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copperwindow
10-23-2010, 12:28 AM
Are Chefs Artists, or does this belong in IMHO?

willthekittensurvive?
10-23-2010, 12:58 AM
there is a quote going something like this

there are only 6 art forms that matter: cooking, literature, music, painting, sculpting and architecture(the last one being a sub-discipline of cake-building)

will try to find the real quote later

Diogenes the Cynic
10-23-2010, 01:05 AM
I'd call it an art, yes. It's certainly an aesthetic endeavor. The intent is to be pleasing to the sense of taste and smell, just as visual art attempts to please the visual. Cooking touches in no small part on the visual as well.

Snowboarder Bo
10-23-2010, 01:08 AM
I'd say, like so many other awesome endeavours, it's both art and science.

Also: mmmmmmm curry. :D

Argent Towers
10-23-2010, 01:15 AM
Anthony Bourdain wrote (and I can't remember his exact words) that "cooking is not an art, it's a craft. An 'artist' is someone who doesn't believe it's necessary to show up to work on time."

I would agree. Being a chef is not just about creativity; it also requires being able to do things a consistent way every time, and demands the ability to work as part of a team in a highly stressful environment. A chef who isn't respected by the cooks under him won't have his job for long. The creative elements aside, the job has more in common with being a contractor or factory foreman than it does with an "artist" in the sense that the OP is using.

Fried Dough Ho
10-23-2010, 01:54 AM
I went to cooking school AND I went to art school. (And, for what it is worth, I have drank way too much tequila and made out with Tony Bourdain -- back before he was a writer).

And with all due respect to Argent Towers, I disagree wholeheartedly.

There are a ton of chefs out there who ARE technicians and who cannot create but can only repeat what they have been taught by rote. As an artist, there are things I have to do "consistent[ly].. every time" but that is true in any profession. It is being able to see what elements can be changed, for better or for worse, to alter the creation. There are far too many chefs who do not have that ability but those who do -- and do so successfully -- are artists.

One who paints in oils must learn very specific, consistent techniques in order to paint said oil paintings just as a chef must learn very specific techniques to create a specific dish; but each can alter and adjust chemicals and colors and layers to an end result which might be different every time. To me there is no difference; just in what is learned and how it is applied.

Argent Towers
10-23-2010, 02:11 AM
It is being able to see what elements can be changed, for better or for worse, to alter the creation. There are far too many chefs who do not have that ability but those who do -- and do so successfully -- are artists.

Okay - that may be the case. So then, you're saying that not all chefs are "artists," only some of them. So then what are the chefs who are not "artists"? I would assume this would mean the majority of chefs.

Similarly there are probably a lot of painters (not house painters, painters of paintings) out there who don't have any kind of individual style, they just copy the styles of other painters. Are these painters not artists?

Shalmanese
10-23-2010, 02:51 AM
Stradivarius was a craftsman, I don't think it's any aspersion at all to call cooks craftsmen.

Diogenes the Cynic
10-23-2010, 02:53 AM
The analogy would really be more apt if you were talking about copying entire paintings, not just styles.

But yes, most people who cook for a living aren't cooking their own dishes, but are just duplicating the established recipe for the kitchen. Even if you're making something as simple as salad dressing, you're making it the way the house (either the head chef or [shudder] the corporate book) says to make it. It's true that making your own recipes is the exception rather than the rule, and it's the goal of serious chefs to get to a point where they're able to do that. It's a privileged position

Having said that, though, the ones who make it to that level really are working on a more purely creative level that can fairly be called art. Some of them can be quite radically creative and experimental (the molecular gastronomy movement, for instance). Professionally speaking, Cooking sort of amounts to a few artists who each have a bunch of trained technicians working for them to duplicate their pieces (since cooking is the only art that has to be duplicated from scratch for each person who consumes it), but the creation of the dish itself is artistic.

Of course, that really only applies at a professional level. At an amateur level, individuals are artists all the time. The first stoner who dumped a box of Whoppers into a bucket of popcorn was an artist.

Thudlow Boink
10-23-2010, 05:53 AM
OP: By "chef" do you mean anyone who cooks professionally, or someone who creates his* own recipes?

(*and why are so many professional chefs/cooks male?)

samclem
10-23-2010, 06:27 AM
Are Chefs Artists, or does this belong in IMHO?
Wherever it belongs, it certainly wasn't a General Question. IMHO would have been OK, but since it's about things artistic, let's move it from GQ to Cafe Society.

samclem Moderator

don't ask
10-23-2010, 06:32 AM
I have been watching the series At the Table with... which features many of North Americas best chefs. What surprises me is how many of them didn't really set out to be chefs, they discovered it as a calling.

Snake Plissken
10-23-2010, 08:11 AM
I have been watching the series At the Table with... which features many of North Americas best chefs. What surprises me is how many of them didn't really set out to be chefs, they discovered it as a calling.


