A NY Times read...
  Re: (...)
Kind of a neat culinary article from the New York Times...any opinions out there in the world of the "Home Chef" to go along with these working Chefs in Spain???

Spain’s Top Chefs Clash Over Ingredients and Culinary Innovations

Published: June 1, 2008

MADRID — With inventions like parmesan snow, chilled sauces that “boil” with dry ice and green olives made of “spherified” juice, Spain’s avant-garde chefs have created an international buzz for a national cuisine that was long considered an also-ran. Gazpacho and paella were just no match for the specialties of French and Italian cuisine.

But dozens of restaurants around the country now rate a star from the revered Michelin guide. (Six currently hold its top honor: three stars.) Spanish chefs grace the pages of international gastronomic magazines, and some food critics believe they have replaced their French counterparts at the vanguard of culinary innovation.

Such acclaim is just one more cause for celebration in a country that has experienced a decade-long economic boom and gained a reputation as a center of fine wine and cutting-edge architecture as well as food. But after several years in the spotlight, Spain’s uncommonly collegial top chefs have done the unthinkable, or perhaps the inevitable. They have turned on each other.

Santi Santamaría, one of the country’s most prominent chefs, has directed bruising public attacks at his avant-garde counterparts, accusing them of producing pretentious food they would not eat themselves — and potentially poisoning diners with chemicals that he says have no place in the kitchen.

“Some chefs are offering a media spectacle rather than concerning themselves with healthy eating,” Mr. Santamaría said as he accepted a recent prize for his new book, “La Cocina al Desundo” (“The Kitchen Laid Bare”). In it, the burly, outspoken chef, who trumpets his own dedication to natural ingredients, assails the proliferation of junk food culture — and once again takes on the effete creations of the Spanish avant-garde kitchen.

“We have to decide, as chefs, if we want to continue to use the fresh products of our Mediterranean diet or opt for using additives,” he told journalists in Madrid on Monday, when he repeated a call for the Spanish authorities to investigate restaurants’ use of, for example, liquid nitrogen, for instant freezing, and methyl cellulose, a gelling agent.

This is not Mr. Santamaría’s first attack on high-tech cuisine. Last year, he shocked Spanish chefs at Madrid Fusión, an annual conference, when he accused them of cooking for snobs.

But this time Mr. Santamaría got personal. He singled out Ferran Adrià, godfather of the Spanish (and global) avant-garde movement and the country’s most celebrated chef, for criticism. Despite his “enormous respect” for Mr. Adrià, he said he felt “a huge divorce, both ethical and conceptual with Ferran, who I feel is headed in a direction that is contrary to my principles.”

Mr. Santamaría’s comments stung chefs whose success turns on the wit and wonder evoked by outlandish dishes and opened the door to debate about technology versus tradition in a culinary scene that has acquired baffling monikers like “deconstructivist” and “techno-emotional.”

Mr. Adrià and other chefs dismissed Mr. Santamaría’s latest round of criticism as ridiculous, arguing that many of the products they use are natural and those that are not, are harmless. A spokesman for the Spanish Food Safety Agency said all additives used in Spanish restaurants complied with European Union standards.

Methyl cellulose, used by Mr. Adrià to create, among other things, magenta films of “hibiscus paper” is not dangerous, he said. He also noted that liquid nitrogen was not ingested.

In a recent statement, the Spanish Euro-Toques Association, which represents some 800 Spanish chefs, said Mr. Santamaría’s comments “damaged the prestige Spain has earned at a world level thanks, in part, to its cuisine and chefs.”

“This has been a terrible couple of weeks for us chefs,” Mr. Adrià said by telephone on Saturday from France. His restaurant, el Bulli, in northeastern Spain has three Michelin stars. “Everything that Santi has said about our ingredients is untrue, but it is damaging.”

In a recent telephone interview, Mr. Santamaría said that he felt dutybound to raise public awareness of techniques and ingredients that had catapulted Spanish cuisine to fame but were at odds, in his view, with Spanish traditions and a dedication to local and organic produce.

“How can we, the defenders of natural, local products, include unnatural products in our cooking?” said Mr. Santamaría, who was speaking from Sant Celoni in northeastern Spain, home to his three-star restaurant, Can Fabes.

Andoni Aduriz, a protégé of Mr. Adrià, said Mr. Santamaría was simply trying to scare people.

“Santi is the Hugo Chávez of gastronomy,” Mr. Aduriz said. “He loves to spark controversy with his populist talk.” Mr. Aduriz, who forages in the local countryside for nettles and unusual herbs, said he saw no conflict between a respect for natural produce and high-tech kitchen methods.

“It’s a false debate,” he said. “Santi is seeking the recognition that has eluded him professionally by creating a polemic,” he added, suggesting that despite Mr. Santamaría’s successes, he might crave Mr. Adrià’s fame. Slow Food Spain, part of a global movement that advocates organic produce, said in a statement last week that “innovation and tradition are not antithetical.”

Still, Mr. Santamaría’s claims resonate for some. In a letter to the Spanish newspaper El País, one reader, Jorge Gutiérrez Berlinches, said Mr. Santamaría represented “all of us who like pasta with tomato, a nice plate of potatoes, a fried egg and blood sausage.”

“We need to return to simple things, what’s natural and what tastes good and what is affordable,” he wrote.

Dan Barber, chef of Blue Hill in New York, said that the dispute was reminiscent of the storm over nouvelle cuisine in France in the 1970s and a more recent, nationalist debate over the use of non-French ingredients in haute cuisine. Mr. Barber, an advocate of organic, local ingredients who is an admirer of Mr. Adrià, said the controversy bore testimony to how mature the Spanish culinary movement had become.

“The fact that this debate is taking place is a sign of how far Spain has come — and that is a credit to both Santi and Ferran,” Mr. Barber said. “Any kind of discussion about what goes into our food is a good thing. Whether this was the best way to go about it, is another question.”
"Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected, by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table."-Charles Pierre Monselet, French author(1825-1888)
  Re: A NY Times read... by firechef (Kind of a neat culin...)
Apparently, the movement to use locally grown and organic is alive and well in Spain. I do agree with the final statement, though. There are ways to make your point without mud-slinging.
Keep your mind wide open.
  Re: Re: A NY Times read... by Gourmet_Mom (Apparently, the move...)

Apparently, the movement to use locally grown and organic is alive and well in Spain. I do agree with the final statement, though. There are ways to make your point without mud-slinging.

Just as long as that mud is made with organic dirt and local spring water.
If blueberry muffins have blueberries in them, what do vegan muffins have?
  Re: Re: A NY Times read... by labradors ([blockquote]Quote:[h...)


Apparently, the movement to use locally grown and organic is alive and well in Spain. I do agree with the final statement, though. There are ways to make your point without mud-slinging.

Just as long as that mud is made with organic dirt and local spring water.


A good read, LJ, thanks.

  Re: Re: A NY Times read... by pjcooks ([blockquote]Quote:[h...)
Hmmmm, I love trying off the wall ideas, but I'm not a real fan of mixing chemistry and foods - maybe I'm just too old. Sounds like Chef Santamaría is about as subtle as I can be.
Retired and having fun writing cookbooks, tasting wine and sharing recipes with all my friends.
  Re: Re: A NY Times read... by cjs (Hmmmm, I love trying...)
Nice read LJ.

I'd love to play with it - some of the ideas just rock the "artist" inside me. I got a cream whipper - thinking I might try to make some foams - but. . . ?

Hey I've got a month without the white tornado rearranging my kitchen! I can play! Hmmmmmm.
You only live once . . . but if you do it right once should be enough!

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