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eG Q&A with Paul Liebrandt


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eG Forum New York Q&A with Chef Paul Liebrandt

an eG Spotlight presentation

October 25 - 27, 2006

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I had been watching his career with great interest and was planning on dining at Gilt "one of these days" on one of my too infrequent trips down to New York City, but suddenly in August, it became too late to dine at Gilt under the helm of Paul Liebrandt. Procrastination foiled me again!

I had the pleasure, however, of meeting the now Gilt-less Paul Liebrandt at the Starchefs.com International Chefs Congress in New York City. He recognized me from the eG Forums and offered to do an interview for the eGullet Society. I gladly accepted, and a few days after the meeting, we spoke over the telephone and recorded the discussion that follows.

If you have an interest in Paul's work, the question of cuisine as art or craft, or the business of haute cuisine, we invite you to discuss the issues and concepts presented here in the interview that appears in the next four posts.

Paul is a member of the eGullet Society, posting under the member name "veda." Time permitting, he may post on this thread with responses to comments and questions before then, but coming this Friday from 9am EDT to 1pm EDT 9 (GMT - 4), we in the eGullet Society have a unique opportunity to engage in a real-time "live chat" with Paul on subjects relating to his career, his cuisine and culinary thought in general.

We hope and expect that with your help, the discussion that ensues will prove provocative, stimulating and satisfying.

About Chef Paul Liebrandt

Looking at his impressive resume, one would think that Chef Paul Liebrandt was much older than his years. Paul was born in England in the late 70’s. His father was a member of the British Special Forces who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Instead, Paul decided to “follow his love of cooking” and become a chef.

Paul started his career as a Commis Chef in some of England’s best kitchens. In 1992 Paul worked at the Michelin one-star L’Escargot in London followed by the same position in 1994 with Marco Pierre White at his Michelin three-star restaurant. After two years with White, Paul moved on to Raymond Blanc’s Michelin two-star Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford, where he was Chef de Partie. In 1998 he moved to Paris and spent about a year as Chef de Partie with Pierre Gagnaire, where he learned “the importance of spontaneity,” before moving to New York City in 1999 to become Chef de Cuisine at Bouley Bakery. It was while he was running the kitchen at Bouley Bakery that the New York Times awarded the restaurant four stars.

During the year 2000, Liebrandt left Bouley Bakery to become Executive Chef at Atlas, where he started to develop and become known for his own innovative cuisine. While at Atlas at the age of 23, he became the youngest chef ever to be awarded three stars by the New York Times. In his review, William Grimes called Atlas “one of the most exciting (restaurants) in the city.” “Mr. Liebrandt makes you use taste buds that other chefs ignore. He forces open the taste spectrum. To shift the metaphor, he’s like a pianist who seems to have found a couple dozen extra keys,” he wrote.

In 2001 Liebrandt moved downtown to open the controversial restaurant, Papillon with eGullet Society member Will Goldfarb as his Pastry Chef. Grimes gave Papillon two stars and had this to say:

Take all of this as a warning. Do not, repeat not, go to Papillon expecting a nice French meal. You won't get it. Plan on encountering highly unusual flavors and ingredients in close proximity on the same plate, and assume that traditional-sounding techniques and preparations have been, if not turned inside out, taken for a strange ride. Above all, have faith. Mr. Liebrandt is enormously talented, with a command of classic French technique and an exquisite sensibility that makes even his disasters a show worth attending.

Papillon is not for everyone. But at a time when chefs all over town are figuring out how to put macaroni and cheese on the menu, Mr. Liebrandt stands for forward movement.

The period after 9/11 was not kind to restaurants on the west side in lower Manhattan, and Liebrandt left Papillon. In the ensuing time he worked privately for people such as Lord Rothschild and HRH Prince Andrew and in 2003 founded The Veda Group, a New York based restaurant consulting firm. He returned to the restaurant stage at the beginning of this year with the restaurant Gilt located in the Villard House within the New York Palace Hotel. Despite mostly excellent reviews, the vagaries of running a hotel-owned restaurant proved too much and Liebrandt was Gilt-less in August.

Paul is currently engaged in restaurant consultation work and planning his signature restaurant for New York City. He recently took part in the Starchefs.com International chefs Congress and the just completed “Spain’s 10” event in New York City.

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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John Sconzo: Chef Liebrandt, welcome.

Paul Liebrandt: Thank you very much.

John: Let’s talk about the art of cuisine. Obviously that is something that is somewhat controversial, since a number of people, including people who are very much into cuisine and cooking and eating, don’t consider it an art. They consider it a craft. They consider it something that takes a lot of work and skill, but not necessarily an art. What is your view on that?

