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Do you think that in the last 20+ years the dynamics of plagiarism have changed? That theory makes sense on a lot of levels to me, at least with regard to literature and scholarship. But in 1982, I'm guessing most plagiarists knew they were doing something wrong. In today's cut-and-paste culture, it really seems as if a lot of people do not have that understanding.

You're probably right, but ultimately I don't think we should care whether people have the understanding. It's still wrong.

Oh, absolutely.

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It has become quite a tribunal hasn't it?

As much as I don't agree with exactly what has transpired in the form of copying the dishes, I am sorry for these people that this has happened to them - because they are being made an example of only because they were caught - even though this kind of thing is common - to whatever extent.

What I would like to see from the other chefs in question is a black and white declaration in this forum, that they are obviously monitoring, that in their current work or in any of the work that has brought them to where they are - they have never plagiarized, never used something they knew to exist previously without crediting the proper source and never passed off something they knew to be a product of the work of another as their own - to whatever extent - to whatever degree.

Because in my opinion - if you cannot be measured by your own stick - then any debate on the subject as it pertains to you is worthless and the items that started this entire thread are moot in that context.

I don't have any expectation that that is going to happen - and will be extremely happy to see it if it does.

Your answer will speak volumes, your lack of answer will speak volumes, as would the removal of this post.

And let Karma treat you (and me) accordingly.

You raise an interesting point, Nathan, but I think you really are comparing apples and oranges. If any of the chefs or non-chefs such as myself have blatantly copied someone else's work without any substantive changes or alterations and attempted to pass it off as his or her work i.e. "creation" that would be extremely hypocritical. Where there is a very wide spectrum, however, is the role of learning and influence. Techniques can be taken but used in such away that the resultant product is different than the one the technique was originally designed for or techniques can be applied to different or novel ingredients. That is a very different situation than what is being discussed here, yet that is the kind of situation I feel that you keep trying to press. The situation I described is the essence of creativity - stretching and changing bounderies. Taking someone else's words or artistic expression and recreating them verbatim may show excellent technical skill in the form of a culinary or artistic product, but little in the way of creativity, unless the actual production of the product was completely different or in the case of a culinary product it looked exactly the same as another creation but tasted completely different. In the latter case, it would indeed be a new product and not a plagiarized copy.

The point I was trying to make with Jamie was that attributed copies of say 17 disparate styles at one seating, while not necessarily creative, would demonstrate a level of technical skill and beinteresting solely on that basis if for no other reason. Nor do I think that it would be ethically flawed.


Edited by docsconz (log)

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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You set up quite the straw man Sizzleteeth... and both comment and lack thereof can knock it down...

While I am not a chef, I can say this. Throughout my academic career at a liberal arts college, having written hundreds of pages, and in all of my writing since then, I have never knowingly plagiarized anyone else nor intentionally omitted a citation in order to pass off someone elses work as my own.

That you find it so hard to believe that someone else can go through life without doing so speaks volumes to your own actions (as you admitted earlier)... and enlightens us, perhaps, as to why reaon #4 cited by Fat Guy is de rigor in these situations.

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You set up quite the straw man Sizzleteeth... and both comment and lack thereof can knock it down...

While I am not a chef, I can say this.  Throughout my academic career at a liberal arts college, having written hundreds of pages, and in all of my writing since then, I have never knowingly plagiarized anyone else nor intentionally omitted a citation in order to pass off someone elses work as my own.

That you find it so hard to believe that someone else can go through life without doing so speaks volumes to your own actions (as you admitted earlier)... and enlightens us, perhaps, as to why reaon #4 cited by Fat Guy is de rigor in these situations.

Hey brother...

If this place is to be executioner, judge and jury, me included, then the very least we can get is a hand on the Bible to swear to tell the truth.

With that I digress - before I become the hunted.

If it's not already too late. :wink:

No I haven't lived my life free from fault or wrong doing and yes, it surprises me if anyone has.

Something which I'll happily admit to - and hope never to repeat.

Goodnight.


Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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Fascinating thread... but now I feel the urge to throw another legal wrench into the moral mechanics that are being put together here.

We appear to be forming a consensus that when a dish is duplicated from the repertoire of another, that credit should be given to the originator. One example above is the Arpege egg.

