a non-rhetorical question (meaning that I don't have an anwser in mind and am not trying to make a point, but rather am curious about what people think): why are we so bothered about what this restaurant did, but accept the fact that certain successful dishes (like, say, Nobu's miso black cod) soon end up on virtually every comparable menu?


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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There are a host of issues here: legal, ethical, economic, and personal integrity among them.

The stagiere tradition is long held, and by welcoming chefs into his kitchen at Alinea, Chef Achatz honors that tradition. The idea is to freely share information with others to promote the art and craft of cooking -- and move cuisine forward. Visiting chefs learn technique, and then go home to apply these ideas to their own style of cuisine.

The problem in this case is, for Alinea, not an economic one or a legal one. I don't personally believe that we have anything to gain economically, nor do I think we have any sort of legal case. Even if we had one, we would not pursue it.

What is at stake is another issue. A chef at Alinea said to me a few days ago, "The thing that bothers me the most, is that if a diner went to Interlude first and then dined at Alinea, that diner would think that we were copying him."

There is here a matter of intent and degree -- both gray areas. We have all seen the Arpege Egg at numerous restaurants, and usually it is credited. I don't mind that, it is a great dish. A few weeks ago, however, I had the arpege egg at a restaurant and the waiter told me it was the chef's "signature dish". Wow. I raised an eyebrow and the meal was sort of over before it began. As Fat Guy said, it would have cost nothing to call this an Arpege egg... and it would have enhanced not diminished the meal. We can only assume that most diners will not, however, know the difference. And that is the problem.

In this case, numerous dishes were copied more or less verbatim from several US restaurants. There were only pictures of a few (and there are 3 more pictured examples not shown here), but others were described identically -- 17 in all that I counted. And the intent was clearly to show these completed ideas as his own.... for enjoyment, profit, and the accolades from the press. Seeing how hard Chef G and the team at Alinea work to create these produced a very visceral response from me personally.

Interestingly, it is only because of the internet that this issue came to light. One can imagine a time not so long ago where this could have progressed undiscovered indefinitely. And perhaps that is why the "rules" seem to be changing a bit.

It would, however, be a loss for the industry if such a violation of unwritten ethical guidelines endangered the "open source" nature of the industry and the stage tradition. I for one don't believe it will -- if anything, the freedom of information presented on the internet will tend to have the opposite effect...

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as for the miso black cod, arpege egg, numerous keller dishes, etc...

those are usually but one of many dishes on a menu. Creating a menu comprised primarily of nearly exact copies of dishes from just one or two restaurants and presenting the ideas as your own crosses the line in my book.

I can name several restaurants that have dishes inspired by dishes at Alinea... but they do not define the restaurant or the chef. I don't have a problem with that -- that would fall under the "flattery" part of this topic.

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1.  Although this isn't really on-topic, it's hard for me to understand why sizzleteeth or anyone else would be shocked by the notion that someone can't sample someone else's record without paying a licensing fee.  (This isn't some judge going off on some crazy legal tangent; it's well-accepted law -- and it seems hard to argue with.)

Oh, I'm not shocked - I actually have delt with elements of that very issue quite a bit in the past - I understand why and to some degree agree.

It was an entry point to my question as to whether that is the goal... or not.

If it is the goal then how far is it taken?

For instance back in the Alinea Project (relevent posts linked):

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...ndpost&p=721515

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...ndpost&p=783818

There were discussions of an "Anti-Griddle" and Centrifuge being used in the kitchen - then someone pointed out that a stage at El Bulli had posted about those very things being used in that kitchen prior.

Yet those ideas and tools were obviously moved forward with - and as far as I can see no credit was applied.

Which goes back to my questions of where is the line drawn and what is the ultimate goal?

If El Bulli made use of an Anti-Griddle before Alinea - should they be able to stop them from using it and therefore stop any dish that comes into being using it?

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.My goals are not to own every idea on the block, they are much different than that.

This is closer to what I want to achieve.

It's funny because the link in your post went to http://http:web.mit.edu/Invent/ - which because of the accidental doubling of http: takes me to the Microsoft home page... I hope that was an accident. :laugh:

Nice quick edit.

All joking aside (even though it doesn't look like it):

I just read an article where a judge blocked the sale of an album by Notorious B.I.G.

for a song that simply used PART of another song.

Is this the ultimate goal?

