Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Has The Thrill Really Gone?

Beau jour mes Cornichons Culinaires!

It is that time of the month again where I begin to become even more disillusioned with this trade. Is it possible to be grumpier than just plain grumpy?

Despite the slight drop in temperature across the country and the odd drop of the wet stuff, we are still surprisingly busy at the restaurant. A new menu seems to have produced a revival in the amount of clientele crossing our little threshold. The canal boat companies are beginning to rent more boats out to stag and hen parties, groups of middle-management on team building exercises and the annual subscribers to 'Saga' magazine and the Sun has been flourishing its warming rays on the general populous packing them with more energy than your average solar panel.

My main gripe, I suppose, is where were all these people a few months ago when the restaurants and hotels outside of the bustling cities and towns actually needed the support and patronism? I personally like nothing more than going out during the wintry showers to a pleasant and cosy eatery, ordering a delectable Agnelez le ragoût, les boulettes d'herbe et la purée de pommes de terre and washing it down with a robust and flavoursome Faustino Gran Reserva '81 Vintage. We have become slaves to the abundance of bistros, ready meals and gastro-pubs. Only eating out when life has dictated it. Sunshine and sombreros define our eating habits. Where has the thrill gone? I remember different times though......

Eating out used to be a delight. I looked forward to my day off where I could indulge my senses and treat them to an evening of fine food and choice wines, finishing the night off with a palette cleansing snifter and a chunky Henri Wintermans Cigar. Do not get me wrong, times have changed for me. I now have a wonderful wife and beautiful daughter which fill me with joy everyday. We still eat out, although not as often and it will usually consist of child-friendly pubs, homemade picnics and the inevitable trips to the odd fast food chain for a burger and fries. So when did dining out become such a minefield? Is it me that has moved on from experimenting with obscure combinations of flavours? Am I the one who is being left behind in the race to define Culinary perfection? What is perfection?

To me, perfection is French Cuisine. Traditional, homely and classical in its creation and more often than not, rich and bold in flavour and texture. This style of food has led the Industry to where it is now but I feel it has been forgotten and pushed aside. Nowadays it is expanded upon or broken down to its key elements and resurrected with complex titles or 'play on words' descriptions. Items such as Horseradish Snow, Virtual Ham and Popcorn Cloud intrigue and challenge the consumer to experiment with texture and enhanced flavours which, to a certain extent, is driving the Industry forward into the 22nd century, pushing the boundaries of the culinary institutions that once appeared old and haggard. Yet, should we forget our roots and carry on with Mussel Spheres and Boneless Chicken Feet? Or is it maybe time to roll back the clock, turn back time and visit the traditional world of perfection? Careme pushed the boundaries, as did Escoffier and Montagne. Although, they created the basis that is fundamental cookery. I believe it is about time someone stood up to be counted. Tell these experimental Chefs' that Egg Yolk Spheres and Basil Foam are going that little bit to far. In short, prices are to high and the food is to fiddly and elaborate. Bring back the fundamentals.

With all this healthy eating lark comes a price......Enjoyment! When we want to enjoy ourselves, we indulge our senses. Be it mentally, physically or gastronomically, that is what makes us human. For example, every Thursday, I make 2-3 special dishes for the board above the bar and I try to make sure that somewhere on that board is a dish of reputation. A warm and comforting dish that, even if it doesn't sell, will fill me with joy and excitement to make it. That is my one sanity within my week of work. That is my enjoyment. Everyone has a favourite dish. It may be something from your childhood or a dish you ate at your wedding, even a particular sweet that has disappeared from the shelves of your most visited sweet shop. The point is, that is your comfort food. Its personal to you and I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with Nitroglycerin, car-paint sprayers or olive oil spirals.

Let's get back to the basics! Let's rekindle our love and passion for what is not good for us and spoil ourselves once in a while. They say that you eat with your eyes......Well, I think its time we started to eat with our hearts and memories!

"Go on, try something gastronomically naughty today!"

Le Chef Grincheux


SheR. said...

Hey Chef!
It's me again.
I too love french cuisine and how they seek perfection in every dish. And they are so willing to experiment with new food unlike many of the old world cuisine such as Croatian.

For me, there are only four cuisines which are deem the best: French, Italian, Chinese and Indian. Each of them good at using resources at their own unique ways without compromising standards.

It's really sad that the current wave of Fusion food is bringing the culinary world closer to the end of substandard food with no unique qualities.

Chef you are not alone. Keep up the passion! Hopefully there are more of us out there! :)

TheGrumpyChef said...

@SheR: Hi again.Great to see that I still have some support on this subject. I must admit, I have never tried classics from Croatia (now that sounds like a possible blog). Although I have delved into the old style cuisine of Poland recently which is quite good for playing around with. A very adaptable cuisine. Not very forgiving if a mistake is made though.


JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I agree with a lot of what you are saying. But I can honestly say, I have been to a real bona fide French restaurant, twice. Both in Quebec City. I really think that restaurants are trying so hard to find their niche in the world, that many have steered away from traditional foods. It is just plain hard to find restaurants that you speak of.

The ones that many be out there are usually way above the price range of what I can spend on a meal out - so they have to be reserved for a REALLY special occasion.

Anyway, I did want to welcome you to The Foodie Blogroll! :)

Chef E said...

Nicely said Chef!