Many who read these pages will know a few names in the cooking world – if not many more than me. I like to know what the world’s top and most innovative food people are up to – regardless of how complex their technique or equipment, I find that one can pick up something practical from most of the truly elite. If nothing else, their pure passion and creativity inspires me.
Here are four names that fit my bill of inspiring and have learned practical cooking skills from despite the fact that they are so far out of my league that I couldn’t carry their knife bags (although I would for a free meal of course ):
Ferran Adria. His name is becoming more of the household variety as of late. He’s a Spanish Chef and owner of a restaurant named El Bulli. Voted the top restaurant in the world 3 years running, Ferran is a pioneer of technique and flavor. El Bulli is famed to have up to 2.5 staff members per guest. The restaurant seat 8,000 guests per year and has 2,000,000 requests for reservations.
Heston Blumenthal. Chef proprietor of The Fat Duck in England. Heston is raving mad, has a wonderful food show on the BBC (and now Food Network) called In Search of Perfection. His Christmas special knocked me off my chair – he travelled to Jordan to trace the Wise Men and get gold, frankincense and myrrh to cook with. He created special food for two specific geese (including grinding up Douglas Fir trees so they would taste a bit like Christmas) and went to Northern Russia to the land of the reindeer.
Thomas Keller. Owns The French Laundry (California) and Per Se (New York). One of only two chefs in the world who owns two restaurants with 3 Michelin stars at the same time. America’s best chef by Time Magazine in 2001, Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation in 1996, Best Restaurant in the World twice. You get the idea.
Harold McGee. He’s an American scientist, not a chef. On Food and Cooking is just simply my favorite cook book of all time. There are no real recipes – I have learned more about cooking and ingredients from this single source than any other. He explores misconceptions and fallacies passed through kitchen folklore and tradition.
These four individuals (amongst few others including Herve This, who will be a tale for a later day) are credited with changing the landscape of modern food. Many credit them for inventing molecular gastronomy – a term they decidedly steer clear from. This over-simplification leads to misunderstanding on what they are trying to do and many write them off as elitists, snobs or otherwise.
I read a wonderful article written by all 4 in 2006 which is a sort of mission statement for what they are trying to achieve. Their 4 principles can be applied by any cook – be it professional chef or one who cooks for family or self.
Assuming you have read that article, you will understand why we will use the molecular gastronomy term very carefully here, if at all.
I understand people being turned off at some of the approaches that are used by these guys and the price that comes with it. My take is that it’s neat, exciting and not for everyone. I am here to learn and they are clearly capable of teaching, so I’ll pull up a chair. I hope you’ll join me in doing so.