Monday, June 13, 2011

Chef as Artist - The Beauty in Cooking

I never knew chopping celery could be so beautiful, but it can.

Last night I had a real treat.  One of my friends is a professional chef and he decided to cook a group of us a meal.  Even though intellectually I could appreciate the work behind the act of making a meal - the sweating in a hot room, the preparation behind cooking for massive amounts of people, and designing a menu appropriate for a given restaurant - there was definitely something I had been missing.

I hadn't really been able to appreciate the artistry.

Cooking, like almost anything done well, is an art. In some ways, perhaps it is MORE of an art.  There is the chemistry of ingredients, the decision to follow or "tweak" a recipe, determining how long something should be over heat or not, and then of course, there's my favorite - plating presentation. 

A good chef will make all this look effortless and beautiful, leaving you stunned as to how he could mince garlic so uniformly, and how he got the gentle blanket of pepper to coat your tongue in each bite.  This is the difference between someone who cooks at home and someone who has spent years perfecting the art form.

Sometimes I really like cooking.  I enjoy making something beautiful, presenting it in an appetizing and interesting way, but most of all, I enjoy the reaction I get from someone eating my food who really enjoyed it.  I'm NOWHERE near my chef friend's prowess.  My chopping is clumsy, and my knife handling is not nearly as sure or as fast.  I make guesses at things where a chef would be certain.  Sometimes when my food is done, it may be a disaster.  There is no question - I have a lot to learn.

But it's nice to know how much cooking (and baking for that matter) is an art form.  It's nice to know that creativity there can be rewarded and beauty can be seen from start to finish.  It may not happen in my kitchen for a while, but at least it's happening in someone's kitchen.  Even if it is just the Four Seasons where my friend works.

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