Thats how I arrived at it. I've cooked in restaurants since I was 14 to pay for college. 3 years into my education, it dawned on me that I loved it too much to stop. It meant moving to the east coast and 4 more years of school, but it couldnt have turned out better.


I live in the Twin Cities now, and it seems that they call anyone in charge of a kitchen "the Chef". Most of them would be cutting vegetables in a kitchen run by a real chef. I wouldnt be snotty enough to call myself an artist in a million years. Thats the food critics job.:dubious: While I love the creative process, I really get jazzed when we are busy as hell and the crew is kicking ass like a well oiled machine.

I like to make pretty plates as much as the next guy, but the artistry to me is in changing your menu in congress with the availability of things in season. It keeps it interesting for your guests, and keeps your food cost down.

Markxxx
10-23-2010, 12:03 PM
I think of art as an expression. Chefs really don't do that. Of course some do that, but to sell food you have t be consistant.

Suppose an artist churned out the same painting every single time? A chef must do this. I think there is an artistic element to cooking, but most things are like that. You can take an excel spreadsheet and use an artist element to make it more pleasing to the user.

That artisitc element doesn't, in of itself, make it an art

Slithy Tove
10-23-2010, 12:13 PM
So who are these chefs who create dishes that not only taste good but offer original, meaningful insights into the human condition?

running coach
10-23-2010, 12:20 PM
So who are these chefs who create dishes that not only taste good but offer original, meaningful insights into the human condition?

My wife's cooking represents "Mans Inhumanity To Man" :D






I am so glad she doesn't read the SDMB.

Fried Dough Ho
10-23-2010, 12:29 PM
So who are these chefs who create dishes that not only taste good but offer original, meaningful insights into the human condition?

Those whose dinners have changed MY human condition in an esoteric and enlightening sense (YMMV):

Jeremy Fox - (My personal favorite who, sadly, is not currently cooking anywhere but consulting. At the time, he was at Ubuntu in Napa, California)
David Kinch - Manresa; Los Gatos, California
Daniel Patterson - Coi; San Francisco, California
Josť Andres - The Bazaar; Los Angeles, California
Daniel Boulud - Boulud; Las Vegas, Nevada (now closed, but he is still cooking in New York)
Daniel Hollingsworth - French Laundry; Yountville, California
Hiro Urasawa - Urasawa; Los Angeles, California
Tom Kitchin - The Kitchin; Edinburgh, Scotland
Nicholaus Balla - Nombe; San Francisco, California
Jean-Georges Vongerichten - Jean-Georges; New York, New York
Sean Brock - McCrady's; Charleston, South Carolina
Stephen Williams - Harwood Arms; London, England
Thomas Keller - French Laundry; Yountville, California
Kaz Oyama - Totoraku; Los Angeles, California

silenus
10-23-2010, 02:37 PM
The more it is Art and the less it is Craft, the less interested I am in eating it.

Fried Dough Ho
10-23-2010, 02:49 PM
The more it is Art and the less it is Craft, the less interested I am in eating it.

Why?

running coach
10-23-2010, 03:14 PM
The more it is Art and the less it is Craft, the less interested I am in eating it.

Why?

The Craft of cooking is making the dish taste good, The Art is the visual presentation.

Some chefs wind up making incredible looking food that is a letdown on the taste.

Eonwe
10-23-2010, 03:31 PM
I think we have a strange desire to call various things "art" and various people "artists"; to elevate them into a realm of the mystical and significant. Anything that someone else does that involves creativity becomes an "art," and I suppose it is in one definition, but then we all use artistry in various aspects of our lives. It doesn't make us artists, though.

I'm a musician. Am I an artist? Well, maybe, I guess. But what I really am is a person who makes music and leads others in the same endeavor. Call it what you want. Making it "art" implies a strange level of awe/respect that I don't really believe in.

silenus
10-23-2010, 03:34 PM
That, and Artists often let their "vision" get in the way of a good dish. Squid, for example, has no place in chili. Period. End of quote. Attention chefs: If you have to make a statement with your food, please make sure the statement isn't "I'm a pretentious asshole." :D

Referencing runner pat's statement.

Fried Dough Ho
10-23-2010, 03:37 PM
The Craft of cooking is making the dish taste good, The Art is the visual presentation.

Some chefs wind up making incredible looking food that is a letdown on the taste.

I think you are being shortsighted (no pun intended) and very limiting by ascribing plating as the only artistic representation to the genre of food.

Art is more than just visual and by saying "The Art" of food is only what is consumed by the eye, than there is a number of senses which you are disallowing in the experience of any art.