To own the rights to something so exclusively that you can stop others from doing it?

My ultimate goal is to solve world hunger. In order to maintain the control of my technology that CAN and WILL do just that, I have to file protection and find a way to obtain capital to fund the project. If I dont have protection then someone else will own it and my goal will mean nothing.

Food printing technology for the first time in human history has the ability to produce food with most of the nutritional and caloric value quicker than agriculture can keep up with. Just imagine taking all of the food dropped off in third world countries and shrinking it down onto an edible sheet. Then all we need is water for survival. Nutritional aspects can be added or taken away. We can even deliver pharmaceuticals in this manner. The largest problem with combatting world hunger is communication. When we dropped off a bunch of peanut butter bars over Afghanistan, we saw an entire culture continue to suffer. Those refugees had no idea what they were recieving and why. So they simply didnt eat it. If we can obtain a flavor profile of a familiar ethnic dish then print text that explains (in their native language) that is they consume this sheet that has a picture of the native foodstuff, it will taste like the item and deliver the needed madical attention. All this with an indefinite shelf life and by pushing print. That deserves as much protection as I can give it. There are applications that range from space travel to a real solution for identity theft. This is just one of many applications pending.

Its no longer just cooking and creating interesting dishes anymore. Its educating my fellow colleagues about their potentional, finding diverse "food delivery systems", and getting everyone to work together, Chef Robin included. My ideas have been copied in the press and others have claimed it as theirs. I really dont care at this point. Its forgivable and its merely lack of information that holds us back. I am interested in that and not the blame game. Its well documented that losing teams are the ones that waste away from within. I look at everyone in this business as part of this team. Some of us just need to be brought up to speed.


Edited by inventolux (log)

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This is way way off-topic, but the difference between sampling and this is that sampling is more like if I bought some food at Alinea and then took it to my own restaurant, reheated it, and sold it as part of one of my dishes.

What's happening here is more like George Harrison rewriting "He's So Fine" as "My Sweet Lord" without licensing (which he somehow mostly got away with).

Anyway, the whole analogy is of limited value because musical compositions are copyrighted and recipes aren't. As FG said above, it's a moral issue, not a legal one.

What I think is interesting is that people are saying that it's OK for everybody in town to have a single copied recipe on their menu (molten chocolate cake or miso black cod), but that it's wrong for a menu to be comprised mainly of "stolen" recipes. So the concern doesn't seem to be commercial misappropriation so much as misrepresentation. Is that accurate?


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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1.  Although this isn't really on-topic, it's hard for me to understand why sizzleteeth or anyone else would be shocked by the notion that someone can't sample someone else's record without paying a licensing fee.  (This isn't some judge going off on some crazy legal tangent; it's well-accepted law -- and it seems hard to argue with.)

2.  The following is a non-rhetorical question (meaning that I don't have an anwser in mind and am not trying to make a point, but rather am curious about what people think):  why are we so bothered about what this restaurant did, but accept the fact that certain successful dishes (like, say, Nobu's miso black cod) soon end up on virtually every comparable menu?

Hey, they're having trouble getting people to stop cutting and pasting at Oxford. If the concept of plagiarism is too much for people with two or three A levels to A, the situation seems pretty hopeless. I was going to say that chefs should know when they are copying enough to need to credit someone, but probably a lot of the worst offenders sincerely don't think they are doing anything out of the way.

As for the black cod, that's a great dish but I somehow feel it's too simple of an idea and execution for plagiarism to apply.

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My ultimate goal is to solve world hunger.

If your ultimate goal is to solve world hunger - why do you run a restaurant with a $160 tasting menu?

Seems to me your efforts would come to fruition faster if you donated your time and effort to a full time endevour with a team funded by donations from public and private sources.

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This is an area where scientific research may show us something. It's not only required that you make a discovery to be credited as `the´ inventor. It's required that you document your findings in a recognized publication reviewed by your peers before anyone else does. If you're not the first in publishing, bad luck. There are some publications which may serve this purpose in the gastronomy field, see for instance Apicius in Spain.

By the way, this is quite similar to the approach which elBulli is following with their books where they document everything they create, giving credit where needed.

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My ultimate goal is to solve world hunger.

If your ultimate goal is to solve world hunger - why do you run a restaurant with a $160 tasting menu?

Seems to me your efforts would come to fruition faster if you donated your time and effort to a full time endevour with a team funded by donations from public and private sources.

