Is American Cooking and Food Products “Waking Up”?

Being a chef is a tremendous responsibility.  You take care of your kitchen workers so they are happy and excited.  You take care of your service staff so they are enthusiastic about what they are serving.  And most important of all, you take care of your guests by providing safe food (and an experience) that they will come back for.  As Chefs, we make thousands of decisions a day.  Most are second nature.  Most are not given a second thought.  It comes from experience.  Seasoning, adjusting temperatures, reaching for the right piece of equipment, and so on…  Others require a bit of thought.  Is cheaper and quicker always better?

My personal belief is that American innovation (IN GENERAL) is to produce a product quicker and at a lower cost, thus improving efficiency.  In the food service world, you see this all the time.  Blue cheese and prosciutto are great examples.  European versions of blue cheese take months or years to produce as does prosciutto.  Stack that up to domestic versions that take weeks and you can see the difference.  Sure, the American versions cost a fraction of their European counterparts, but are they better?  Do they compare?  Those of us in the industry know the answer is a big no.  Cheaper and faster is not always the way to go.  Food quality should not be sacrificed for efficiencies.  Why, just today, I made samples of dinner rolls (blue cheese rolls to be exact).  One with Stella Blue Cheese (Domestic at around $2.50/lb) and the other with Rogue Creamery “Crater Lake” Blue at several times higher the price.  Granted Rogue Cremery is just down the street from us, but they produce some blues that age almost 4 years.  The results?  Comments abound at how much better the Rogue Cremery Blue rolls were and that the others “looked and tasted like a mistake”. 

There is a movement that many credit Alice Waters for starting in the ’70’s.  I think now, with Global Climate concerns and the economy in general, people in general are looking for things that are produced closer to home.   There’s an increase in freshness, quality and an aire of sustainability.  It’s an exciting time to be a chef for sure.  However we have a long way to go to catch up with our European culinary friends.  The invention of the T.V. dinner really set us back.  🙂

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