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Food as Art

I was inspired by a post on another social network about an extremely wanky "fine dining" establishment. What follows is my response, mostly verbatim with a few edits for clarity and style. Because writing is art. Food is not.

The fine dining / "food as art" crowd has been shitting me up the wall for literally about ten years, but this is the first time I've actually had the presence of mind to articulate it properly. This is going to sound a little weird coming from a career chef, but aside from the sheer decadent wastefulness of it, food is not art.

Food is a lot of things; it's tradition, it's culture, it's community, it's connection, it's comfort. But it's not art. At least, not in the same way a sculpture, or music, or a painting is. It's a question of purpose. The purpose of that kind of art is to be thought provoking, or aesthetically pleasing, or intellectually challenging. It's to make some kind of statement, or even just be fun for the artist to produce (even if that fun comes partially from fucking with people). That's kind of the entire point of it.

But those are all really ephemeral concepts, so you can pretty much go hog wild with whatever and call it art, and that's okay. This is not a critique of art. It's just that those are purely intellectual and/or emotional concepts, and that's not the purpose of food. The purpose of food is to be nourishing. It's a very real, very visceral, vital thing to every single person on the planet. It -can- do all those other things, and it probably should do at least one of them, but that's not why you do it.

If it is art, it's in the same way that industrial design is art. Form must necessarily follow function. Even the most balls-out weird car designs still function as cars. Except maybe the cybertruck. That's what fine dining is. It's the cybertruck of food. It's so fucking focussed on one particular wankstain's aesthetic vision that it fails at its primary purpose. If your car "looks like what bladerunner would drive" but falls apart and/or kills people, then you have failed as an engineer. Likewise I don't care what your food looks like. If people are leaving your table hungry, you have failed as a chef.

Substance over style, people. It's not that hard.

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