9.12.2009

Perfect?

Question of the week: Is there such a thing as a "perfect" dish? Have you eaten one? Have you cooked one? What was it?
libertyhuangIcon_lock@linecook My Uncle Jerry's braised pork belly is my fav dish ever.
Gingerthegirl@linecook I could wax all poetic on a lot of dishes I've had, but I what know is this: the hungrier I am, the more "perfect" a dish tastes.
shepdave@linecook no such thing as a "perfect" dish. 4 me every dish is an evolution 2wards the best possible dish. that said:sushi@tsukiji =perfect
JessPav@linecook There's no such thing as a perfect dish. Just like there's no such thing as a perfect poem. It can always be improved on.
RFaucette@linecook yes I think you can make a "perfect" dish. It may only be perfect to you though. I don't think it can be perfect for everyone.
rupski23@linecook I think perfect meals can be acheived more often than we think. Often, it's a question of being perfect for that moment
sfmongoose@linecook yaaaaa........... my calamari dishes hahaha
Pav1ov@linecook I got brain lock thinking of an answer! Ass kickin question. Simply put, the answers are all no. But it's something we are all ...hollowspring@linecook The best is wild strawberries just picked from the plant.
MatthewSievert@linecook I feel good when I execute good food for others. Obtaining perfection or eating perfection can be a curse and a goal.
CNrecords@linecook the perfect dish after surfing is either; a) smoked fish sandwich w/ tomato and cold drink or b) burger and a cold drink.
HeatherHAL@linecook I think perfection lies in the simple things, like a roasted chicken. I'm getting there!
dianasaurusrex@linecook I think a great BLT w/avocado can be the perfect food. I had a sous vide lobster once @ The French Laundry that was perfection!
tablehopper perfect dishes: the watermelon pickle/pork belly number at fatty crab, and the cha ca la vong version at betelnut haunts me.

I've only experienced it a handful of times in my life--about the same amount of times that i've been in love, gotten into fistfights, or felt rock bottom misery. The times when it's shown itself were quiet, almost terrifying. In the heat of service, going a million miles an hour, you stand up from being crouched over your plating. Looking down, you're not sure whats going on right away. You turn the plate to the right, then to the left. Then it dawns on you: the plating composition is perfect. Every element is resting perfectly. This becomes your model for the rest of the night. At the end of service you cook the dish for yourself, and call over all of the other cooks. There are mutters of "fuckin nice plates dude" and "you frills motherfucker, look at this thing." As you all dig in, everyone goes silent. Your grill guy breaks the silence.
"That's a bad ass dish. Everything works. It's just...."
"Perfect."
It's the kind of dish that you never get bored of cooking, or eating. After a few weeks of running it, you decide to take it off the menu--if only to give your guests something else...and then they start demanding that you bring it back. In an attempt to re-capture the magic of that plate, you push and stress and obsess. Mostly all you end up creating are poor amalgams of the original...until, if you're lucky (or insanely talented) you find your way back to something truly beautiful.

It's something that ive wondered about for a while. How does one attain perfection? For the longest time I was convinced that I wanted a 4 star restaurant. A place to make an attempt at being perfect every night. But lately i've felt like perfection has more to do with the people cooking and eating, and less to do with the people talking about it. Cant perfection be found in a taco, or a bowl of pasta? Isn't a fresh sand dab, or a warm pizza fresh out of the oven perfect in its own right? Have you had Tom McNaughton's cappelletti with crescenza, corn, and truffles? It's perfect. Have you had Daniel Patterson's "Earth and Sea" dish? Perfect. Have you had Oysters and Pearls at Luandry? Yes...its perfect. Shit, even Ryan Farr's zilladog flirts with perfection. Im inclined to think that perfection has less to do with composure and ingredient, and more to do with focus, commitment, and love.

