Thursday, October 25, 2007

Anthony Bourdain on Line Cooking

WHAT MOST people don't get about professional-level cooking is that it is not at all about the best recipe, the most innovative presentation, the most creative marriage of ingredients, flavors and textures; that, presumably, was all arranged long before you sat down to dinner. Line cooking-the real business of preparing the food you eat-is more about consistency, about mindless, unvarying repetition, the same series of tasks performed over and over and over again in exactly the same way.

The last thing a chef wants in a line cook is an innovator, somebody with ideas of his own who is going to mess around with the chef's recipes and presentations. Chef's require blind, near-fanatical loyalty, a strong back and an automaton-like consistency of execution under battlefield conditions...
...Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman-not an artist...Practicing your craft in an expert fashion is noble, honest and satisfying. And I'll generally take a stand-up mercenary who takes pride in his professionalism over an artist any day.

When I hear "artist", I think of someone who doesn't think it necessary to show up at work on time...Personally, I'd prefer to eat food that tastes good and is an honest reflection of it's ingredients, than a 3-foot-tall caprice constructed from lemon grass, lawn trimmings, coconuts and red curry. You could lose an eye trying to eat that. When a job applicant starts telling me how Pacific Rim-job cuisine turns him on and inspires him, I see trouble coming...Show up at work on time six months in a row and we'll talk about red curry paste and lemon grass. Until then, I have four words for you: "Shut the fuck up."

-Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000)

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