The restaurant and Cantu Designs are two separate entities. It has taken a lot of R&D to get where the printing technology is today and that means my time. I believe in sticking with my passion for restaurants. So I combine the two. I can be far more effective in my current capacity than looking for angel investors or venture capilaists who will ulimately slow down the progress because its usually about a return for those types which means I lose control over the big goal. So it takes cashflow and I use the system mentioned above with licencing. If the current system of public and private funding worked, it would have already solved the problem. This system begins to get watered down with bureaucracy and scandals. Look at Katrina.

A 160.00 tasting menu can allow me more creativity than a 5 dollar hot dog stand.

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The restaurant and Cantu Designs are two separate entities. It has taken a lot of R&D to get where the printing technology is today and that means my time. I believe in sticking with my passion for restaurants. So I combine the two. I can be far more effective in my current capacity than looking for angel investors or venture capilaists who will ulimately slow down the progress because its usually about a return for those types which means I lose control over the big goal. So it takes cashflow and I use the system mentioned above with licencing. If the current system of public and private funding worked, it would have already solved the problem. This system begins to get watered down with bureaucracy and scandals. Look at Katrina.

A 160.00 tasting menu can allow me more creativity than a 5 dollar hot dog stand.

Then I guess the better question is - what is the purpose for the licensing?

In such a matter - wouldn't it be more effective to contribute ideas to a pool and "give them away"

so that anyone who can augment it has the opportunity without having to pay anything or face the possibility of being "stopped" or "sued"?

Why is it important in the matter of solving world hunger that you protect your claim to the ideas?

And to keep it on topic - why is it important in Gastronomy to protect your claim to the ideas?

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The restaurant and Cantu Designs are two separate entities. It has taken a lot of R&D to get where the printing technology is today and that means my time. I believe in sticking with my passion for restaurants. So I combine the two. I can be far more effective in my current capacity than looking for angel investors or venture capilaists who will ulimately slow down the progress because its usually about a return for those types which means I lose control over the big goal. So it takes cashflow and I use the system mentioned above with licencing. If the current system of public and private funding worked, it would have already solved the problem. This system begins to get watered down with bureaucracy and scandals. Look at Katrina.

A 160.00 tasting menu can allow me more creativity than a 5 dollar hot dog stand.

Then I guess the better question is - what is the purpose for the licensing?

In such a matter - wouldn't it be more effective to contribute ideas to a pool and "give them away"

so that anyone who can augment it has the opportunity without having to pay anything or face the possibility of being "stopped" or "sued"?

Why is it important in the matter of solving world hunger that you protect your claim to the ideas?

And to keep it on topic - why is it important in Gastronomy to protect your claim to the ideas?

Licencing enables someone to recieve compensation for their ideas.

When an entity licences something to another party then it is that recieving party that then decides to sue or not. Basically, not me. Could be NASA suing someone or a large corporation. I stay out of the courtroom. Its not my specialty.

Because if I dont, then some other company or entity may obtain rights to the technology and use it for something else. Maybe for another ENRON. I am interested in the control and how it is used.

The whole point of me explaining the broadness of this printed food is to get chefs to think that maybe one of their ideas can solve a massive problem. They should be rewarded for it.


Edited by inventolux (log)

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      The Daily Gullet is proud to present this, the first in a multi-part, front-row report on the recent "Spain and the World Table" conference. Watch for subsequent installments in this topic.

      In his introduction of Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller -- perhaps the most celebrated American chef ever -- described four elements that go into making a great chef. The chef must be aware. Once aware of one’s culinary and other surroundings that chef can then be inspired, which leads to the ability to interpret those surroundings. But a great chef does not stop there. Instead, the great chef continues to evolve. Ferran Adria, perhaps more than any other chef who has ever lived, is the embodiment of those four elements.

      The moment that Ferran Adria strode towards Thomas Keller on the stage at the CIA/Greystone’s World of Flavors’ “Spain and the World Table” Conference was electric -- as if a giant Van de Graf generator had been turned on. The feeling didn’t subside when Adria took the stage from Keller; it only became more pronounced as the packed crowd rose to its feet, raining applause, admiration and love on the Spanish master. Adria accepted the response with aplomb, and gave it right back to the audience -- and to his fellow Spanish cocineros, who were standing off to the side. He brought each one up to join him on the stage for a rousing thank-you to the conference organizers, sponsors and participants. Once this emotional release subsided, Adria got down to what everyone had been waiting for -- his discussion and demonstration.

