The Imagination Generation cooks, or Culinary Revolution For The Hell Of It

revo

Food glorious food, We’re anxious to try it. Its what’s for dinner, whether cool as a cucumber or easy as pie we love our food. Food has been essential since time began. Without food the world would be full of nothing but vegetation soaking up the sun’s energy creating oxygen for no one. But as it is we have a symbiotic relation with vegetation. Animals (including us) eat the greenery, digest it, then return it to the plants as composted food for their roots. So we all benefit from the cycle of life because of the cycle of food. Food has always existed even finding its roots in the garden of Eden. Yea, the forbidden apple the iSin that was as they say the fall of man. More like the rise of man which is why so many of us get hungry after sex. Food has had major impacts to the growth an development of all life, especially humanity. Whether it was chewing the leaves of tree’s or the capturing of some animal we survived on food. Food was so important to our development it can be attributed for the creating of societies. We formed tribes to both procure and protect food sources. With the advent of the agricultural revolution food became power. Whomever controlled the food controlled the masses. Humans learned to grow vegetation at will, capture and herd animals for milk and meat, and create warehouses to store food. At one point food was worth more than money. Why in ancient times you could by a chariot polo team for a few cases of wheat, a six pack, and a cow. Brothels accepted loaves of bread for making it rise and it gave cause for a new phenomenon arose, thievery. With people stealing food from one another and beating each other up or killing for food an important new force needed to be created. The police force formed in ancient Athens where the policeman were paid in what else? Donuts. The police eventually evolved into armies which as Napoleon so eloquently put it, marches on its stomach. He reportedly always hid a taco inside his coat which is why so many photos show him apparently holding his stomach. But that was then this is now, and now it costs a lot of money for a small amount of food. But we pay it because not only do we need food, we friggen love to eat. Home or restaurant, no difference, bring on the food.
Why do we love to eat so much? Properly prepared food can fill us with a plethora of wonderful emotions which is one reason we love to go to restaurants. What is a restaurant? Originally the French term for restoring it referred to the hearty soups that were said to restore ones health. What a great concept, a place to sit, eat, and converse in a Nice setting. Or was it Paris? Whatever, the concept gained ground and a new industry was born. Forks and knives, chopsticks, or fingers, food was bought prepared and served the world over and Auguste Escoffier took it upon himself to develop recipe systems and a set of basic tenets for cooking. That was the late 18oo’s and those laws stood firm for almost a century. Red wine for meat, white wine for poultry or fish (Pick your Poisson). Everything served within the lip of a plain white plate. Everything was standardized right down to the size of cooking utensils. This worked well for many years until a new generation grew up and took over the sauté pans. The imagination revolution was about to break the restaurant industry wide open.
Like most of my generation, I colored outside the lines on purpose. But some of us took it even further, like coloring the tree’s blue instead of green, or making the sun magenta because the word on the crayon looked cool. I was particular to periwinkle myself because I not only did it look cool, the name made me chuckle. It was one of the only crayons that made a daily appearance in the cheesy crayon sharpener on the side of my 64 color box of Crayola. That was the first known instance of thinking outside the box. We were the generation that would stretch the limits of imagination like silly putty, make it bounce around like a superball, and allow it to take flight from balsa airplanes, to water pump rockets, all the way the flying saucer Frisbee. Our entertainment was just as far out, with uncles who are Martians, talking cars, nose twitching good witches, and pretty genies in bottle seemingly common place events an acceptable. We even let our imaginations allow us to believe that a movie star on a three hour boat tour would bring an enormous change of clothes, and once stranded a professor could invent everything on a deserted island except a workable raft. Our minds were open and free and TV opened many dialogues on previously hushed or taboo subjects like racism, drugs, and the all time favorite, sex. It’s the generation that looked to the moon and said lets not just look at it but lets go there and find out if there really is any cheese, let not have a small concert lets have a festival for half a million. It was only a matter of time before some of these new forward thinking creative out of the crayola box coloring kids would grow up an become chefs of the future. Ha Ha.
And we did. The first thing the rebel imagination generation of cooks did was disregard all of Escoffier’s rules. No disrespect sir, your shit was incredible, but we are in the age of culinary renaissance and it was up to us to disregard the rules, deconstruct everything that had been done for so many years and color outside the roasting pans. Sauté the red snapper, throw in some shallots and fresh thyme, hit it with some pinot noir and deglaze. Finish with a touch of fish stock , pinch of cream, and spoonful of raw butter and man oh man you have one tasty ass snapper with a buerre rouge. Red wine and fish?? Blaspheme! We broke all the old rules, decorating our plates with fresh herbs, making wines work with anything, rare duck breast, barely cooked or half raw foods, crunchy veggies, nouvelle cuisine was taking its stand against the old strong brigade system of cooking. Women washing the pots and pans? Bullshit ladies, come on inside the kitchen and show them what kick ass chefs you are. The old regime cringed, knocking the cigarette ashes into their sautoise pans. Sacrebleu, what are zose crazy long hair chefs doing? And what kind of cigarette is zat they smoke? Sorry Charlie, but revolutionaries only want the best tuna, served mostly if not entirely raw. Salads took center stage as entrée’s with hot meats served over them. The imagination generation turned the culinary industry on its pigs ear. Sweetbread day in the morning we kicked some ass back then!
Now I watch proudly as a new generation of rebel chefs begin to take their place in culinary history, sustainable food systems, farm to table programs, and molecular gastronomy are the next new wavers an they have been doing a tremendous job. Women have made their major impact on the industry an in an ever evolving world its up to them to keep our interest in dining, not just eating. Personally I think the industry is in great hands, hope its no0t just my imagination

