As Marco Pierre White once said : “I’m not into twelve courses and lukewarm food. I like my food hot, and it’s impossible to serve something hot that is that small”.
So has the fine dining world gone mad? I think it has. Cuisine Nouvelle means ‘new cuisine’ – it does not necessarily mean small portions. It does not mean three layers of Venezualan cucumber foam, served on a flambeéd grape, that leaves you famished. The Frenchman who actually invented this style was Fernand Point. He was a culinary genius, and owned the triple Michelin starred La Pyramide. He basically took classical food and simplified it, lightening it up a bit to make it what we now call Cuisine Nouvelle. It was not little dribbles of this, little bits of that, slivers of this and overly fancy miniature portions. We English folk have totally misinterpreted it, and most people have the misconception that to get a Michelin star the food has got to be posh. Sadly, what we have lost is individuality.
Does decanting soup into test tubes and serving it on a bed of ice make you a fine dining chef? No, it makes you a twat.
Take Moto restaurant in Chicago USA for example. This place is responsible for the ‘Zen Garden’ dish, and claims that many high-concept dishes are not about the taste so much as they are about the experience. In other words, people order them because they’re expensive, and incorporate some sort of idiotic gimmick.
In a refreshingly honest move, Moto actually seems to admit this with their signature dish, which is custom designed for playing with your food like a child rather than, erm….actually eating it. It is essentially a cheese plate consisting of Camembert, spices, chocolate, and blended fruit. It has been painstakingly shaped into the form of a Japanese zen rock garden, complete with a little meditation rake you can use for arranging the elements in the garden for some contemplative peace and quiet. As with real zen gardens, this provides much relief to spoilt people who have no actual problems.
Of course, the nature of the dish is somewhat undermined by the fact that the Zen Garden is just one plate in a tasting menu of over a dozen courses. You will probably have to choose whether you want to actually eat it, or just absent-mindedly doodle cocks in it until the next course arrives. Or maybe they just wheel it out when it seems like a customer is too anxious about what they’re spending on this pap. ”Sshh, it’s all right, calm down. The zen garden is coming. Everything is going to be fine. Rake your cheese.”