Diogenes the Cynic
10-23-2010, 03:47 PM
I wasn't thinking of plating either. The visual aspects can certainly enhance (or detract from) the food, but the "artistic" element to me is in the artful arrangements and combinations of flavors and textures to please the palate and nose. It's art for the senses of taste and smell the way music is art for the ear, and painting is art for the eye.

Peremensoe
10-23-2010, 03:50 PM
I think of art as an expression. Chefs really don't do that. Of course some do that, but to sell food you have t be consistant.

Suppose an artist churned out the same painting every single time? A chef must do this.

The artistic creation for the chef resides more in the creation of a dish, rather than the repeated production of that dish once created. (In a larger restaurant operation, the chef's own hand may have little to do with the latter.) The chef's repetition is more like painters selling prints, rather than painters repeatedly painting the same painting. Or perhaps a better analogy still--potters making many copies (with slight variations) of a shape and glaze that has proven functional and comfortable and is selling.

Making it "art" implies a strange level of awe/respect that I don't really believe in.

Art doesn't necessarily merit awe or respect. There is an awful lot of bad art.

Kobal2
10-23-2010, 03:51 PM
I'd call it an art, yes. It's certainly an aesthetic endeavor. The intent is to be pleasing to the sense of taste and smell, just as visual art attempts to please the visual. Cooking touches in no small part on the visual as well.

I'm torn. On the one hand, this.

On the other hand, art conveys a message, a vision, and/or an insight. As skilled a chef as you might be, I doubt your paŽlla has as intricate layers of meaning as a Joyce novel, or even a Ke$ha song. If one considers anything art solely on its ability to approximate, reach or touch Beauty (whatever that may mean - I'm half drunk, leave me alone), then no problem. Cooking is art. I've tasted stuff that'd make God a likely hypothetical.

But on a more hmmmm... meaning- or emotion-centric level, then no, cooking can barely reach a 6 year old's crayon scribblings. As far as I know, the only messages you can get from a dish are "what the hell is that ?!" and "OMG this is delicious !".

Diogenes the Cynic
10-23-2010, 03:57 PM
I'm torn. On the one hand, this.

On the other hand, art conveys a message, a vision, and/or an insight. As skilled a chef as you might be, I doubt your paŽlla has as intricate layers of meaning as a Joyce novel, or even a Ke$ha song.
Art doesn't have to do those things. Art often (I would say most often) seeks to do nothing more than entertain. What's the message, vision or insight in the song, "Louis, Louis," or in Dogs playing Poker?

Cooking can be very complex, with layered flavors and nuances. It doesn't have an obvious "message," but then again, neither does free form jazz. Cooking is somewhat of an abstract art.

Slithy Tove
10-23-2010, 03:58 PM
of course, we could also argue the reverse of the OP, but it might be counter to authority (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gid5qVh1hQM) :)

Kobal2
10-23-2010, 05:54 PM
Art doesn't have to do those things. Art often (I would say most often) seeks to do nothing more than entertain. What's the message, vision or insight in the song, "Louis, Louis," or in Dogs playing Poker?

Well, yes, that's what I meant with the sentence : "If one considers anything art solely on its ability to approximate, reach or touch Beauty [...], then no problem.", indicating that I don't, or that it's a whole highly pedantic debate in and of itself. I probably wouldn't consider something that's just meant to be aesthetically pleasing to be art - it's just decoration.
IMO art's really defined by its ability to tell you something, make you feel, make you think. Change you or your outlook in some way. Aesthetics, skill or craftsmanship are not enough. They're a necessary element of art, but they're not the whole of it.

Then again, some lamb confits have temporarily changed my entire existence, so there's that :)

silenus
10-23-2010, 05:57 PM
Then again, some lamb confits have temporarily changed my entire existence, so there's that :)

I've had some wild mushrooms and various dodgy meats do that, but I don't consider it Art. :D

Peremensoe
10-23-2010, 06:03 PM
I probably wouldn't consider something that's just meant to be aesthetically pleasing to be art - it's just decoration.
IMO art's really defined by its ability to tell you something, make you feel, make you think. Change you or your outlook in some way. Aesthetics, skill or craftsmanship are not enough.

How can something be aesthetically pleasing without making you feel?

Kobal2
10-23-2010, 06:40 PM
How can something be aesthetically pleasing without making you feel?

Fair enough. Maybe a distinction could be made in the depth of emotion conveyed, the difference between "oh, that's nice" and moving you to tears or sending shivers down your spine ? I'm not sure, and It's really hard for me to formulate this distinction. It's kinda like porn, OK ? I know it when I see it :p

FallenAngel
10-25-2010, 06:10 PM
As a chef myself, I'm of two minds. There are artists and there are craftsmen. Artists are visionaries like Thomas Keller and Jose Andres who move food in directions no one else has thought of yet. Craftsmen are the ones like Bourdain, Michael Symon and, to a far lesser extent, myself, who master techniques laid down by the artists.