Another One Bites The Dust (The closing of Cumberland Restaurant)

cumberland

From The Potsink Diaries

Cumberland Restaurant was more than just a job to me it was my Mecca, a culinary cathedral where I was transformed from just another punk kid to an integral cast member of a gastronomic theater. I was important there and having put in many hours of work in the kitchen from scrubbing floors to stuffing mushrooms to making and plating deserts I had become an equal. We were all the same in terms of importance, all pieces of a whole. I adore my time with the staff we even hung out sometimes after work. I had seniority over the weekend warriors, the kids from high school who were mere part timers. Hordes of classmates had come through those doors searching for restaurant enlightenment but few achieve it. To me Cumberland was the Taj Majal, my place of worship. I had earned my position of cooks assistant and head suds buster at Cumberland having dominion over all the kids that came to work were to be trained by the master, the holy soapsud king. It gave me a sense of purpose, the staff was my family without the blood relation drama. Alone we were circus sideshows, totally misunderstood, but when the Cumberland family was together we were a unit, a force to be reckoned with. I was looking forward to going to work on this warm spring evening if only to get away from the chaos that cluttered my daily life. Being a central figure in the restaurant absorbed my inner spirit projecting me to another world.
I had learned so much at Cumberland, not just about cooking but about life. Jimmy had taken me under his wing though he’d never admit it, and I alone was privy to his paternal side. He had become my sensei, my benefactor of chefdom. Even Andre had begun teaching me things although I suspected his motives were more about getting me to do his work for him. Either way I had become the kitchen protégé in line to one day have dominion of my very own kitchen. All the basics plus some tricks of the trade on soups and sauces. The more he taught the more I absorbed. I had became a gastronomic sponge soaking up everything they offered. Plus I was earning as I was learning.
The second I walked up to the back door of the kitchen finding it locked I sensed something amiss. I peered through the grease smeared window but it appeared all the lights were off. I double checked my watch then looked to the parking lot. Jimmy’s car was parked in front with a few other cars so I walked around. Fuck man I hope Jense isn’t gonna yell at me again for using the front door but what else could I do? I could just hear him in his condescending European accent, “Chay Dee! Vat do joo tink dis iss here? Zhew tink we air r-r-rrunning a pup-you larraty conest? Deese eess a r-r-r-r-r-eeeerrrrestarant!“ I opened the front door staring at the scene perplexed. Across the dining room at the bar sat Jimmy, Andre, Didier, and Rod the bus boy with John behind the bar. I walked up and noticed an almost deathly glumness on their collective faces. “Hey guys, what’s up? The back doors locked.”
Jimmy broke the ominous silence and said “Zeet down JD. We gots some bad news today. Johnny, give JD a beer.” My happiness was rapidly sneaking out the door allowing concern to take its place as John poured me a cold beer. It was Didier who spoke up next. “ Vucking Jense und Laura have run off with all zee restaurant money. Zey broke into zeee safe, took alla da cash.Tooka zee cash fromma registers und dezzappeared.” My face turned a whiter shade of pale. “WHAT?” If I told you I was stunned I would have been doing the emotion a terrible injustice. More accurately I was stunned, shocked, astounded, flabbergasted and blown away. My entire world and every world within a hundred light years had been rocked to Hell! I looked intensely from face to face hoping one of them would reveal the fact that they had played a fabulous joke on me but none offered a scintilla of a smile. “Jeeeeesus fucking shit! When did what, how did they, fuck man did anyone call the cops?” While Didier explained everything the news slowly seeped into my cerebellum aided by the cold beer. He came to work this morning and found the front door open and the alarm shut off. The cash register was open and empty, there was an empty bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne on the bar with two empty glasses. He ran to the office which was also wide open as was the safe door. He called the cops first, then Jense. Jenses wife said he left for work early and should be there by now. Didier started doing the arithmetic and called Laura whom he had expected of having an affair with Jense. The cops came and took away the champagne bottle and glasses but it was pretty obvious what has happened. “I put all zee numbers togezzer, und she come out four.”
Man this was a lot to digest. So many things raced through my mind. Classic restaurant scandal, Maitre d’ and head waitress give each other head then rip off the restaurant running off together. “Wait-What?! Laura and that fucking airhead asshole Jense did it? The bastards took all the money? They took ALL the money? Wait, what does that mean?” I turned to my mentor, “It means JD my boy that we ain’t got no more restaurant. No mas trabajo amigo.” I looked at Jimmy with an empty confused stare. So that was it man. No more job. No more Laura. No more money coming in. No more Cumberland. It was painful. Didier explained that the restaurant would have to withhold my paycheck until the investigation was over. The six of us sat at the bar and drank for hours until it was time for everyone to leave. We said good bye to each other, Jimmy and I talked at his car for another 30 minutes where he assured me when he found another job he would call me. A nice gesture but I knew this was the last time I would ever see of Jimmy again. Or any of the other people who had become such an integral part of my life. Now they would all just be in my rear view mirror, a speck of dust in my memory bank. Feeling sad and somewhat broken I walked home. Actually I sort of stumbled home having consumed more than my share of the free flowing beer. The summer was barely beginning and Cumberland days were over already! I stopped off on the way at Kens to score some ludes to ease the pain.
When I got to Kens room he was flying high and slurring even worse than me. “Hey bro, what’s the matter? You look like you been crying or something. Here man take these, they‘ll cure anything.” Ken had handed me two white tablets that looked like huge aspirins. “Jesus shit man, what the fuck are these monsters?” I trusted Ken to the end so I downed the tabs without waiting for a reply but still I was curious. “Morph tabs bro, gonna kick your ass six ways to Sunday. So what’s eating you bro?” I pulled a joint from my cigarette pack, “Oh man, fuckin’ Cumberland closed down man, like forever. That chick Laura ran away with the dickhead Maitre d’ and took all the fuckin’ money. They even downed a bottle of Dom Perignon before running off. Now I ain’t got no job. Sucks man!” Ken seemed shocked but was so stoned he had a hard time convincing his face to respond. Almost vacant. “Whoa! Holy Jesus fuck man! That does suck. Hey man, I hear Munson is hiring, you can mow lawns right?” Ken’s eyes were tiny slits and he was nodding. “Dude how many of them morphs did you take?” ken held up four fingers and accepted the joint from me which we puffed halfway down. In the middle of talking Ken fell out so I laid him comfortable in his bed. “Maybe you’re right Buddy, maybe I need a break from restaurants. Tomorrow I’ll go check out Munson’s Landscaping.”

