The art of cooking

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The messages of taste

The art of cooking
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"The chef is not an isolated person living and working just to feed their guests. A chef becomes an artist when they have things to say through their dishes, as a painter does through his paintings."

— Joan Miró, painter and sculptor

Gastronomy is a discipline in a constant state change as those involved search for new flavours and textures. Then there are also the creative impulses of the chef as they seek to make each meal a unique and special experience. Whether or not the chef’s creations are properly executed depends on their own skill and that of their staff in the kitchen. It is a process that can be compared to the music world, where the works of composers come to life through the talents of performers. To achieve artistic communion with the dinners and make every meal a celebration, every good chef must be a creator who knows how to convey their message in an artistic form. This is done by combining an extensive knowledge of science and technology to develop their inventions, while maintaining a close link with the traditions and customs of gastronomy.

At the service of art

The art of cooking
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Smell is the sense that has the most power to evoke memories. Chefs are aware of this and therefore devote much of their time to creating new ways to preserve and disseminate aromas. These techniques involve different cooking processes to ensure the aroma of food is retained. However, all those professionally involved in the cooking of food also pay great attention to how it is presented to the diner. Thus the entire kitchen staff pays close attention to a myriad of details to ensure the perfect dish is served. This even extends to thought being given to what lighting and music should be used in the dining area.

The famous Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, is an excellent example of how aromas can help take a dish to another level. The restaurant, which has three Michelin stars and often appears on lists of the world’s best restaurants, has created a number of dishes and desserts based on famous perfumes. It has also used a mechanism in which smoke is released from a pipe and onto a dish as it is being served to the diner. The cloud of smoke seems to float on the food evoking a visual and aromatic spectacle. This accumulation of sensations is the perfect combination of artistic sensibility and teamwork.

Science fiction kitchen

The art of cooking
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A chef should not put limits on their own creativity and in their quest for perfect blends and aromas they should take full advantage of technological innovation. They can use these new tools to bring to life dishes created in their imagination.

One innovation now used by chefs is the vacuum packing machine, which has a guaranteed place in the best restaurants. Originally used to preserve food, it has now been integrated into the cooking process. Like kitchen foil it allows the juices of a meat to be retained during the cooking process. The vacuum packing bags allow different meats to be boiled while minimising the loss of flavour and other properties into the water. They also allow chefs to achieve different textures in the food they are cooking.

Between tradition and innovation

The art of cooking
(Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Every good chef understands the cultural importance of food and they know the significance that people coming together to share a meal has for those involved. They also have the ability to draw on a large repertoire of inspiring ideas. For example, they are adept at using the old tricks that grandmothers used to brighten up a meal in tough economic times. The chef and the cook have a relationship of mutual influence, where the chef should be aware of the contributions that arise from those involved in non-professional cooking. Experimentation should not be at odds with the customs and traditions of diners.

At the prestigious restaurant Arzak, which has three Michelin stars and is located in the Spanish city of San Sebastian, chefs Juan Maria Arzak and Elena Arzak (father and daughter) blend creativity and innovation with the best traditions of Basque cooking, local ingredients and the area’s centuries old rituals of dining. For example, iconic fish recipes are enhanced by the combination of flavours and aromas that are first studied and developed in a "bank of ideas," which is a laboratory located next to the restaurant where more than 1,600 flavours from across the world has been ordered and catalogued. Thus, diners have the opportunity to enjoy the richness of a traditional “Basque fish” while at the same time discovering hidden flavours from exotic places.

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