Arpege, however, is a trademark of Alain Passard (or his employers if he does not fully own the restaurant.) L'Arpege could easily stop anybody from selling counterfeit Arpege eggs. Lots of other restaurants could do the same for their eponymous dishes. They might even have incentive to do so if the copies are (in their eyes) inferior in quality to the originals. And they have a strong argument... the value of their brand is diminished in the eyes of their market by others putting out pale shadows of the original greatness, yet still attaching the original name.

We appear to be approaching a system that effectively gives the creator of a dish a right to veto another's choice to replicate it by using a combination of two principles.

1. You're a scumbag if you don't attribute your sources, and

2. If you attribute your shoddy work to the originator, they can stop you from doing so in order to protect their brand image in the market.

Complicated, no? I'd love to hear reactions to this musing.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Fascinating thread...  but now I feel the urge to throw another legal wrench into the moral mechanics that are being put together here. 

We appear to be forming a consensus that when a dish is duplicated from the repertoire of another, that credit should be given to the originator.  One example above is the Arpege egg.

Arpege, however, is a trademark of Alain Passard (or his employers if he does not fully own the restaurant.)  L'Arpege could easily stop anybody from selling counterfeit Arpege eggs.  Lots of other restaurants could do the same for their eponymous dishes.  They might even have incentive to do so if the copies are (in their eyes) inferior in quality to the originals.  And they have a strong argument... the value of their brand is diminished in the eyes of their market by others putting out pale shadows of the original greatness, yet still attaching the original name.

We appear to be approaching a system that effectively gives the creator of a dish a right to veto another's choice to replicate it by using a combination of two principles.

1. You're a scumbag if you don't attribute your sources, and

2. If you attribute your shoddy work to the originator, they can stop you from doing so in order to protect their brand image in the market.

Complicated, no?  I'd love to hear reactions to this musing.

I would think if it was being sold as the Arpege egg it could be a problem, but if it was sold as so-and-so's version of the Arpege egg it would less likely be so. If I try to emulate someone but fall short it is not the fault of the person I tried to emulate. Ferran Adria should not be held in any less regard for someone else's poor rendition of a "foam".


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Just try marketing your Dark Caffeinated Fizzy Beverage In The Style of Coca-Cola and see how long it takes for the cease & desist nastygrams to start arriving. Same principle at work with Arpege eggs... particularly with regard to world famous brands like Arpege (and Coke), which have even higher levels of trademark protection than ordinary marks.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I would think if it was being sold as the Arpege egg it could be a problem, but if it was sold as so-and-so's version of the Arpege egg it would less likely be so. If I try to emulate someone but fall short it is not the fault of the person I tried to emulate. Ferran Adria should not be held in any less regard for someone else's poor rendition of a "foam".

I think he shouldn't, but he might be. I can see diners who are not that well informed (or even some who are) dismissing a dish after having a worse version of it, especially if the quality of the ingredients isn't there or something similar.

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I think the better analogy is to music. It's okay to say a song is inspired by the Rolling Stones, even though the band's name is a trademark.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It has become quite a tribunal hasn't it?

As much as I don't agree with exactly what has transpired in the form of copying the dishes, I am sorry for these people that this has happened to them - because they are being made an example of only because they were caught - even though this kind of thing is common - to whatever extent.

What I would like to see from the other chefs in question is a black and white declaration in this forum, that they are obviously monitoring, that in their current work or in any of the work that has brought them to where they are - they have never plagiarized, never used something they knew to exist previously without crediting the proper source and never passed off something they knew to be a product of the work of another as their own - to whatever extent - to whatever degree.

Because in my opinion - if you cannot be measured by your own stick - then any debate on the subject as it pertains to you is worthless and the items that started this entire thread are moot in that context.

I don't have any expectation that that is going to happen - and will be extremely happy to see it if it does.

Your answer will speak volumes, your lack of answer will speak volumes, as would the removal of this post.

And let Karma treat you (and me) accordingly.

Sizzleteeth,

With all due respect it seems you have little idea of the evolution of a chef. We spend the early part of our careers studying what has already been done. It's called a foundation/the basics or whatever words you wish to use. Then at some point we make a choice; to simply continue what has already been done before, or to try and develop one's own style. Regardless of which path we choose there will necessarily be a type of plaigarism. We are all guilty of standing on the shoulders of those who have come before us. It is impossible for us not to. Even if you choose to develop your own style, all that it can really amount to is taking the sum of your existing experiences/ training and try to make it your own; twist it, spin it, evolve it somehow leaving your own fingerprint on the timeline of cooking. Inevitably there will be elements/aspects of a dish that will be traceble to previous training, but it is our hope to personlize it, to somehow make a contribution to what we have learned. Somehow take cooking a little farther down the road than where it was when we came across it.