Is the future of Dining out a Dismal Prospect?

kitchens

In the not too different future chefs will be replaced with culinary scientist and the social activity of recreational dining may well become just a part of restaurant history. Foods will be prepared not for its outrageous presentations or amazing taste bud teasing virtues but for its optimal nutritive and regenerative quality. This of course is merely a theory of mine but it’s a little to persuasive and argument to be completely ignored. The world we live in is changing fast and generations are growing up quicker, living longer, yet burning out sooner. The age of instant everything is here and the population grows at such an alarming rate competition for jobs has turned into a near brutal contest. Today if you snooze you not only lose but you sink. Miss a call or an email or text and within literally seconds another person may be moving in on your prospects. Don’t know an answer to something? Google it and you’re informed in seconds. it’s a lightning quick pace today and fortunes can be lost or made in the time it takes to click a mouse. Where is the food industry headed? Look around and the types of eateries today. Froyo (frozen yogurt) establishments as well as student oriented fast food shops all have computers or game stations for the kids amusement. They have not a easier for but rather a need of constant stimulation and its all just part of evolution. How many of you remember being bored to tears on long drives and inventing games like “I Spy”, or “How many different license plates can you find?” How much wood would a woodchuck chuck? Ninety nine bottle of beer on the wall. Mindless songs and queries entertained many of us during long rides or field trips. Not anymore. That eerie glow coming from those traveling SUV’s filled with children are DVD players or even TV’s to keep the kids quiet. Even on short trips! No wonder kids today expect visual stimulation every ten seconds.
Gastronomic science is already becoming accepted and you will soon be hearing a lot about Molecular Gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy is cutting edge cooking where high level science meets haut cuisine. Chefs use controversial and provocative presentations an methods using equipment more often found in a University science lab room. Far beyond the short lived popularity of foaming chefs are well versed in scientific techniques using liquids nitrogen, anti-griddles, dehydrators, and thermal immersion circulators to alter the shape and taste of dining. There are already a number of high quality restaurants that specialize in molecular gastronomy. Taking serious strides in the early 90’s it’s a growing industry and quite controversial in the culinary corners. That’s a story for another time, my point is that science is already entering the dining experience and its only a matter of time before the novelty and entertainment value of molecular gastronomy evolves into a more clinical form of eating void of social entertainment while brimming with nutrients, vitamins, an other substances designed to enhance human physical performance. Not like steroids, but food an techniques developed to maximize the ability to move faster, stay more alert, and function with less sleep to give the diner the edge they need to get or stay on top in a whirlwind workforce. That is my assessment of the future of cooking. Scientist serving up stamina on a plate. Will it really end our last bastion of physical interactive social activity. I truly hope not, ining out is probably my favorite pastime in the world. Stay tuned…Next time……how the industry has evolved during my culinary career