Ruhlman wrote extensively about perfection in The Soul of a Chef. There's that quote from Thomas Keller about attaining it...how when you reach it, it becomes something else. Most chefs will tell you that it doesn't exist. Im inclined to disagree. You see, what really matters is that a dish is perfect to you. Even if you're the salad guy at The Olive Garden. If you can find beauty...harmony...and peace on the plate, then what others say doesnt mean shit. For years ive told my cooks that I didnt care if they were perfect--I only wanted them to try to be perfect. Now I can see just how much I meant that. At the end of the day, what's really important in your kitchen? Are you cooking for critics? Are you worried about yelpers? Or are you doing it from within? Are you doing it out of love? Are you doing it because you cant see doing anything else?


notes:
  • buzz aldrin and buzz lightyear. not the same.
  • maritess loves it when I wear v-neck t-shirts
  • broccoli di cicco and a soft boiled egg = the perfect mid shift snack
  • go buy the morning benders ep. right now.
  • podcasts are back next week!
  • only eating vegetables for dinner doesn't seem so crazy anymore
  • i get the feeling im going to have a lot of news for you guys in the following months
  • more thunder and lightning please. just not striking nick and janessa's house.
  • the twitter bbq was great...met new folks, saw old friends, drank a wide variety of booze, and passed around an enormous bottle of sparkling wine. thanks to everyone that came out--it was a fun day. Again next year? Re-caps are here (boobs4food) and here (lickmyspoon)

quotes and conversations.

"You wanna see my bare minimum? I'll show you my sugar lumps too."
-Corey. Wants to share.

Dega: New rule. If you call me Dega, you have to say "Degaba."
Me: Why, do you have swampy pants?
(that's a star wars jokes for the uninitiated)

Me: Did you know that if you plant a lobster in the ground you can grow lobster mushrooms?
Eddie: That's gross.
Merrell: That's not true. Is it?

"You should be pounding Gatorade right now. Or something."
-Dega.

"Coyotes saved his life."
-Camaal. Has a hilarious story about Gerardo being raised by coyotes.

Me: Gerardo, come massage Ponder's ass.
Gerardo: Deep tissue?

Me: How about a nice garden salad, or some whole grains?
Corey: I had a green salad for dinner last night. (pause) I lied. I had pizza and melted brie on crostini.

Me: Dega, I see you returned to the look.
Dega: What? What did you say?
Me: I said you're a stupid hipster and I hate your guts.
Dega: I hate you even more!

"Hey dude. I pooped on my pen."
-Corey. He really did poop on his pen.

Me: We should grate it on a sharkskin.
Al: I have one of those at home. I have a whole shark!

"If you wear an Ed Hardy shirt, that's a deal breaker."
-Mongoose. And he's right.




from top: figs, roasting, apples, fruit, snoopy, oakland, 4505 dogs, stay up late, dega, eddie, serg, kate, luis, anne, matt, ryan, joey, brandon, corey, the scene, cupcakes, porchetta, lengua, @coreynead

4 comments:

Barzelay said...

Perfection definitely depends on the moment. I've made a perfect roast chicken before. But I've also eaten a perfect roast chicken someone else made, and mine wasn't the same as theirs. So, perfection has to be a fluid thing. Food tastes better when you're eating it with better company, or when the wind is blowing, or later on when you remember it.

NoDa said...

As a working cook I have thought about perfection a lot. This is what I have come up with...

Perfection is the drive to do your absolute best always. Its a state of constant transformation. You can never really attain it, but the fact that you can come damn close is what pushes you to get even closer the next time.

That is part of what makes chefs and cooks crazy. Like a monk making a mandala, you spend hours honing something that only exists momentarily; perfection is fleeting but the pursuit is endless.

ontheline89 said...

i just spent the day with my chef ( brian polcyn) and ruhlman at school breaking down two whole hogs, theyre writing a follow up book to " charcuterie" we were in the butchery room and within 5 minutes the room was packed with students, and not because of ruhlman, but because of how skillfully chef talked about and butchered the pigs. i think there are moments when food compels people, and brings them together despite any differences they have. thats the perfect dish, the perfect meal, the perfect product.

Matt said...

the most perfect bit of food i ever had was a slice of gravlax with an herb crust i had while on a stage..i am still trying to create something...anything with as much flavor as that single slice..