'I'm one of the biggest snobs you've ever met, but I hate snobs and elitism in general. I guess what I hate is being told that I can't like something. You can't do this? Oh, well, fuck you, I'm definitely going to do this' - David Chang, Ugly Delicious
Sometimes, you'll come across hearing humans that say shit which feels a little like ' wow, I was thinking the same thing, but I was too scared to say it because who wants to be THAT person?' David fckn Chang. He's that guy. He's that guy in this hospitality circus questioning things that I've WISHED I had the courage to ask leading people in this restaurant game without sounding like the young asshole that's asking questions she has no right to be asking.
Questions like this:
- What makes food, 'fine'?
- Why do Eastern foods come across 'cheap'?
- What makes food 'authentic' and who decides on the definition?
- How can we build creative businesses that are respectful to cultures and its historic backgrounds?
- Why are we not highlighting enough the techniques, flavours, skills from Eastern cuisines as much as we celebrate Italian/French cuisines.
Chef Asha Gomez also makes an appearance in the show who has struggled with trying to change the ideas and perspectives that western American society has on Indian food and it's predisposition to the need for it to be cheap, struggling to showcase an elaborate, vastly regional and historic cuisine to have the markings of a high value 'finer' food.
Here's an excerpt from an article from NYC Times about Chef Gomez's troubles:
"Her frustration over American interpretations of the beloved coconut-scented fish curries, dosas and carefully layered beef biryanis of her homeland echoes the lament of countless cooks who have immigrated from countries like China, Mexico or Vietnam only to find their food mangled to meet the limitations of a new country’s palate and relegated to its cheap-eats guides.
“I wish I could say to every immigrant cook in America, ‘Why do you think your food should be any less than any other cuisine that comes from anywhere else in the world?’” Ms. Gomez said.
It’s not hard to see why: For one thing, unless that food is served in an upscale setting, with polished service, it doesn’t command the prices or the critical respect afforded European or American cuisines.
And even when the restaurant is fancy, the problem persists. Ms. Gomez experienced it at her first restaurant, a fine-dining place in Atlanta she named Cardamom Hill, after the spice-growing region that she was touring last month. Customers would complain that she charged $32 for a complex fish curry with smoked tamarind, even when a fish entree at a well-regarded new Southern restaurant not far away cost the same.
“That makes me see red immediately,” said David Chang, the prolific chef and restaurateur, whose parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea. “It’s the worst kind of racism, because it’s so readily accepted.” "
This has me raging with all the questions inside! Why shouldn't her curries cost just as much as a pasta dish at a casual-fine restaurant? Indian food has years of tradition, history and stories - so why shouldn't it sit alongside the halo of Italian/French cuisines? Why does this make me feel frustrated!
Maybe its in knowing from travelling and eating at local venues where you just know. You know they're not going to get the recognition in this industry as much as they deserve to. You know that it's not going to be see as 'fine, although theres definitely reasons why it should be. It's the biggest cocktail of soul crushing and disheartening feelings.
Is this the ongoing silent issue that's happening in the industry right now that validates my non existent interest in climbing the chef hierarchy, nor care about hats or stars? Is it okay if I decide to open a place one day that JUST wants to serve great tasting food? That's it. No foams, no tweezers, no ranking, no fckn stars. Just food and the acknowledgement of where food comes from, with the biggest hopes that appreciation is shown for Eastern flavours (without it needing to be a 'cheap eat'!). ... And I guess if amma wanted to just one day, say she actually enjoys my food without criticising everything about it; this would be the utmost form of winning I could ever hold.
To end my ever so random, but needed rant/ appreciation to David Chang questionings what's good, I made a tart!
When I was a kid, I remember loving strawberries and yoghurt. Tart and tangy and sweet and all it would probably need is something... hmm, something nutty and slightly crispy. Which is how this tart came to mind!
A nutty tart shell, a yoghurt cream filling, market berries ($10 for a HUGE punnet, #iseeyouHobart), a syrup infused with basil, thyme and cardamon, finished with pistachios (because where would we all be without pistachios?) Oh yes, tarts and thoughts. a. lot. of. thoughts.
Severn, K. (2017, 6 June) 'A Chef's Quest in India: Win Respect for Its Cooking', The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/dining/chef-asha-gomez-india.html