The Changing of the Guard: Tradition - Evolution - Innovation

by Zalbar

Apprentice. Journeyman. Master. Not only are they a measure of a craftsman’s skill, they are also an institutionalized methods of learning.  The apprentice learns first through observation, then by mimicking and practice, and finally having mastered one thing, moves on to the next. This method of teaching our craft has existed for hundreds of years and continues to this day. Even the greats of my generation learnt how to cook this way. These traditions are a way of life. A means of passing on the accumulated knowledge of the ages to the next generation so that they can take up their banner and replace them. Much as a proud father and mother pass the torch to their sons and daughters. The problem with this type of learning is that due to the very rigid and structured nature, questioning and innovation are not encouraged. Why do we do something in a particular way? Because it has always been done this way, and always will be. Through repetition and rote. Do not question, do not deviate. One omelette, two omelettes, three hundred omelettes.

Traditionalists abound, and even the younger ones will defend the old guard to their dying breath. This is very european. Their veneration for tradition is ingrained into their very bones. It’s one of the things that I think is a marked difference between european and american cooks. American cooks are more willing to experiment, to try new things. They have not been indoctrinated into the same culinary traditions. When european cooks come across the pond to america, they form their own culinary and cultural enclaves. Their bastions of tradition standing against the tides of change. Many american chefs send their cooks off to europe. They are told, go travel, go eat, go cook. I have not once met a cook that has come back that has not been changed by their journey. They spend time over there, and their experiences transform their food. However their cooking is influenced and inspired by, instead of taken over.

I’m not going to claim that one way is better than the other, I don’t believe that. I’m not going to say we should stereotype american and european cooks either. El Bulli in spain was probably the pinnacle of culinary innovation and I suspect they will continue to be so once they reopen in 2014. Personally, I’m more of a traditionalist and don’t really enjoy a lot of the culinary experiments that are taking place, but I respect them. Everything has it’s place, and the next whacked out sous-vide-liquid nitrogen-xanthan gum-spherical-tomato water-ice cream-wafer sprinkle flake may become as common as chopped basil in the future. Who knows.

What brought this all up was when I observed some rather heated discussions going on about poaching steak  (for the hell of it apparently), using sous-vide, and new versus traditional methods. One chef even tossing out “So one steak is cooked three times and chilled twice in zip lock bags before you put it on my plate? What has happened to real cooking?”  It was quite the discussion. Both sides had their points, but some of the closed mindedness was unsettling in the least. Funnily enough it wasn’t the old guard that were being so closed minded, they just stated their opinion and left it at that. It was their younger proteges that seemed to be the most vehemently vocal, railing against the fuzzy wrong headedness of their colleagues deigning to experiment with callous aloofness to tradition. I’ve seen this same attitude with bakers and no-knead bread. It is not bread they claim. There is no depth of flavor. No kneading? No art. Ridiculous. Never. You. Are. Wrong.

Following this, I could not stop thinking about how we grow and learn in this craft, this passion of ours. How we pass on our knowledge. Which I believe is a responsability and a duty for anyone with an interest in cooking. How things change over time. How very wrong it is to dismiss anything as it is stifling progress. It is limiting innovation. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. While some may decry the innovators of the time, eventually some of those practices become a part of our culinary heritage.



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Joined: 02/23/2015
Stella Stars: 10

The topic you presented is very interesting. The content is contain with detailed information. It is such a sense of knowledge if people don't come by here when the subject really caught attention. Keep up the good writing of your article. It's a great idea to continue it for future use.

For the meantime, buy custom soundcloud comments and try our services!
Shiro21's picture
Joined: 04/22/2015
Stella Stars: 10
Good Day! You have written a great article about a great topic. After I 
read your article I got more interested in what your site is all about, I am happy to have visited your site and I can't wait for another update :)
gain soundcloud plays
Hey, Good Day! You have written a great article. I am happy to drop by and gain more information's about this article.
> selfie sticks <
Joined: 04/23/2015
Stella Stars: 10
Thank you for the good post you have shared on us.Keep on posting.
buy soundcloud downloads
Joined: 04/21/2015
Stella Stars: 10
This article is an appealing wealth of informative data that is 
interesting and well-written. I commend your hard work on this 
and thank you for this information. You’ve got what it takes 
to get attention.
purchase soundcloud comments
Joined: 05/18/2015
Stella Stars: 10
People, by nature, are afraid of change. You have to slowly introduce change so that people could slowly adopt it.

buy retweets
Joined: 05/19/2015
Stella Stars: 20
I have found this fashion that the so called dishes we get these days are actually not the same as the ones it actually was. From the time being, when it was passed down the line, there had been so many improvisations done in preparation of these dishes. Mezlan shoe review
Joined: 05/20/2015
Stella Stars: 10
I am very fortunate to read your article, it is very informative and indeed I really agree on what you have discussed here. I gained so much information in this site and also it gives us new insight about the topic that is being discussed.Great Job!
--buy soundcloud plays
Joined: 05/21/2015
Stella Stars: 10
I'm impressed with this article
I inform a lot about this things
It's interesting to read and informative
fastest social media provider
Joined: 05/24/2015
Stella Stars: 10
This article is worth reading. Thanks for sharing your ideas here. I really enjoy reading this.

See this:get twitter followers
Please register or login to post a comment.