      Ferran Adria, with eyes sparkling like the finest cava, began speaking Spanish in a voice as gravelly as the beaches of the Costa Brava, while Conference Chairman Jose Andres translated. The crowd, hushed and straining for every word, moved forward in their seats as Adria explained El Bulli and himself, with a lesson in recent culinary history thrown in. Ferran explained that El Bulli is not a business. While offshoots of El Bulli are operated on a for-profit basis, the restaurant runs without profit as a primary motivation. For example, he said, the greatest difficulty they have is distributing reservations. Given the extraordinary demand and the severely limited supply, he explained that they could simply raise the price of a meal to the point where the supply and demand met. Indeed, the price of a meal at El Bulli is in itself quite reasonable given the stature of the restaurant and well within means of most motivated diners should they be able to get there, and this is how Adria prefers it. He stated that he was not interested in cooking solely for those with the most money. He prefers to work for people with a true interest in exploring the limits of cooking with him. To this end he showed a short film depicting “A Day in the Life . . .” of El Bulli set to the Beatles’ song of the same name. The film showed a couple’s response to the experience.

      Ferran’s voyage into creativity began with a visit to Jacques Maxima at Le Chanticleer Restaurant in Nice, France. He learned from Maxima that to be creative is not to copy. This idea changed his entire approach to cooking -- from making classic cuisine to making his own. Aware of elaborate books of French cuisine, Adria resolved to catalogue his work, the results of which are the richly detailed El Bulli books, published by period. These books, as wonderful as they are, are huge and extremely expensive. During his presentation, Adria announced -- and demonstrated -- that the individual dishes photographed and described in a chronology within each book are all now available online at elbulli.com.

      He finished the philosophical discussion by talking about the general style of haute cuisine that he and others are engaged in. While others have coined the term “molecular gastronomy” to highlight the scientific component of the creativity involved, Adria rejected it, saying that all cooking is molecular: most of his techniques are in fact rather simple and don’t employ radical new technology. Most of the technology that they do use has been around for some time; they have simply adapted it to their own purposes. Nevertheless, he applauds contributions to gastronomy from Harold McGee and other food scientists, and welcomes their collaboration in the kitchen. He has yet to find a term that describes the movement: as of now, he feels that there really is no good name for this style of cooking.

      More than any other single thing, Ferran Adria is known for the use of “foams” in cooking. While he is proud of his achievements with foams, he stressed that while appropriate in some circumstances, the real utility of foams is limited. He bemoans their ubiquity -- and wishes to not be blamed for others’ poor deployment of the concept. In the course of describing this and other techniques, Adria made a point of stating that using them should not be inferred as copying. Techniques and concepts are to be used and shared. He invited everyone to learn and harness whatever they found interesting, and to employ it in to their own pursuits.

      Another set of techniques discussed and demonstrated by the master and his assistant, Rafa Morales from Hacienda Benazuza, included three types of spherification. These included the use of calcium chloride (CaCl) and sodium alginate as well as the converse, and exploration of a new agent, gluconodeltalactone. The original combinations of alginate into CaCl for “caviar” production, and CaCl into alginate for larger “spheres” have chemistry-related limits as to what can be sphericized. In private correspondence, Harold McGee explained to me that Adria described encapsulating a mussel in its own juice. While this would make the dish technically an aspic, unlike conventional aspics it remains a liquid. Adria said that though gluconodeltalactone is very new, and they are just beginning to get a handle on it, he is very excited by it. He also demonstrated a machine for spherification on a larger scale than they had originally been able to do, as well as liquid nitrogen and freeze-drying (lyophilization) techniques. At the conclusion of his demonstration -- and thus the Conference -- the audience once again awarded him a standing ovation.

      While Adria’s appearance was the culmination of the conference, the energy it produced was not just because of his stature in the world of gastronomy -- it was also due to the excitement generated by the conference that preceded it. If there had previously been any doubt, Thomas Keller’s welcome of Adria was a clarion: Spanish cuisine has landed on North American shores and is finding a niche in the North American psyche. Spanish cuisine -- in its multifaceted, delicious entirety -- lives here, too.

