People writing about food note restaurant trends: Vegan menus, local farmers, seasonal ingredients, artisanal products, and molecular techniques, and, sure, all of these are either new or more prominent than ever.
But the real trend is: Who’s behind the stove?
Long before the profession was celebrated, chefs were working guys who lived a subterranean life, drove their staff nuts, never saw their wife and kids, and slaved to perfect dishes that would make customers swoon so that they might forget their troubles and spend lots more eating out than cooking at home.
OK, so not much has changed.
What is different is how chefs have asserted themselves into the cuisine. We’re no longer eating classic dishes or interpretations at the trendiest restaurants. Now it’s “signature” items which reflect the chef’s personality and, Lord help us, his outlook on life.
I’m far from certain how the ability to cook good food while cut off from the reality of day to day life that many of us share makes one a great thinker, but look at restaurant menus and websites around the country and you’ll discover a section on the chef’s “philosophy.”
The high toned sentences describe sensuality and respect for nature, a recognition of the importance of communities, and lots of verbiage about conviviality and love and timelessness.
Read the poetic prose carefully and you’ll realize: This is the language of people living in their own world.