Paul: Well, I feel there is a place obviously for food. Food is a medium which is very unlike most other mediums. If you think about film or music or painting or even the art of business, they are all arts in their own way. There is an art to doing it when somebody is very talented at doing it, but you can’t eat a painting -- you can’t smell a painting. Food and the dining experience is the only art form or craft or however you would put it, in which you use all your senses when you engage in eating in a restaurant. This makes it unique and also I think makes it a more personal, opinionated subject than most others. I think most people can agree that something like the Mona Lisa is a classic painting. It is a genius for what it is, very recognizable but how many people could say the same thing about a dish by a great chef? It is very subjective depending on who you ask.

The actual form of art itself -- cooking as an art- can be looked upon in the same way as painting. You have your canvas. You have a basic technique -- you know which colors work with which shape, depth, form; the actual technique of knowing from an artistic point of view -- they teach you that when you paint a painting, you should never paint directly, that the focal point of a painting should be just off center, should lead your eye around the painting. If you think about it like this, food can be an art.

Think about the creation of a flavor combination or the technique of, let’s say, making bread. It is an art to make good bread or chocolate work. That’s a craft yes, but if you look at, obviously a good chocolatier, and the creations that Pierre Herme did in his daring demo with the Ispahan (at the ICC), there is an art there. There is an art to be able to take three different flavors, marry them and come up with 18 different variations in different forms on those flavors. That is art. That is not just craft and that is something which I don’t think you can teach. I think that is something which you have or don’t have. You can develop it but I think there definitely is an artistic point in food. I don’t think it is all art. I think there is definitely craft to it. It is a repetitive craft. You have to turn it out every day. You have to deliver a very high standard and that’s what makes it different from, let’s say, being a painter, when you can perform one day and the next day you don’t have to because that is basically that style of medium. Food -- you know if you have a bad day and the food is no good -- it is very difficult to get away with that. Although no one is perfect, it is much easier to get away with doing a bad painting than cooking up a plate of food which is no good. If you understand what I am trying to pull the difference between the artistic and the craft part. I think definitely it is becoming . . . there is more art to it than there was.

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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<img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1159239349/gallery_8158_3649_131725.jpg" hspace="8" align="left" width="320">John: Let me ask you to flesh one of your comments out a little bit. You mentioned that food -- cuisine -- is an art that engages the five senses, all the senses. Well, certainly there is the sense of taste. The sense of smell, sight and touch are also pretty clear to me. Can you elaborate on the role of the sense of hearing in the cuisinier’s art?

Paul: Okay, the sense of hearing. This whole discussion I am referring to what I do, the gastronomic side of food. You sit down and let’s say that you eat a macaroon, something as simple as that. There is that little slight crisp taste and touch and the sound of little crispy macaroon biscuit or the sound of, let’s say, pouring a glass of wine, the wine hitting a beautiful Bordeaux or Burgundy glass. The sound of champagne in the glass. These are things which most people don’t generally pick up. They take it for granted but really, really, I mean it is all these different things that make up a phenomenal dining experience. It isn't just good food, you know!

John: I would imagine the ambiance in a restaurant includes the aural environment.

Paul: I am talking of more than just the actual physical food, of course, but also the music level in the dining room -- even if there isn't music. Like if you go to France, most places don’t play music. The hushed tone or the noisy tone, the table next to you, the way the waiter glides across the dining room, does he make noise or does he not make noise? Hearing is a big part of it. It really makes a difference. You know, if you go to a fine dining restaurant and you have a hushed and very solemn dining room, it can be a little depressing at times.

John: It can certainly affect one’s mood.

Paul: Exactly, but then that affects the entire mood of the meal. That can put you in a mood of liking or not liking a meal regardless of the product, the food, the service and the wine. The sound of something could definitely change the way you feel about the experience. If it is too harsh or it is too noisy it might give you a headache. If it is a loud dining room where the acoustics are not very nice, these things can make a difference in the final outcome of a meal. So balancing all the five senses is very important. If you think about it, you do use all your senses when you eat in a dining environment like a restaurant.

John: Right. I imagine even outside of a restaurant situation, even if one is sitting in a park and having a hot dog, the environment can make it more pleasurable or less so.

Paul: Absolutely, yes.

John: That makes sense. It wasn’t something that was obvious to me as with the other senses, but as you elaborate on it, it certainly does make sense that hearing comes into play.

Paul: Well you know, when you cook, you cook with all of your senses. When you cook a piece of meat or a piece of fish, you listen to it. You don’t just look at it or just touch it. You also listen to it. When I cook a piece of meat, I am listening to hear if the water is coming out of the piece of meat and I am listening to the piece of skin on that fish, if there is water still left in it. You can tell by the pitch on something. Cooking is a real sensory experience. That follows through with the guest as well. That is just the way that I feel about it. I have always been very cerebral with that idea of how food should be.

John: An example that comes to my mind -- again elaborating on the points that you are making -- just the other day at the International Chefs Congress, I had a chance to sample Davide Scabin’s "Cyberegg". It wasn’t the original “egg” itself but a Campari and Soda within that concept. A very important part of that experience was the actual pop in my mouth. The sound of the pop added a significant part to the pleasure of that dish.