      + + + + +

      John M. Sconzo, M.D., aka docsconz, is an anesthesiologist practicing in upstate New York. He grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian-American home, in which food was an important component of family life. It still is. His passions include good food, wine and travel. John's gastronomic interests in upstate northeastern New York involve finding top-notch local producers of ingredients and those who use them well. A dedicated amateur, John has no plans to ditch his current career for one in the food industry. Host, New York.
    • By docsconz
      About Jose Andres
       
      Throughout his career, Jose’s vision and imaginative creations have drawn the praise of the public, the press and his peers. José has received awards and recognition from Food Arts, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, the James Beard Foundation, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate. In addition, José has been featured in leading food magazines such as Gourmet as well as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Good Morning America, Fox Sunday Morning News with Chris Wallace, the Food Network, and USA Today.
       
      Widely acknowledged as the premiere Spanish chef cooking in America, José is a developer and Conference Chairman for the upcoming Worlds of Flavor Conference on Spain and the World Table at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, November 2 – 5, 2006.
       
      In 1993, Jose moved to Washington, DC, to head the kitchen at Jaleo. From there, Jose took on executive chef responsibilities at neighboring Café Atlantico and later Zaytinya. In July of 2003, Jose embarked on his most adventurous project to date with the opening of the minibar by jose andres at Cafe Atlantico. A six-seat restaurant within a restaurant, minibar by jose andres continues to attract international attention with its innovative tasting menu. In the fall of 2004, Jose opened a third Jaleo and Oyamel, an authentic Mexican small plates restaurant and launched the THINKfoodTANK, an institution devoted to the research and development of ideas about food, all with a view toward their practical applications in the kitchen.
       
      Every week, millions of Spaniards invite Jose into their home where he is the host and producer of “Vamos a cocinar”, a food program on Television Española (TVE), Spanish national television. The program airs in the United States and Latin America on TVE Internacional.
       
      Jose released his first cookbook this year, first published in English, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America (published in the United States by Clarkson Potter) and shortly after in Spanish, Los fogones de José Andrés (published by Planeta). The book is an homage to Spanish cooking and to tapas, one of Spain's gifts to the world of good cooking.
       
      Jose Andres is passionate, intelligent, dedicated, witty and a fan of FC Barcelona.
       
      Jose has been a member of the eGullet Society since 2004.
       
      More on Jose Andres in the eG Forums:
      Cooking with "Tapas" by Jose Andres
      Vamos a Cocinar - cooking show with Jose Andres
      Jaleo
      José Andrés' Minibar
      Zaytinya
      Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Crystal City
      Cafe Atlantico
       
      Jose Andres recipes from Tapas in RecipeGullet:
      Potatoes Rioja-Style with Chorizo (Patatas a la Riojana)
      Moorish-Style Chickpea and Spinach Stew
      Squid with Caramelized Onions
    • By gibbs
      With Modernist Cuisine I waited a couple of years and ended up with a copy from the 6th printing run the advantage of this was that all errors picked up in the erratta had been corrected in the print copy.  I am looking to get modernist bread soon and wondered if someone had purchased it recently to check or if someone knew of hand if they have printed any additional corrected runs 
    • By TdeV
      I'm thinking that one isn't supposed to add salt to meat which is about to be sous-vided. I have no idea from whence the idea came, nor whether it's correct.
       
      Also I'm thinking that raw onion is ok in the sous vide bag, but not raw garlic (because it imparts a harsh flavour).
       
      Either of these impressions have value?
    • By Fabio
      Last year I had dinner at Belcanto in Lisbon and one of the dishes featured a "tomato water snow" or "tomato water cloud" (translated from the original Portuguese: "Nuvem/neve de agua de tomate") that I'm trying to replicate without success. Imagine a thick and solid foam of tomato water that immediately liquefies when you put in your mouth. The cloud was atop smoked fish and olive oil was drizzled over it.
       
      I whipped a mixture of tomato water and albumin powder (2 tsp albumin, 2tbsp tomato water) along with a pinch of cream of tartar, getting to the stiff peaks point after some effort. Trying to dehidrate the foam even as low as 150F didn't work; the foam collapsed. I then tried the savory meringue approach with some sugar and salt. The result was indeed a meringue that tasted like tomato but completely different from what I had at Belcanto. What am I missing? I've attached a photo of the dish so you can see what the cloud looks like.
       
      Thanks!
       

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