The pursuit of chefdom is a long and arid road, full of mistakes, of burns, of foul tasting and equally heavenly concoctions, of tears both of happiness and sadness, frustrations and tribulations. At the start of the year, our teacher asked us after a quite eye-opening discussion on Gastronomy to write a paper on if we think gastronomy will help us become better chefs. What I learned in that single class is that Gastronomy in the purest and most simple sense deals with anything that sustains us. And to answer the question, my answer is yes.
Anything that sustains us concerns nutrition, the methods used to cook it, the ingredients used, the culture it sustains or derives from, to the gustatory delight that it gives or emotions or thoughts inculcated in our food (if it is only food that truly sustains us to live, that is, but that will be another long essay altogether). In the most basic explanation to why the study of gastronomy would help me—“the study of food or what nourishes us” will simply make me a better chef by telling me what has worked in the past, what may work, and what doesn’t.”
I can go on and on about how the knowledge of a culture, a place, a person, it’s culture, it’s art, it’s history deals with gastronomy and the whole quest for epicurean delight. I could also say that the study of gastronomy will make me less static, more open to ideas, more adaptable to change, more knowledgeable. Or how Gastronomy, being a science that also deals with the sensory, besides the factual side, enables me, as a future chef to learn and practice intuitive cooking. How it will help me in catering for events, as some foods can denote or taste “happy”, taste and feel “romantic”, etc. Or how it will help me be more flexible in my cooking style/menu. Or learning more about the cooking process, what food loses and gains in terms of nutritional value or taste or aesthetics that will make me able to plate my food better, cook it better, season and for it to ultimately taste better. Or I could say that it will help me, if I ever end up in another country or place with different values or food constructs to create food that will not have me be deported back here. On how I personally, am trying to lose weight, and I want my cuisine to be healthy, but taste GOOD. So on and so forth.
But then everything I’ve written above has been said, and will be said again, for these are only some things that gastronomy gives us– as its students.
Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Gastronomy is an emerging science that deals with new or existing facts, constructs and theories, being such it can be changed by new ideas, new improvements from imaginative minds. A dead science? Gastronomy IS definitely not, which makes it ideal for temperamental wannabe chefs like me.
I think of gastronomy as an inspiration, rather than the answer to all my chef-questions, challenges or dilemmas. When faced with a problem, I look to what I know, what was taught, or what I read. And what I know is all gastronomy.
My point? My point is how you use what you know is still the most important thing that defines a chef. Gastronomy is to me, the springboard of my psyche on food that (hopefully) will encircle the world.
Imagination. Potential. Risk.
The construct of gastronomy is limitless, and that is what I love about it. More than the recipes, more than the history, more than anything else, it is the possibility of something “more” that inspires me and fuels my imagination.
I remember only one thing about the interview I had with Chef Jun-jun (a requirement before I could get into this school). He asked me why I wanted to learn Culinary Arts, and I answered quite simply—“to get more knowledge.”
Chefdom is a state that opens you to possible rejection, ridicule and perhaps immense success, etc. But then nothing worth it in life is without risk. So here I am—a future chef. Ask me that same question again today, I would answer differently—“to get inspiration from what has already been done, to make my food—my food.”
It will still be a long way to go before my own personal culinary “legend” ever reaches to some sort of completion. I have books, history, culture, chef-mentors and the world around me to be my constant sources of inspiration. But then even that pursuit in itself (its tools and the experiences), will be a study of gastronomy—limitless only in my imagination.
Found this in one of the old blogs. I remember my gastronomy teacher finding time to tell me that she liked reading the paper. Reposting this because it blows me away how life can change in the span of a few years and I don’t remember writing this. Also, it’s making me think about what to do with the culinary arts degree. My mom has been at me to make something of it for a few years now. Besides a confectionery company in hiatus, pretty good Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve dinners, the in-house catering company (which I do more admin work and planning than actual cooking), and doing really well in FOOD categories in quiz, I’ve really not applied myself culinary wise.
I’m going to think about it a bit and figure things out. Hmm. It seems like a good way to start 2013. 🙂