Paul: Of course. Absolutely. Actually think about it like this. If you were to, let’s say, eat a quenelle of ice cream, okay. Before you even go near the ice cream, someone says to you, “I am going to feed you a scoop of vanilla ice cream.” Automatically your brain tells you, okay, vanilla ice cream, I have a good idea of what it should taste like. It should be cold, it should have a silky texture to it and it should be very smooth. Imagine you eat that scoop of ice cream and when you go to press your tongue and to melt the ice cream, you get a crunchy sound. You

would freak out. I think it still tastes like great vanilla ice cream but the sound would make a difference, wouldn’t it?

John: It presents a challenge to one’s preconceptions.

Paul: Exactly. So sound plays a huge part, a huge part. It is just that a lot of times we don’t really notice it that much but being aware of it, it can really heighten the experience of food. You know with the "Cyberegg", you are right. It is the pop in the mouth, if it be that idea of being like an egg cracking. It is a fascinating thing. I had a real pleasure a couple of months ago to go to the CIA in California for a big flavor conference. It had all the leading neuro and behavioral and social scientists. They had the R&D director from The Fat Duck, my friend, Chris Young. Harold McGee was there. The whole idea was about flavor and the perceptions of flavor -- this very thing that we are talking about here. It is really quite fascinating to hear from that point of view how human beings react. It is exactly what we are talking about, the sound of something popping which you don’t expect to pop. It is really a fascinating subject that is for another conversation, but I could go on for hours about it.

John: I agree with you. That is a fascinating subject and one that I really enjoy too. In order for me to consider food good, it is a given that it has to taste good, but what elevates great food from good food is not only that it taste good, it is also presented in such a way that holds my visual interest, it smells good and contains elements within that are creative, that make me think, that make me go beyond just stuffing fuel into my mouth.

Paul: Of course.

John: That is what I look for in a great meal and when all those cylinders hit, wow!

Paul: You get something which is beyond food then. It transcends just eating.

John: Absolutely.

Paul: You get an experience which touches you. I mean, food conjures up memories, it conjures up things and feelings and emotions that sometimes we even forget about.

I remember one time at Atlas we were doing a dish with foie gras, a very nice lady came in, she was eating with her husband, and in the middle of the meal, she started crying at the table, absolutely sobbing and I was very upset. I though, oh my God, what did we do? So I went to the table and asked if everything was okay, did we do something? She looked at me and she said no, no, no, I am crying with joy, the foie gras, the taste and the texture in this foie gras reminds me of when I was child and with my mother and the way she used to make foie gras. Her mother had died and it bubbled all this emotion of her remembering back about 50 years or so. She was an older lady and it was emotion of joy of remembering the time that she spent with her mother and eating this foie gras.

Food is a medium that can do that and, like you say, when you have all the elements and in the right setting, you can touch people and you can really -- no matter whether they speak the same language, whether they have the same culture as you, it transcends it all -- you can really get through to someone. It is quite an amazing thing. It is the medium which I think is most cerebral of all of them.

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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John: What would you say the risks are of that approach to cooking? Obviously there are risks.

Paul: Well of course there are risks. I mean at the end of the day it is food, and people want to eat it and they want to nourish themselves. Food is very subjective. There are people that like what you do and there are others that don’t like what you do. But it is a risk that is worth taking. The way I cook is an expression of myself, it is an expression of the way I like to eat. I am similar to what you had just mentioned just now. I look for something which is well presented, it looks interesting, it tastes interesting. It makes me wonder about the food and engages me and it makes me think about what I am eating. Obviously it has to be delicious.

Not everybody wants that and there is an inherent risk that when you cook in a creative manner, what I think is interesting, someone else might not and vice versa. So think of a situation where I do something which I think is great. I hit it. It is going to be great. Somebody could just sit there at the table, and it happens to every chef, eat the dish and just look at me and say, "I don’t get it, I don’t even like this," and rather than cooking something which is more broad-based where you are not going to really offend anybody and then again, I don’t think you are really going to excite anybody either, you know.

John: Right.

Paul: You do a traditional brasserie or something and, you know, steak frites, and we all love it, but it is still just steak frites.

John: In the book that they gave out at the congress, they asked every chef who was participating a few questions including who has been his or her most influential mentor. You listed Pierre Gagnaire. I have eaten at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris once and the risks that he took with his food the night I was there did not work for me on that particular night. I could see the skill, I could see the artistry in what he did, but that particular night, the emphasis was on "bitter." I happened to be there with my wife and my then 14-year-old son. This was after him not going to El Bulli while his older brother did, etc. It just wasn’t the right meal at the right time. I think if I would have had that meal at a different time, it might have worked splendidly for me. People respond differently to the same thing at different times and under different circumstances. Context is so important. One of the most important things in terms of the perception of a meal, is what the diner himself brings to the meal in terms of mood, financial circumstances or other elements that may affect the particular diner’s receptivity to what the chef is trying to do at that particular time. Is there any way for a chef to deal with that? I think I may be asking the impossible there, but, is it even possible to anticipate that and deal with it other than just doing the best that you can and realizing that you are not going to please everyone 100% of the time.

