CNN's Eatocracy blog has an interesting bit of video of Chris Cosentino (of San Francisco's Incanto and Boccalone) imploring young chefs to learn the fundamentals and the classics. Watching this, I had a weird flashback to my old grad school days studying 20th Century American Literature and very similar instructions from successful writers to young aspiring modernists to learn their classics--their iambs and dactyls, their Ovid and their Milton.
I would hardly argue that a cook doesn't need to know how to make an omelet, braise meat, or chop an onion. That seems pretty obvious. But, when Cosentino insists not that a young chef would gain a lot from it but rather that he or she MUST know what a demi-glace is or how to make a shirred egg, suddenly I'm hearing old schoolmasters insisting that if you can't conjugate the Latin you can't possibly construct a passably readable sentence in English.
It's taken me almost a decade, but I've now come to terms with the fact that, a hundred years hence, video games will be the high literature of current our decade, studied with groans by countless classrooms of bored high school students. But maybe, just maybe, there will be a similar canonization of the great chefs, with cooking being instituted as one of the great expressive arts of the early 21st century.
Or maybe not. But, all the signs of a coalescing "high art" are starting to appear.
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