The Subjective nature of food and other cheffly ruminations….
Meanwhile, while Hurricane Lane is huffing and puffing his way through the Hawaiian Island chain, I’m having a glass of wine and writing a blog…
Culinary art is the ultimate art medium- to be experienced and appreciated by ALL the senses, also having the innate ability to hinder or heal a body on a molecular level. What a gift to create in the medium of food and to have such an amazing array of ingredients with which to do it!
With the ability to hinder or heal your body~ culinary art’s medium ( food) has the ability to do what no other art form can.
I joke that the only time I call myself a “chef” is when I’m wearing that fancy coat that has my name and company logo on it. Does this legitimize my cheffiness? What is it to be a chef? I prefer to name myself as a culinary artist. How can one claim this? Like art, culinary art is so subjective. I believe that the title of “chef”, incorporates the business aspect of the culinary art form of putting food together, The sourcing, pricing, working with a budget, the nuts and volts and not creative part is what the term “chef” begs for me specifically. Unfortunately, this is the ickiest part of my job and I am ashamed to admit, I have a bookkeeper and an accountant who I am quite happy to pay so they can deal with that mundane side of cheffy life. I mean, as long as I am getting paid, do I really give a crap what my food cost is?( For the record, I charge per person, not food cost, unless a very specific job order. Generally- I absorb food costs into my overall cost. ( glad I clarified that !)
I mean, is a $7.00 dragon fruit and a $5.00 tray of masago gonna kill my profit margin? …. the pop of these ingredients add value!..
On another subject, everyone’s palette is different, what tastes amazing to one person might be repugnating to another.. Then there’s that whole involuntary dietary restriction trend too- like building a house with an unlimited budget- I’m not terribly impressed when people can pool any number of resources to outsource the project to the very best architects, designers, finish carpenters and landscape architects. Along those lines, now produce for me a dish using a restricted budget, (like here’s $10.00- go find some cool stuff and make us an epic dessert- better yet- here’s nature- go forage for it all- oh yeah, and keep it clean – No soy, animal products, dairy or gluten. )
Another rumination about chef life ( and when I say chef life, I mean cooking as a means of making a living- people give you money to create menus, procure ingredients and create a meal) I had an hour long “menu consultation” today with a client who happens also to be a foodie who has run the gamut of many diets , currently a vegan herself, but the rest of the party just gluten free. I’m pretty sure when I have a menu consult with someone they get off the phone going, “wow, that girl is really excited about food!.” I do get all excited, jotting down notes frenetically, asking funny little questions like, “how do you feel about mushrooms, ummm, and when you say peppers, do you mean like sweet roasted smoky peppers or a shishito, and what about spice? And whats your feeling about searing mushrooms in rendered animal fat with fresh herbs?” In an hour’s time, we created a gorgeous party menu with like 12 courses for each of the nights that I will be coming to create culinary art. She knows she’s in good hands and I am excited to have a captive audience to present my creations to. On another occasion, I was hired for a 10 day stint to cook for a celebrity family ( who’s name I cannot disclose) and came in, guns blazing, setting up my beautiful vases of fresh kitchen herbs, arranging all my lovely artisan provisions in the fridge only to find out that they were TOTAL non foodies and really just wanted to hunker down and enjoy an estate with some food made that wasn’t made by them and didn’t want t ask too much of their traveling staff, so they hired me. 🙂
I may or may not have been paid a shamefully large sum of money to make cream cheese and tomato bagels for breakfast and a hot dog and cheeseburger lunch- more than once. Hey, my daily rate is my daily rate.
When I first arrived, I sat down to do a little mini consult with the said celeb- when asking what kind of lunches they prefer, the answer was “ you know that cheese with the holes in it.” I politely nodded, jotting down- internally begging, Swiss? Lorraine? Havarti? but realized I was dealing with someone who didn’t really do food and I was most probably annoying as hell with all my enthusiasm and grand inquisition of the foodie nature. End note- we finally did make culinary magic together, it did take a few days of gentle questions and some experimental dishes that were well received and they asked for an encore of those said dishes People like what they like.
Next up- ( I have to ration my blog ideas so I don’t condense them all into one blog) is the level of vulnerability you put on yourself when you say you are a “chef.” ( case in point, I bring something thats not my total “ A game” salad to a pot luck ( literally just threw it together) and I see a friend who knows my vocation there, they ask, “ Oh! what did you bring? I gotta try your food! “ Lesson learned- Always bring your A GAME- your family will have mercy on you but for your friends and associates – your neck is constantly on the chopping block!