Paul: Well, you hit the nail on the head. No, you can’t please everybody 100% of the time. Everybody is different and like I said, what I might think is great, someone else might not. It is a very tough question to ask. I mean, the only way is to know that person, know their likes and dislikes and then build a meal around them and hope that you hit on all the things that they like and they walk away, you know, blown away. I don’t think there is any answer to that to say this is how you do it. If there were answers, I would be a billionaire by now.

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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<img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1159749404/gallery_8158_3671_8710.jpg" hspace="8" width="320" align="left">John: I hear you. Left me shift gears a little bit. Your most recent work was at Gilt. What were you doing at Gilt that either made you happy or unhappy in terms of the expression of your culinary art?

Paul: I was happy -- very happy -- with the food. I really felt we hit a very good balance. The quality and execution of the product itself was at a very, very high level. More and more these days, finding a good team of guys that are dedicated and have the skill, want to learn and are willing to go that extra effort, is hard to do. It is hard to find and keep people with you. I take my hat off to the entire team of Gilt. They managed to produce outstanding quality of food.

What I was maybe not so happy with was possibly some of the decisions made on how the food was put across to the guests. People come into restaurants with preconceived ideas. Sometimes they are expecting something more or sometimes something less. The way you deliver that before they even walk in the door is very very important and maybe the way in which the cuisine was put forth to some of the guests was not a true representation of the product itself. It goes back to a situation like when somebody reads something somewhere about something else and forms an opinion around it. Some people read a film review and form an opinion on the film rather than going to see the film itself. Some of those people who did not go in to see the film might actually really enjoy that film if they did not have a preconceived notion of it. I am not one of those people obviously. I will go and try things and I will go and see for myself. I was a little perturbed by some of the ways in which the presentation of the restaurant was handled with Gilt, because I really think what we were doing, just on the food point of view, was really, really good quality. It was really very, very high level of cuisine. Everything was executed beautifully, It was flavorsome. It was not strange or weird in any way. In fact, I really took what I was doing and made it much more approachable than I think people were expecting. Maybe, again the way the restaurant was put forward, it didn’t come across like that.

So there are people that were doing this, that and the other thing, but actually it is not so much the substance, more the style. It is difficult to do unless you have full control of how it is done. I mean, you look at the best guys in the world and they have a very firm grip on how they present themselves to the general public. Ferran Adria of El Bulli is very smart. He demystifies the whole idea and really breaks it down to a very understandable notion of what El Bulli is, what the food is and how he goes about producing the food. I was one of those people before I went there that, I obviously know everything about the guy but I haven’t been, so we will see. I went there. It was life changing. It is not just the food at El Bulli. Where it is, the whole experience is just incredible. It really opened by mind and it really just made me think. I don’t want to be close-minded. I really want people to come and experience the product that I do. What is Paul Liebrandt about? What does he do, rather than read about him in a magazine and make their minds up. I just wish people were a little bit more open minded in that respect.

John: What lessons have you learned from your experiences at Gilt?

Paul: The value of proper planning, the value of being true to yourself and what you do and represent to your customers, and the value of the team, because without the team that I had in the kitchen at Gilt, I couldn’t have produced what we did there. It sounds common sense, but really it is about that. Those things are very important and I guess you know them, but you really appreciate them more when you are no longer in the situation.

John: Is there anything else you would like to add about your experience at Gilt?

Paul: It was very eye-opening. I learned a lot about working in that kind of environment.

John: That kind of environment being . . . ?

Paul: The hotel in New York City. The unionized hotel in New York City. It was a very big, eye-opening experience for me. Most chefs don’t ever deal with that side of it. I am fortunate that I have an independent restaurant background, but I also think it is good to be very well-rounded as a chef and as a business person in many different aspects of this business. The work in that environment was new for me. I saw one side of the business which I hadn’t seen before.

John: Where to next? What are your thoughts, your plans?

Paul: The next move that I am looking at right now is opening my signature restaurant here in New York City, and making the first steps on going alone and building the brand of Paul Liebrandt.

John: How do you anticipate doing that? Are there specific plans in the works?

Paul: I have been speaking to many different people. In the past couple of weeks that is all it has been. I have people that I know, ex-customers of Gilt, who had expressed interest in the possibility of investing. So right now I am talking to various groups of people and I am looking to talk to more people about investing in a signature restaurant of my own.

John: So we are not to expect anything in the next month or two?

Paul: Well, I am going to be doing some consulting and bits and pieces. I am going to be helping with Spain's Ten, you know the big happening at the FCI.