It is with that in mind, we must consider what has transpired here. Someone has, for quite some time been taking credit or even worse, been given awards for food which he hasn't been forthright about. It is exact replica after exact replica of food from at no less than 4 restaurants in the U.S. But without any acknowledgement. This is an unacceptable type of plaigarism, one that we cannot condone. It is not the way any of us go about creating our menus.

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I think the better analogy is to music. It's okay to say a song is inspired by the Rolling Stones, even though the band's name is a trademark.

Drawing together the theme of this thread, Steven's Stones analogy, and John's concept for a Tribute Restaurant means it could only be named one thing.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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I think the better analogy is to music. It's okay to say a song is inspired by the Rolling Stones, even though the band's name is a trademark.

Of course it is!


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Sizzleteeth,

With all due respect it seems you have little idea of the evolution of a chef.  Regardless of which path we choose there will necessarily be a type of plaigarism. We are all guilty of standing on the shoulders of those who have come before us. It is impossible for us not to. Even if you choose to develop your own style, all that it can really amount to is taking the sum of your existing experiences/ training and try to make it your own; twist it, spin it, evolve it somehow leaving your own fingerprint on the timeline of cooking. Inevitably there will be elements/aspects of a dish that will be traceble to previous training, but it is our hope to personlize it, to somehow make a contribution to what we have learned.

Wylie - I'll make one more post here to say that on this we agree.

Though I would say a readily identifiable style is at the same level as a specific dish - in my mind.

I do understand, to some degree anyway, the evolution of a chef and my challenge to answer these questions was purposely loaded - as in answering them - any chef would have to concede to copying - really - any person would have to concede to copying - somewhere, at some point.

Some to greater degree than others.

I understand and appreciate the distinction here in ways I can never fully convey to you and I'm not condoning it - nor am I really defending it - I simply feel this person made a mistake - maybe a huge one - but one that does not deserve this type of retribution. And retribution is what I feel it is.

I could say "it's just food" - "nobody ripped off the Mona Lisa here", but then I suppose you could say that about anything and it would open every door in existence to this type of thing.

So carry on.

I do though, appreciate your answer and it does seem to me to be an honest one.


"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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Fascinating topic, this. I'm not going to weigh in heavily on the ethics question, though surely something like "Alinea's pickled lark's tongues in Madeira aspic" or "sautee of hen's teeth and pigs' combs inspired by WD-50" serves to create interest on a menu, and is at least no more irritating to the diner than the 12 or so pairs of inverted commas gracing any given French Laundry menu. It certainly can't hurt.

I would, though, like to share two observations I've made in leading Melbourne restaurants in the last couple of years. One is the menu at Pearl, which has seen some desserts prefixed with "Stephanie's", presumably to reflect the dishes' origins either with chef Stephanie Alexander or in the time Pearl chef Geoff Lindsay spent working at her eponymous restaurant.

The other is the degustation menu at Fenix, which you can see here -

http://www.fenix.com.au/rest/rest.html

- which offers a detailed description of an amuse gueule which will seem very familiar to anyone who has dined at The Fat Duck. I've had the nitro green tea custard thing at both restaurants, and I have to say that I was very surprised not to see anything by way of a reference to The Fat Duck or Heston Blumenthal on the Fenix menu. (I should mention, too, that I've also been served liquorice-poached salmon in both restaurants, again with no suggestion of the dish's provenance on the Fenix menu. For all the casual diner knows, it may well have been something Fenix's chefs came up with when they were at The Fat Duck.)

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Interesting to note, too, that the full Interlude degustation is dubbed "The Tour". Maybe they could just mention the whistlestops of each course.

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I'm rather fond of what George Lang had to say on the subject: 'There should be a special phrase for getting credit for something you didn't do and at the same time attributing your ideas to someone else.'

