Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What I have learned from other chefs... stick to your guns.

The latest thing that I have been into has been the fight of Rick Moonen. Rick is a chef who stands for basic Green principles like finding fish that are sustainable and not endangered and so forth.  He runs a seafood restaurant in Vegas that I one day wish to experience.  Rick has been in the spotlight lately because as a finalist on the show Top Chef Masters, he was chosen by the producers and judges to be the winner. The reason why this is a issue is that it appears that it all came down to one man's vote and that one man did not like the answer to a question that Rick answered.  Jay Rayner, an accomplished critic, had asked Rick if his choice in using venison in his last dish was going against his ideology of being the environmentalist guy.  Jay suggested that using a piece of meat flown in from New Zealand was not being an environmentalist as the pollution and methods used to create that piece of meat were not Green, like Rick talks so much of.  

Rick answered that he is a chef first and in a cooking contest, he should do whatever is necessary to win.

That was the basic answer and the correct answer that someone in a cooking contest should answer.  Essentially: what does the method of getting the product manner when what is judged is how it tastes and how it is prepared?

Rick Moonen was tied for second as Marcus won the title.  Everyone thought that Rick was going to win.  I thought that Marcus won because the judges may have weighed the finalists' charities and suggested that UNICEF which does everything may have been a better choice than just a meal giving charity.  But if that was the case, then come out and say it.  Don't say that Rick didn't win because he didn't answer the question correctly, didn't wear the correct color of socks that evening or even looked into the camera one too many times.  This show was supposed to be a cooking competition and here we learn, young amateur critics such as myself, that we are allowed to review people on their personal choices rather than the way the food comes out and tastes.

After the show, Jay blogged about how Rick was basically crying like a little girl and he as a critic is always right.  Jay is wrong.  Critics should only comment about things they know. Jay, likely cannot even cook the foods in question, so why should he comment about them?  Tom Collichio as a judge, that has merits and he knows what he is talking about.  I am sure that if a chef had told Rick that he lost because he didn't like the way his venison tasted, it would have gone over much better.  Do I qualify?  I think I do.  I have worked in a restaurant long enough to know how food should taste and look.  I have taken classes on holistic nutrition, cooking and even herbalism.  I know the basics of being a chef and with those basics I try to cook new things everyday. Sometimes when I go to restaurants, I order things that are not complicated and so easy that I could make them, so I look at them from a chef's perspective.

Jay, was looking at Rick from a critic's perspective, which like Anton Ego in the movie Ratatouille, doesn't really know anything about cooking the food, only eating it and how it tastes to him.

Under pressure and comments and having the title stolen away from him, Rick sticks to his guns, coming up with an answer and facts to back up his answer to Jay.  Jay has yet to have a response back to Rick.  It is one thing to be stubborn and stand up for your decision, even if it is wrong and proven wrong.  But to not admit that you are wrong when facts are staring you right in the face is not integrity, but stupidity.

Think of it this way: Imagine making your grandmother's recipe for apple pie.  When you get to the judges, they tell you that you did it incorrect.  How would that make you feel?  They don't know your recipe and the way you have done it is exactly the way your family has done so for generations!  What do they know?

That is Rick.  Please show him some support.

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