John: Yeah, oh man!

Paul: Yes, I have met up with Paco Roncero, the chef de cuisine of the La Terraza del Casino, Ferran Adria’s place in Madrid, so I am really looking forward to that. Obviously, the Star Chefs Congress that was just on, so I am keeping very busy doing lots of different things. Obviously the end goal is, I am not going to open my restaurant in the next month, but I am laying the ground work for that.

John: Obviously to do something like that and do it right, it takes some time and this is something that happened fairly suddenly, is that not correct?

Paul: Absolutely, yes it did.

John: So there were not any plans already in the works?

Paul: No, not really, no.

John: Is there anything else that you would like to add to this discussion at this point?

Paul: I would like to say there has been a lot of things said and written about myself -- good and bad -- thus far in my career. I would say that at the end of the day, those people that know me, those people that have had a chance to meet me, talk to me, they know what I am about. I have a reputation of being very difficult, maybe a bit of an enfant terrible, maybe a little quirky -- but I am not, really. I am a very down to earth, very decent guy to work for. I would just like people to get the real me. Obviously I read stuff on Gilt on eGullet and there is a lot of conjecture and a lot of rumor so I would really like to put it down exactly as it is. The same thing that Grant (Achatz) did when he was building Alinea. He did the whole opening process, you really got to know him, the man and what he is all about. It is very important for chefs to get that across I think.

John: I agree. I think that is a good thing. One impression that I have of you and your work, and the people around you, is that you have inspired an amazing amount of loyalty in the people who have worked with you and the fans of your cooking. I think that is pretty impressive and one of the things that really makes me very excited in looking forward to experiencing your cuisine. Not yet having had a full meal of yours, I look forward to that with great anticipation.

Paul: Great, I look forward to cooking for you.

John: I can’t wait. I wish you all the best and a quick and successful venture.

Paul: Thank you very much.

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 to reiterate:

If you have an interest in Paul's work, the question of cuisine as art or craft, or the business of haute cuisine, we invite you to discuss the issues and concepts that have been presented in the interview in the previous four posts.

Paul is a member of the eGullet Society, posting under the member name "veda." Time permitting, he may post on this topic with responses to comments and questions before then, but coming this Friday, from 9 am EDT to 1 pm EDT (GMT - 4), we in the eGullet Society have a unique opportunity to engage in a real-time "live chat" with Paul on subjects relating to his career, his cuisine and culinary thoughts in general.

We hope and expect that with your help the discussion that ensues will prove provocative, stimulating and satisfying.

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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Chef, I think your food really speaks to a lot of people. The Guilt menu was right on, in my opinion. Balancing avant guard and classic dishes, it really shows the depth of cooking you can produce. I was checking the pictures out from the Star Chefs conference and was wondering if you would share your "crouquant" recipe. I really dig the look that the crouquant gives as a garnish/textural element. Also, what is your favorite piece of kitchen equipment right now?

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Thanks for joining us Chef. I found your comments regarding the importance of planning very interesting. I remember you had mentioned in some article that th PR/launch for Gilt had not been planned properly.

Now that you are working on your new project, and hopefully have more time to plan properly, how do you envision your new place compared to Gilt, both in terms of food, service and ambience?

Best of luck with your new project. I hope it comes to fruition soon.

Arley Sasson

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What do you think? Can cuisine be art or is it entirely craft? Anyone care to share his or her experiences along these lines or the business of running a restaurant? How do you try to please your customers and how do you respond to those who don't like what you do?

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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Chef, first off, thank you for doing this!

I've been following your career since Atlas and have always liked to keep up with your work.

Back in post #4, you were elaborating on the experience of coming up with a great dish, one you really believe in, and people "just not getting it".

I'm sure you also have experienced the people who don't want their food "rethought" or reconstructed.

Likewise, your post on the CIA confab about aural and other effects on dining are right on.

It's a shame that more people don't want to occasionally have an dining "experience".

Anyways, it's way early, sorry to be a bit all over the place, we appreciate very much what you do, and can't wait for the next adventure.

Your thoughts on the Hotel setting.

Do you think that got in the way the most at GILT?

Thank you (and 'doc) again for this!

Ted

2317/5000

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Doc,

          You touched on the role of the sense of hearing and eating. This is an article on the relationship between sound and eating by Heston Blumenthal:

The appliance of science -  The crunch factor

Molto E

Eliot, thanks for the article. That gets to the same point that Paul was. All the senses are important when it comes to dining. Sound is one that we tend to take for granted.

From the article you linked to:

Such experiments illustrate that, when we eat, it isn't just a matter of tastebuds, or of tastebuds and olfactory bulb, or even of eyes, tastebuds and olfactory bulb. Eating is a multisensory business, one in which sound plays an important part in how we evaluate food.