Mind you, he is a deeply truffled man.


from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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[...]I understand and appreciate the distinction here in ways I can never fully convey to you and I'm not condoning it - nor am I really defending it - I simply feel this person made a mistake - maybe a huge one - but one that does not deserve this type of retribution. And retribution is what I feel it is.[...]

All he is facing is opprobrium. I feel that's warranted, because it takes a lot of chutzpah to not only copy other chefs' dishes without attribution but post photos of those dishes on your website. To get back to my question earlier in this thread, I don't think that not posting the photos would make this kind of culinary plagiarism alright, but I do think that posting the photos made it worse. And many of us who are taking strong exception to his actions are not personally injured in any way, so it's hardly fair to generalize this as "retribution." Anyway, you know what they say: If you can't stand the heat...


Michael aka "Pan

 

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To me the most challenging open technical question with respect to attribution in cuisine has to do with the appropriate form and scope of the attribution.

When we're dealing with words, it's easy: we have footnotes, endnotes, inline citations, acknowledgments and various other devices. Usually a writer works within the rules set forth by a journal or other publisher.

When dining, however, the written word is peripheral. Plenty of times the specific dishes in a degustation aren't even written down. Much of the communication in restaurants occurs through the waitstaff, and it's not exactly easy to control what servers say -- not to mention sometimes you don't want to hear it. I could certainly understand being served the occasional copycat dish without explanation -- the logistics of culinary attribution in the dining room dictate that even a chef who makes a good-faith effort to attribute is going to fail sometimes.

Now, when you get into published recipes, interviews, etc., it becomes a lot simpler. You have the written and spoken word available to you. Still, specificity of attribution is an open question. For example, is it sufficient to say in a several prominent interviews "We serve a lot of dishes that are inspired by El Bulli" or is it necessary to say that about every dish every time? Certainly, once you do the former you're no longer a plagiarist. I imagine if all chefs simply spoke forthrightly about their influences when asked, there wouldn't be a need for much more.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm looking at my copy now. (Gourmet Traveller November 2005)

Can't see anything specific in reference to recipe ownership but the article is purely in reference to their Best New Talent Award Winner and his unique approach.... and highlights 6 recipes.....

There are some very interesting comments with major relevance to this thread though.

I'm by no means a copyright expert and I'm sure it won't be long before Gourmet Traveller pick this up and comment either here or in print.

So when it comes to their magazine, let's leave it to them.

I'll advise if I see anything relevant in print from down here.


CHEF JOBS UPDATE - September 07 !!

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I'm looking at my copy now. (Gourmet Traveller November 2005)

Can't see anything specific in reference to recipe ownership but the article is purely in reference to their Best New Talent Award Winner and his unique approach.... and highlights 6 recipes.....

There are some very interesting comments with major relevance to this thread though.

I'm by no means a copyright expert and I'm sure it won't be long before Gourmet Traveller pick this up and comment either here or in print.

So when it comes to their magazine, let's leave it to them.

I'll advise if I see anything relevant in print from down here.

Fair enough Chef's Office, I'm with you. A quick page through the story matches your take from the article... you're right, it's their magazine, it's his issue, I wasn't stolen from, and in the end has little to do with me. If I go to his restaurant, and don't enjoy it, then I'll chime in again.

And in the interest of complete clarity and fairness, i'll confirm that nowhere in the article are the recipes ascribed, explicitly, as "his." They weren't at all, either from his mouth or the journalist's.

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In an earlier post, I did point out that Robin's `Perfect Scrambled Eggs with beetroot foam' featured in the November issue is almost identical to a dish featured on the Juniper Restaurant's Website (Juniper is a one michelin star restaurant in the U.K).

I noticed this in Decemember and although it annoyed me greatly, I decided not to mention it on egullet as I thought, `hopefully karma will sort this out ...

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I agree, Sean. It was necessary, I think, to document and discuss the specific instance in order to establish a basis for a larger conversation about the important issues at play here. It seems we're now well into the general phase of the conversation and can leave the specifics behind so long as they remain settled. I certainly plan to focus on the big picture. No need for gratuitous and repetitive bashing.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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We have two threads going on the board right now that mention:

a hamburger on a krispy kreme donut for a bun

fois gras on a halved donut hole for a bun

In the 'greater context', is this

simultaneous discovery

acceptable levels of influence

copycat-ism ("is almost identical to a dish" EQ above)

or

other?


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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      When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.
      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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