The Art and Craft of Food
By Nicole Romero
There have been many questions surrounding the debate as to whether cooking should be considered a craft or an art. Let’s first take a look at the definition of each word in order to decipher this for ourselves. The Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word craft is “an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands.” Well, this definition is a bit vague and can applied to many things. As listed in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word art is defined as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” In article pertaining to the same topic, Dwight Furrow states that it is a tricky question because immediate gratification allows a chef’s creation to be available for a short amount of time.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was fortunate enough to dine at Sons & Daughters, a 28-seat restaurant in the Nob Hill neighborhood. In order to understand the success of this restaurant, it is important to note the prominent acclaim that this restaurant has attained. In a few short years, the restaurant from Chef Duo Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara has garnered its first Michelin Star. This prestigious award is among the toughest in the world to acquire, reserved only for the best restaurants demonstrating excellence in both service and food. The Michelin guide was started in the early 1900s when cars were mostly luxury items. The purchase of a set of Michelins finest tires was accompanied by a yearly guide that contained a map of rural France containing restaurant reviews and descriptions along various routes, which in time grew to include over 12 countries on 3 continents. Over many decades the “One, Two, and Three” star ratings have become the obsession of any chef looking to gain notoriety. Just as in art contests, there are many different elements to consider when deciding who can become one of the top chefs in the world.
In addition to learning about this highly-sought achievement, I was excited knowing that I would be gaining an experience that my taste buds would go wild for. Just as in painting a picture, the best products were used to create each serving. Not only was the food delicious, but each item was beautifully plated. The dishes looked more like an abstract painting than something created for consuming alongside a mouthwatering wine. I couldn’t help but be amazed at each of the plates that were placed in front of me. It was very apparent that every aspect of each serving was carefully thought out ranging from the types of plates that were used and the serving ware to the timing of delivery and angle in which the plate is placed in front of you. Placement is key in such a restaurant and if not done properly, it could derail the diner from receiving the exact experience that the artist (chef) has crafted.
Food Arts have come a long way and have increasingly gained fame. With shows such as Top Chef and Chopped achieving such popularity, America has become intrigued by the culinary field. Viewers are suddenly interested in who the most famous chefs are and what types of food they are producing. It is no longer considered a poor man’s vocation, but a career that can be highly honorable. Magazines such as Lucky Peach, which features a collection of food essays and explores new trends in food arts, are a bit pricey ($12 an issue), but consumers are willing to pay. As with paintings and sculptures, patrons are willing to spend a couple hundred dollars on dinner just to experience the culinary experience that America has been raving about, so long as the craft has been delightfully constructed.
All in all, I think it is safe to say that cooking can be considered both an art and a craft. Each dish is a creation that has been beautifully crafted into edible art. In a way, food is art on steroids. Chefs are not only given the chance to paint their canvas, but to also let their diners experience their creation with all 6 senses. Not to say that all food is art, but if you are willing to research the new trends in food art and treat yourself to a pricey dinner, you may just land your tastebuds in culinary heaven.