The world economy has had it`s impacts on global dining. Fine dining has taken off it`s tie and white gloves and offer cuts of meat typically featured in the kitchens of the working class or disposed of altogether (trotters, tongue, sausage and even cheeks have been raised to gourmet status). Fine dining is, in places, becoming more affordable and less pretentious.
It`s an interesting time for those who `cook with science` as well. Meals which are produced with painstaking accuracy and evolving techniques can be challenged even further to balance a cheque book with a product that has a cost much higher than traditional fare. Alinea, in Chicago, has 0.75 staff members per guest per evening while El Bulli in Spain is rumoured to go as high as 1.5-2 staff per guest.
The cost goes much higher than staff – the chemicals, equipment and ingredients also run high. Many of these restaurants claim to lose money on dinner but make profit through wine sales, speaking tours, cook books and the rest. The days are impossibly long and the work takes it`s toll on chef and crew.
I imagine it`s a tough go on the best of days – and these aren`t them.
Grant Acchatz (the amazing chef and co-owner of Alinea in Chicago) shared a link on Twitter yesterday (follow him here) which describes a move in Italian Parliament to `outlaw Molecular Cuisine`. It`s an odd concept – after all, all food is made up of molecules and all of the powders, elixirs and concoctions are found in commercial food (which is not impacted by the ban). It is being perceived as a move to protect their cuisine and culture and the legislation is full of flaws that appear to have workarounds but the Government has clearly stepped in to the kitchen.
Ferran Adria is the mad Chef behind El Bulli in Spain. The restaurant opens 6-months per year and the core crew create experiments in re-imagining food the rest of the year. Millions of requests for reservations are declined every year (including ours this year) to seat a few thousand in the course of a season. The restaurant was named the top in the world for it`s fourth consecutive year this year.
Adria announced that the restaurant would close for 2 years to take a break from the demands of the restaurant. Plans were unclear as to the future of the restaurant – rumours floated about a permanent closing, stress leave and more…
Our friend Jen shared a great link with us that declared the future of El Bulli would be as a culinary academy. It`s a funny coincidence to note that Grant Achatz spent a pivotal 3 days at the restaurant which changed his view on cooking.
Adria is planning to transform El Bulli to a nonprofit school where he will work to train top chefs from around the world as well as special projects including archiving a catalog of contemporary food from around the world. Yes, he is interested in preserving the culture of modern approaches – including the same approaches that are being banned in Italy.
It would seem to be that we are approaching an interesting crossroads on the timeline of cooking with science.