While it is implied in that quote, it isn't explicitly stated that the sense of touch is also vital. We all know the roles texture can play in gustatory perception.

I am not surprised that Paul and Heston Blumenthal share this outlook. In the interview Paul mentioned seeing his friend, Chris Young, the R&D Director for The Fat Duck at the Conference at the CIA.

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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What do you think? Can cuisine be art or is it entirely craft? Anyone care to share his or her experiences along these lines or the business of running  a restaurant? How do you try to please your customers and how do you respond to those who don't like what you do?

Cuisine is art when it's not repetitive, if you are following a recipe, even if it is one you created in the past, it is a craft. The same with painting, you have "artists" who simply reproduce the same style over and over, now that's not a bad thing, but it becomes more of a craft as the creativity isn't necessarily at a maximum. That said, as a diner, the first time you try something new, it is art to you.

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What do you think? Can cuisine be art or is it entirely craft? Anyone care to share his or her experiences along these lines or the business of running  a restaurant? How do you try to please your customers and how do you respond to those who don't like what you do?

Cuisine is art when it's not repetitive, if you are following a recipe, even if it is one you created in the past, it is a craft. The same with painting, you have "artists" who simply reproduce the same style over and over, now that's not a bad thing, but it becomes more of a craft as the creativity isn't necessarily at a maximum. That said, as a diner, the first time you try something new, it is art to you.

I like that. Another thing to consider is that not all art is equal. Some paintings are more appealing or provocative then others, some music more evocative and some cuisine more stimulating than others.

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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Chef,

In the above interview with docsconz you mention about the good and bad affects on your career do to what has been written about you.

I am curious to hear your views on how the media may have influenced the public's mind regarding your work and set preconceived opinions. And most of all what can be done to change them?

Case in point I can think of two examples where I believe the press left lasting impressions that influenced people to this day

One being the now infamous blind folded tastings at Papillon that the press constantly remind us of.

The other being Gourmet magazine was known for years to take a neutral stance in reviewing restaurants and just providing general information. That was until they reviewed Atlas.

In closing I must add that I recently noticed you on one of those cooking challenges on the Food Network. You focus, concentration and talent seemed to leap off the screen and made me sit up in my chair and take notice.

I remember thinking how I hope those watching who had preconceived notions of your work based on the press would take notice.

Best of luck to you in all future endeavors.

Edited by robert40 (log)

Robert R

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What do you think? Can cuisine be art or is it entirely craft? Anyone care to share his or her experiences along these lines or the business of running  a restaurant? How do you try to please your customers and how do you respond to those who don't like what you do?

Cuisine is art when it's not repetitive, if you are following a recipe, even if it is one you created in the past, it is a craft. The same with painting, you have "artists" who simply reproduce the same style over and over, now that's not a bad thing, but it becomes more of a craft as the creativity isn't necessarily at a maximum. That said, as a diner, the first time you try something new, it is art to you.

I like that. Another thing to consider is that not all art is equal. Some paintings are more appealing or provocative then others, some music more evocative and some cuisine more stimulating than others.

Exactly, there is good art and bad art, it's all up to the eye of the beholder.

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Can cuisine be art or is it entirely craft?

Cuisine is art when it's not repetitive, if you are following a recipe, even if it is one you created in the past, it is a craft. The same with painting, you have "artists" who simply reproduce the same style over and over, now that's not a bad thing, but it becomes more of a craft as the creativity isn't necessarily at a maximum. That said, as a diner, the first time you try something new, it is art to you.

It's tricky making analogies across different media, but I disagree with this because, by this logic, only classical music composers, but not performers, can be "artists", and I doubt this is a commonly held opinion. I think music is probably a better analogue for the culinary arts than painting because of the importance of the ephemeral re-creation (the musical performance or the food we eat) as well as the permanent creation (the musical score or the recipe.) Both creation and recreation have objective technical standards (the "craft") which is somewhat related to, but is not synonymous with artistic merit. A person can be a creator or re-creator or both, and art is possible either way. I could go on, but this is somewhat OT, and there's probably a thread devoted to this topic elsewhere.

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Can cuisine be art or is it entirely craft?

Cuisine is art when it's not repetitive, if you are following a recipe, even if it is one you created in the past, it is a craft. The same with painting, you have "artists" who simply reproduce the same style over and over, now that's not a bad thing, but it becomes more of a craft as the creativity isn't necessarily at a maximum. That said, as a diner, the first time you try something new, it is art to you.

It's tricky making analogies across different media, but I disagree with this because, by this logic, only classical music composers, but not performers, can be "artists", and I doubt this is a commonly held opinion. I think music is probably a better analogue for the culinary arts than painting because of the importance of the ephemeral re-creation (the musical performance or the food we eat) as well as the permanent creation (the musical score or the recipe.) Both creation and recreation have objective technical standards (the "craft") which is somewhat related to, but is not synonymous with artistic merit. A person can be a creator or re-creator or both, and art is possible either way. I could go on, but this is somewhat OT, and there's probably a thread devoted to this topic elsewhere.

