Tuesday, 10 March 2009
The Ultimate Dog's Breakfast featured at http://sharefood.ning.com
One spin off from the current economic problems might just be that certain Michelin-starry-eyed restaurants start serving food that satisfies the appetites of their customers rather than the vanity of their chefs. I am not against food that is carefully sourced and exquisitely cooked; nor even do I condemn the absurdist kitchen that serves confit of scorpion and Swarfega flavoured icecream. What drives me to pick up a Sabatier knife and wave it at a telly programme like Masterchef is the fetishisation of what used to be known as ‘plating up’ but what I suppose we should now call ‘presentation’ with a French accent.
Nobody wants a bowl of bread and butter pudding drowning in custard to the rim as a certain London gentleman’s club served me up one lunchtime. I agree food should be appealingly presented but the more that chefs try to out-garnish each other, the more naff and preposterous it becomes. I laughed over the pancake twizzles that one Masterchef contestant wrestled with, wasting in my opinion valuable galley time spent cooking real food to fill real stomachs.
I guess my primary bete noir is plate painting. The art of Advanced Platecraft is surely overrated and even primary school kids could master the mechanics of it with a teaspoon, a cookie cutter and some poster paint. It was the final of Masterchef where the talented amateurs were thrown into selected continental Michelin starred restaurants and beasted with this form of twiddling. The programme producers focused on the jeopardy of one young hopeful stamping some labour-intensive gloop in circles all over the plates. (Ikea eat your heart out) Then more sleight of hand with half a teaspoonful of red stuff and sighs of relief that he hadn’t cocked it up. Nobody filmed the hapless diner who had to make the choice between being polite and licking his plate.
The point is that the fabled sauce is often advertised on the menu and one has a reasonable expectation of eating it. I once chose a hot chocolate pudding for its caramel sauce at a Conran restaurant. I did not expect the caramel to reside in a series of polka dots alongside. (On that same occasion the blini to partner my smoked salmon was 4 cm in diameter, except that it was boat shaped so I’ve over-estimated its size. The potatoes were three medallions that would fit in a slot machine, and the wilted leeks a half a mouthful. I wrote and complained that they had a 'cavalier attitude' towards vegetables but they didn't care.) Call me old fashioned.
Does anybody else want to call for this posturing to stop? I don’t wish redundancies on any restaurant, but too many chefs can wreck a square meal. Cut out the fiddling whilst the diners starve and I for one will feel satisfied.
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