Friday, April 13, 2007

Post Modern Cuisine


Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche the Executive Chef and Pastry Chef of Moto are fascinating to listen to. They are brilliant innovators, great creative thinkers, inspired inventors and yet something disturbed me deeply about their presentation, " A Savory and Sweet Look into Post Modern Cuisine" at the IACP conference yesterday.

They talked about their kitchen as if it were a science lab. They video record everything because they want to document their efforts, but they don't believe in paper (except for when they are printing with edible inks on edible paper). Cooking, it seems, should not be limited to a stove but be something that is accomplished with "anything you can plug into a wall", including printers, lasers, freezing "anti-griddles", you-name-it.

Their goals are noble. They say they want to conserve energy, but really they want to save the planet. They believe in sustainability and in using only the best, most local, organic. and highest quality ingredients. They patent new technologies that they believe can be mass produced but donate profits to charity when they do deals with big companies. Not all of their inventions are necessarily food-orented. For example they even created a point of sale system that allows them to track costs in real time to ensure profitability.

They recruit all kinds of people to work in their kitchen/lab--engineers, soldiers, designers, mechanics, it could be anyone. They rotate everyone through the kitchen and dining room so everyone learns everything. They don't tell anyone when they are moving them from one place to another to keep everyone on their toes. They have meetings where anything at all can be discussed, because you never know where the next great idea will come from. It all sounds great.

But for all the talk of innovation, very little was said about taste. Even less was said about pleasure, unless it was the pleasure and fun of being in this wild environment of their own design. It saddened me to think that this is where food is heading, somewhere so efficient and focused and profitable, and yet without passion, heart or love.

The food at Moto is something you have probably heard about already--doughnut soup, hot ice cream, bubbles of sorbet filled with gasses, charcoal made from white bread and the like. I think of myself as open minded especially when it comes to food, but the offerings on a recent menu such as nitro sushi roll, goat cheese snow and balsamic, langostines with rice pilaf fries, chicken-fried mac-n-cheese, fruit and pasta, and chili cheese nachos for dessert really don't sound all that good to me. I have not eaten at Moto, but reading the reviews on their website I see words like fun, innovative, futuristic, playful, oddball and fantastic. What I want is just plain deliciousness. I hope in the "post-modern world" that's not too much to ask for.