Actually Leonard, I don't think this is OT at all. The question of what is art is pertinent. One of the reasons this topic came up in the first place for this interview is because, cuisine as art was the basis for Paul's demonstration/discussion at The International Chefs Congress. It is a legitimate question with a variety of opinions. I think cross-platform comparisons are therefore relevant.

You raise very good questions. Is art in the creation or the performance? or both? My opinion is that if someone is simply faithfully copying and producing something whether it be a recipe or performing a musical score, albeit very well, that is craft. Craft is perfectly respectable and greatly appreciated, but something becomes art when it is made into something new and personal by the artist. That is to say, that the artist has put his individual stamp on it, the artist has created something whether it be good, bad or indifferent. There are times when craft may be preferable to art, but when art strikes the right chord it really resonates in ways that craft cannot.

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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Can cuisine be art or is it entirely craft?

Cuisine is art when it's not repetitive, if you are following a recipe, even if it is one you created in the past, it is a craft. The same with painting, you have "artists" who simply reproduce the same style over and over, now that's not a bad thing, but it becomes more of a craft as the creativity isn't necessarily at a maximum. That said, as a diner, the first time you try something new, it is art to you.

It's tricky making analogies across different media, but I disagree with this because, by this logic, only classical music composers, but not performers, can be "artists", and I doubt this is a commonly held opinion. I think music is probably a better analogue for the culinary arts than painting because of the importance of the ephemeral re-creation (the musical performance or the food we eat) as well as the permanent creation (the musical score or the recipe.) Both creation and recreation have objective technical standards (the "craft") which is somewhat related to, but is not synonymous with artistic merit. A person can be a creator or re-creator or both, and art is possible either way. I could go on, but this is somewhat OT, and there's probably a thread devoted to this topic elsewhere.

Actually Leonard, I don't think this is OT at all. The question of what is art is pertinent. One of the reasons this topic came up in the first place for this interview is because, cuisine as art was the basis for Paul's demonstration/discussion at The International Chefs Congress. It is a legitimate question with a variety of opinions. I think cross-platform comparisons are therefore relevant.

You raise very good questions. Is art in the creation or the performance? or both? My opinion is that if someone is simply faithfully copying and producing something whether it be a recipe or performing a musical score, albeit very well, that is craft. Craft is perfectly respectable and greatly appreciated, but something becomes art when it is made into something new and personal by the artist. That is to say, that the artist has put his individual stamp on it, the artist has created something whether it be good, bad or indifferent. There are times when craft may be preferable to art, but when art strikes the right chord it really resonates in ways that craft cannot.

An important factor that has been left out of the discussion so far is INTENT. If an artist intends to present, interpret, amuse, annoy or otherwise stimulate an audience (regardless of the audience's appreciation for the work), that work can at least on some level be considered art. If the piece in question is unwittingly created, it is much less likely to be art. For example, when modern painters created works that were simply blocks of color (representing no more technical skill than that possessed by a 5-year-old), they were still art. This was because of the intent of the artist during their creation, and what their creation represented. However, if that same block of color were created accidentally by machine, accident or other means, it would not qualify as art.

Repetition is not inherently directly relevant. Most of the great artists of our time (and previous times) created dozens of versions of the same painting in some cases, and almost always created more than one version of any famous works (e.g. the many versions of Munch's "The Scream" and Picasso's "Guernica"). To say that any of these iterations were not art due to the repitition is ludicrous. However, if a machine had been used to mechanically reproduce these items, they would not be considered original art. So once again, the benchmark for creating art is intent rather than repitition.

Skill/craft come into play as TOOLS for the artist. While not required, having a high level of skill/craft gives the artist an enhanced ability to create and stimulate as he/she pleases. This is no different in music, painting or any other form. Many rock musicians aren't great technical players of their instruments (even though quite a few are)...in fact, many can't even read music...but this doesn't make them more or less "artists" than highly trained classical musicians...the training simply provides additional tools at the artist's disposal.

With respect to food, the same criteria of intent apply. A short order cook, who cranks out hundreds of burgers every day, may not even think about what he/she is doing when making each one. This is unlikely to seem like art. On the other hand, the cooking of someone like Kenny Shopsin (see the movie "I Like to Kill Flies" for reference) might be considered art, even though it's not done at a high technical level. Meanwhile, a master chef (like Paul), whose intent is to stimulate his customer/subject, is clearly an artist in every definable sense of the word. His chosen medium just happens to be food.

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Can cuisine be art or is it entirely craft?

Cuisine is art when it's not repetitive, if you are following a recipe, even if it is one you created in the past, it is a craft. The same with painting, you have "artists" who simply reproduce the same style over and over, now that's not a bad thing, but it becomes more of a craft as the creativity isn't necessarily at a maximum. That said, as a diner, the first time you try something new, it is art to you.

