06 August 2008

The Chef statement by Blumenthal, McGee, Keller and Ferran Adria

Personally speaking I think that their statement sums it up in a nutshell:

The world of food has changed a great deal in modern times. Change has come especially fast over the last decade. Along with many other developments, a new approach to cooking has emerged in restaurants around the globe, including our own. We feel that this approach has been widely misunderstood, both outside and inside our profession. Certain aspects of it are overemphasized and sensationalized, while others are ignored. We believe that this is an important time in the history of cooking, and wish to clarify the principles and thoughts that actually guide us. We hope that this statement will be useful to all people with an interest in food, but especially to our younger colleagues, the new generations of food professionals.

  1. Three basic principles guide our cooking: excellence, openness, and integrity.

    We are motivated above all by an aspiration to excellence. We wish to work with ingredients of the finest quality, and to realize the full potential of the food we choose to prepare, whether it is a single shot of espresso or a multicourse tasting menu.

    We believe that today and in the future, a commitment to excellence requires openness to all resources that can help us give pleasure and meaning to people through the medium of food. In the past, cooks and their dishes were constrained by many factors: the limited availability of ingredients and ways of transforming them, limited understanding of cooking processes, and the necessarily narrow definitions and expectations embodied in local tradition. Today there are many fewer constraints, and tremendous potential for the progress of our craft. We can choose from the entire planet’s ingredients, cooking methods, and traditions, and draw on all of human knowledge, to explore what it is possible to do with food and the experience of eating. This is not a new idea, but a new opportunity. Nearly two centuries ago, Brillat-Savarin wrote that ‘the discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.”

    Paramount in everything we do is integrity. Our beliefs and commitments are sincere and do not follow the latest trend.

  2. Our cooking values tradition, builds on it, and along with tradition is part of the ongoing evolution of our craft .

    The world’s culinary traditions are collective, cumulative inventions, a heritage created by hundreds of generations of cooks. Tradition is the base which all cooks who aspire to excellence must know and master. Our open approach builds on the best that tradition has to offer.

    As with everything in life, our craft evolves, and has done so from the moment when man first realized the powers of fire. We embrace this natural process of evolution and aspire to influence it. We respect our rich history and at the same time attempt to play a small part in the history of tomorrow.

  3. We embrace innovation—new ingredients, techniques, appliances, information, and ideas—whenever it can make a real contribution to our cooking.

    We do not pursue novelty for its own sake. We may use modern thickeners, sugar substitutes, enzymes, liquid nitrogen, sous-vide, dehydration, and other nontraditional means, but these do not define our cooking. They are a few of the many tools that we are fortunate to have available as we strive to make delicious and stimulating dishes.

    Similarly, the disciplines of food chemistry and food technology are valuable sources of information and ideas for all cooks. Even the most straightforward traditional preparation can be strengthened by an understanding of its ingredients and methods, and chemists have been helping cooks for hundreds of years. The fashionable term “molecular gastronomy” was introduced relatively recently, in 1992, to name a particular academic workshop for scientists and chefs on the basic food chemistry of traditional dishes. That workshop did not influence our approach, and the term “molecular gastronomy” does not describe our cooking, or indeed any style of cooking.

  4. We believe that cooking can affect people in profound ways, and that a spirit of collaboration and sharing is essential to true progress in developing this potential.

    The act of eating engages all the senses as well as the mind. Preparing and serving food could therefore be the most complex and comprehensive of the performing arts. To explore the full expressive potential of food and cooking, we collaborate with scientists, from food chemists to psychologists, with artisans and artists (from all walks of the performing arts), architects, designers, industrial engineers. We also believe in the importance of collaboration and generosity among cooks: a readiness to share ideas and information, together with full acknowledgment of those who invent new techniques and dishes.
Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria.

01 August 2008

Anasthasia Miller Interview August 2008

1. What is the first cocktail you ever made?
A martini. My dad was fanatic for them. The second was strange: a layered King Alphonse.

2. What are your 3 favourite drinks plus recipes; old, new and your own?

a. Bradford a la Martini

3 parts Gin
1 part Lillet Blanc

2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters

Shaken not stirred over ice.
Strained into a frozen cocktail glass.
Garnished with a lemon twist.

b. Mi Amante
1 part espresso gelato
1 part Gin

Shaken without ice until blended.
Pour into a frozen cocktail glass.
Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg.

c. Soyer Punch Jelly
240 ml Gin

120 ml maraschino

juice of 2 lemons
120 ml gomme syrup

240 ml champagne

3 envelopes gelatin

240 ml boiling hot water

Dissolve gelatin in hot water in a jug.
Stir in lemon juice, gomme syrup, maraschino, and gin. Add champagne.
Pour contents into a glass baking dish. Refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight.
Cut into 3 x 3 cm squares.
Serve 2 squares on the base of a chilled cocktail glass with a sprig of mint and 3 fresh raspberries.

3.Tell us about a new flavour you have discovered recently?

Green tea ice cream. It's absolutely luscious matched up against gin. For some reason I seem to be wandering through cream drinks, jellied drinks, and hot punches lately. A couple of years ago, it was egg sours with tea syrups and drinks made with blended scotch. Green tea ice cream was an eye opener.

4. If you could pass just one thing, on to an apprentice bartender what would it be?

If you can't serve a customer a scotch on the rocks or a pint and make them feel like it is the most remarkable experience of a lifetime, get out of the business.

5. What does the future hold for yourself and what do you see happening in the future in the industry?
That's a loaded question. Basically, Jared and I are working on distributing as much information on the history of spirits and drinks as directors of Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux (www.euvs.org). In between times, we consult with spirits producers on spirits and drinks history. We believe the only way we can help elevate the professional level of the industry is to expand the new generation's knowledge base about the past: reviving the forgotten drinks not for replication but for inspiration, relating the rich history of the birth of spirits, instilling pride in an industry that is centuries old. The industry is very much at the same level cuisine was at 15 years ago. We've gone through the discovery phase, the back to basics stage, and now we're learning to work both inside and outside the boundaries to find creativity that is accessible. That's where I think history plays an important role. Find the outlandish from the past that is accessible and create fresh thoughts based on past successes.

6. What has been your biggest satisfaction from working behind the bar?

Learning to love interaction with people. Learning to share what's in my heart with people.

7. If you were to have a conversation with a cocktail, (and presuming it could talk back to you and tell you its past). Which cocktail would it be and why?

As if that hasn't happened? I've actually my best tĂȘte-a-tĂȘtes with an equal parts Manhattan. How can you be sweet and strong at the same time? Why do you have such depth, especially with a healthy dose of bitters? Why do you leave me remembering every moment with you without regret?

8. What influences your drinks from outside the industry (i.e. art, fashion)?

What I've done in the kitchen as a chef. What I see in motion pictures: I'm a movie junkie...action films, thrillers, that sort of thing

9. If you were to break a bartending golden rule what would it be?

Remove the bar between the bartender and the customer. Make the bartender sit with the customer and teach the customer how to make a cocktail one on one, mano a mano. The customer will come back for more as an empowered, informed consumer.

10. Outside of flavour and the craft of the cocktail what in your opinion effects the appreciation of cocktails the most?
My relationship with a customer, the experience I encourage and stimulate.

11. If you were to champion a cocktail which would it be?

Well I have championed a few: the Martini, the "75" (not the French 75); the White Cargo; the Ramos Gin Fizz; the Manhattan.
My latest? A Gin and It with 2 dashes of orange bitters. Sensual, sexy, subtle, all the s words.