A good head chef should be a combination of them both, but no line chef should ever be other than a craftsman, at least on company time. You have to master the craft before you can create the art.

devilsknew
10-25-2010, 10:48 PM
I think cooking is like painting in that there is a finite pallette to utilize, only so many fruits, vegetables, and meats- there only so many consumables to utilize (Like to get a hold of some prehistoric fruit that has extincted on earth over the, millions/billions and cook with that.) You have to combine them in the right way to make a dazzling coherence that emerges in a picture/painting... Some of the best classic painters also were excellent textile workers making their own paint and tools, they were just as much craftsman in that aspect. It's also like sculpting and woodcarving as starting with a slab and working it outside of its limits by man conceit knowledge, detail, concept, and idea. It is probably more like Medicine as a craft and art, as the canvas is live and life-giving.

devilsknew
10-25-2010, 11:03 PM
I believe there is also no other art outside of the culinary that evokes so many base concrete feelings and emotions. Visual art can be stimulating but it is not as carnal as taking a bite. It can be high concept but ultimately you will experience the food directly and make it part of you. It's an interactive art and there are a high number of direct prejudicial divisions in food that can't be conceptualized... instead they are consumed in the most direct way possible.Touch, sight, smell, and taste... digestion.

Serenata67
10-30-2010, 10:17 PM
I think there is an art to the crafting of it.

Let me explain.

Like a form poem, there are certain rules of it. Rhythm, rhyme structure, etc. are rules that must be followed when writing something like a sestina, or like a Shakespearean sonnet. Diligence and hard work must be used when crafting such a work. A Shakespearean sonnet is a work of art. Any schmo with the internet can find the rules for that form and makes something that fits. An artist is someone who takes that form and makes it beautiful.

Like a poem, there are rules and structures to cooking. Proportions, ratios, etc. The rules to the craft of cooking guide it to the art it ends up becoming. A schmo can follow the recipe; a true chef makes the final product an art.

Mister Rik
10-31-2010, 04:24 PM
there is a quote going something like this

there are only 6 art forms that matter: cooking, literature, music, painting, sculpting and architecture(the last one being a sub-discipline of cake-building)
Interestingly, cooking is the only art in that list that almost everybody thinks they (or their mother) can do/know as much about as the professional cook. As a musician, I've never had a non-musician tell me how to play my instruments. As a professional cook (and a good one), I've never run out of non-cooks trying to tell me my business. "I'm sorry Sir, but this steak isn't undercooked just because your mother called 'medium-rare' what the professional culinary world calls 'medium'." Or eggs - I can't count the number of people who persist in ordering their eggs "over easy" and then sending them back because they're runny, even after the terminology is explained to them. By their descriptions, what they want is "over medium", but their mothers always called it "over easy", so that's what they'll order, no matter what we ignorant professionals tell them.

Cooking shares with architecture the fact that incorrectly practicing our arts can put people's lives or health at risk.

I think there is an art to the crafting of it.

Let me explain.

Like a form poem, there are certain rules of it. Rhythm, rhyme structure, etc. are rules that must be followed when writing something like a sestina, or like a Shakespearean sonnet. Diligence and hard work must be used when crafting such a work. A Shakespearean sonnet is a work of art. Any schmo with the internet can find the rules for that form and makes something that fits. An artist is someone who takes that form and makes it beautiful.

Like a poem, there are rules and structures to cooking. Proportions, ratios, etc. The rules to the craft of cooking guide it to the art it ends up becoming. A schmo can follow the recipe; a true chef makes the final product an art.
This. As a simple example, some years ago I worked in a small diner with two other cooks. We baked our biscuits out of Krusteaz buttermilk biscuit mix. We all used the same "recipe", same oven, same oven temperature, same cooking time, and yet my biscuits were consistently lighter, fluffier, and moister than those baked by the other two cooks.

Another example comes from the time I covered a kitchen manager's shifts while he was on vacation. This meant I had to make (from scratch) the clam chowder on Friday, something Ralph normally did and had been doing for years. I had never made clam chowder before (this was 20 years ago), so I pulled out the recipe and went at it. When it was done, the boss's wife dished up a bowl and took a taste. "Hmm," she said, "That's better than Ralph's".

Walmarticus
10-31-2010, 06:03 PM
It's very possible for an artist to communicate through food. 90% of chefs are working stiffs, and 10% of cuisine belongs in a museum.

devilsknew
10-31-2010, 07:35 PM
Food is a vocation, necessity, art, and sometimes, a calling. If Spiritual Practition spawned most classical Arts and Sciences of the Pedagog, then the culinary is certainly its predeccessor and to be included. No man was ever born needing to read, all men need to eat.

Lust4Life
11-02-2010, 10:27 AM
Can't be many art forms where the artists work ends up as shit every single time.

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