It's tricky making analogies across different media, but I disagree with this because, by this logic, only classical music composers, but not performers, can be "artists", and I doubt this is a commonly held opinion. I think music is probably a better analogue for the culinary arts than painting because of the importance of the ephemeral re-creation (the musical performance or the food we eat) as well as the permanent creation (the musical score or the recipe.) Both creation and recreation have objective technical standards (the "craft") which is somewhat related to, but is not synonymous with artistic merit. A person can be a creator or re-creator or both, and art is possible either way. I could go on, but this is somewhat OT, and there's probably a thread devoted to this topic elsewhere.

Actually Leonard, I don't think this is OT at all. The question of what is art is pertinent. One of the reasons this topic came up in the first place for this interview is because, cuisine as art was the basis for Paul's demonstration/discussion at The International Chefs Congress. It is a legitimate question with a variety of opinions. I think cross-platform comparisons are therefore relevant.

You raise very good questions. Is art in the creation or the performance? or both? My opinion is that if someone is simply faithfully copying and producing something whether it be a recipe or performing a musical score, albeit very well, that is craft. Craft is perfectly respectable and greatly appreciated, but something becomes art when it is made into something new and personal by the artist. That is to say, that the artist has put his individual stamp on it, the artist has created something whether it be good, bad or indifferent. There are times when craft may be preferable to art, but when art strikes the right chord it really resonates in ways that craft cannot.

An important factor that has been left out of the discussion so far is INTENT. If an artist intends to present, interpret, amuse, annoy or otherwise stimulate an audience (regardless of the audience's appreciation for the work), that work can at least on some level be considered art. If the piece in question is unwittingly created, it is much less likely to be art. For example, when modern painters created works that were simply blocks of color (representing no more technical skill than that possessed by a 5-year-old), they were still art. This was because of the intent of the artist during their creation, and what their creation represented. However, if that same block of color were created accidentally by machine, accident or other means, it would not qualify as art.

Repetition is not inherently directly relevant. Most of the great artists of our time (and previous times) created dozens of versions of the same painting in some cases, and almost always created more than one version of any famous works (e.g. the many versions of Munch's "The Scream" and Picasso's "Guernica"). To say that any of these iterations were not art due to the repitition is ludicrous. However, if a machine had been used to mechanically reproduce these items, they would not be considered original art. So once again, the benchmark for creating art is intent rather than repitition.

Skill/craft come into play as TOOLS for the artist. While not required, having a high level of skill/craft gives the artist an enhanced ability to create and stimulate as he/she pleases. This is no different in music, painting or any other form. Many rock musicians aren't great technical players of their instruments (even though quite a few are)...in fact, many can't even read music...but this doesn't make them more or less "artists" than highly trained classical musicians...the training simply provides additional tools at the artist's disposal.

With respect to food, the same criteria of intent apply. A short order cook, who cranks out hundreds of burgers every day, may not even think about what he/she is doing when making each one. This is unlikely to seem like art. On the other hand, the cooking of someone like Kenny Shopsin (see the movie "I Like to Kill Flies" for reference) might be considered art, even though it's not done at a high technical level. Meanwhile, a master chef (like Paul), whose intent is to stimulate his customer/subject, is clearly an artist in every definable sense of the word. His chosen medium just happens to be food.

Your post is extremely well thought out and written. I agree that intent is important. So is context. A 5 y/o might paint something that might resemble a work of Paul Klee and call it "art" not necessarily knowing what really is meant by the term. Because it is a unique product of that hand and time it is also probably original, but is it art?

As for the aspect of repetition, if it is repetition for its own sake without original elements and without being repetition for a specific artistic purpose, I would hesitate to call it art - but then that is where your concept of intent comes in. Most of the examples of painting that you mentioned are not exact copies, but variations on the original or studies for a final work.

So far on this thread we have had some discussion as to criteria for considering something as art rather than craft and nobody has really opposed the idea that creating food for consumption can be considered as art, yet there have been such opponents in the past on the eGullet Forums.

The one problem I have with such a broad definition of "art" that we have been using in the discussion so far is that it can devalue the term. If art can be good, bad or indifferent, what difference does it really make to consider something as art, especially as regards food?

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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My own opinion is that the question whether or not cuisine can be art should be decided by the art experts (the guys who write the philosophy of aesthetics), not the food experts.

Why not the food experts? Is someone with a highly tuned sense of musical appreciation necessarily suited to judge what constitutes a great painting or a culinary masterpiece (in the case of slkinsey or Pan, perhaps :biggrin:)? Why shouldn't the experts within a field be the most competent to judge that field?

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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No no no. I'm talking about an actual academic field -- aesthetics -- that is centered on the question of what art is. They're not experts in painting, or music, or sculpture. Their training is in philosophy. Their expertise is in the definition of art.

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