Travelling for Food & Art
Travelling today has become quick and easy, its almost so easy that one can be in several cities in a span of a few hours if not countries. Culinary tourism is what makes one travel to another country and experience the food and cuisine. There are those who travel and carry bags of food often compare good food to our mothers cooking and that makes me wonder with so many mothers in the world the conflict of interest is sure to turn up. So much so many travellers even fail to taste other cusines when they travel which is a shame.
In all my travels its sometimes the images of food taken on the trip that make me remisence and it should surprise me. A food buff history wise, food tourism is usually seen through a realm of culture. Regional food habits, norms and values and these information points though lacking in India are essential for the growth of food tourism. Knowing the history of a dish its rudimentary characteristics, the value of seasonl ingredients from region to region all go a long way in presenting food better and for me closer to the goal of making Indian cuisine a global one.
For as a chef myself and one who travels a fair bit, I see that chefs have turned artists of a different kind over the years with many chefs even delving in the world of food styling. Chefs building up chefs by staying in the backend kitchens on food shows. Their art rarely coming into the forefront due to the hosts and channels refusal to give them credit. Its not about reinventing the wheel but all about being innovative.
While to most the journey of visiting restaurants globally is to sample an exotic cuisine, one has to remember that there are only so many ways one can cook a chicken or a vegetable. While most chefs know that whatever they have thought of has probably been thought of by another, its all about showmanship at the end of the day.
Styling the plate and even restaurants these days is sometimes all around the chef. While food styling is a highly specialised field, it relies heavily on ones knowledge of food but with and artistic touch. A great deal of patience and making the food speak for itself. Taking food in every direction and the ability of giving it height he probably broke the mould that made most great chefs artists. The trend of minmalistic and where less is more
Chefs have learnt to cull their skillset and give great fresh food, and using as a means of communcation of who they are as individuals. Heston Blumanthal, Frerran Adria and old school artists like Michel Blnc, Gary Rhodes the Roux brothers, Atul Kochar. Its not so much to taste their creations but to savour in the well worn realm of visual culinary art. That singular moment when you say this is too beautiful to eat.
One of the new elements of late is the use of micro greens and traces of edible flowers. These final touches lighten a plate and give a different aspect to food. Its not so much aping or copying its taking an idea and building on it is what counts. Many a time when am out at a buffet its also an art of taking what one wants and arranging it ones self on ones plate, its definitely better eating skills rather than lavishing everything onto a plate and making a mess of it. Food and culture go hand in hand and while culture may hold certain things back certainly there is nothing that can hold ones creativity and sometimes necessity is often the mother of invention. And while the invention is taking place it is important for a chef to know his basics and the origins of a cuisine.
The other visual art is the change of dynamics in the crockery being used. Large plates hold a miniscule portion while black tile accentuates the food. Nouvelle styles serving ware , fine crystal, you name it chefs are investing in it to make a style statement. The french group that runs the Sofitel and Novotel chain have designers who change the look and feel of a place, flying in or out french art and crockery and fabrics to please the nouveau riche.