Gastroescritas #6 - Cuisine du Moi - The Heart of My Passion
Ridendo castigat mores, ensinou-me o meu professor de Introdução à Política (sim, meus jovens ou desmemoriados leitores, houve um tempo em que o Ministério da Educação Nacional considerava essencial - tão essencial que a disciplina tinha dois anos de duração - a educação política dos adolescentes portugueses....) nos idos do século passado (não sei se foi em Março mas foi definitivamente no século passado). A rir se castigam os costumes, como muito bem nos habituaram alguns relativamente desalinhados (depois da caricatura do Ricardo Araújo Fernandes, alguém continuou a levar a sério o Professor Marcelo na campanha do referendo sobre a IGV?). Presumo que a expressão "morrer de rir" tenha sido inspirada pelas consequências extremas dessa prática: a morrer ficam os costumes sujeitos a tão eficaz antídoto assim como a morrer ficaram muitos dos autores de tais iconoclastias...
Cuisine de Moi leva muito a sério essa tarefa de desconstrução do sagrado em que a sociedade contemporânea transformou o espaço da restauração. O que Anthony Bourdain fez realisticamente, é neste livro tratado com uma desopilada ironia através das memórias do ficcional Gavin Canardéaux (como contado a Ben Canaider), autonomeado "the world’s leading über icon chef".
Os mediáticos Chefs, os ingredientes, os menus, os restaurantes, os críticos e a comunicação social - mesmo os blogueiros gastronómicos - tudo é dissecado, retratado, virado do avesso. E se, no meio das profusas gargalhadas que a leitura do texto provoca, começar o leitor a questionar-se sobre o sistema de valores que suporta este mundo ou sobre a verosimilhança de muitas das situações e personagens, não tenha dúvidas de que o objectivo primeiro do autor foi atingido.
Deixo alguns extractos, no original, para não se perderem os trocadilhos.
"Laverbread is a simple enough recipe, and anyone anywhere around the world can make it, given they have their own bit of coastal or seaside property,which most chefs I know do.Welsh seaweed is best, of course, but if you can’t source that then just use the organic seaweed that’s sold in the fresh vegetable section of your local supermarket. Or you could try visiting a Middle Eastern food store, which is something I always find so exciting to do.
Right, first things first. (Ideally you’ll do all of this outside, next to your wood-fired oven.) Bring the seaweed home with a big happy smile on your face,wearingwellies (not on your face, but, like, on your feet ...) and with your kids.Or hire some kids from a casting agency if you don’t have any yet. Make the kids carry the seaweed, too, but really happily. Don’t film anything involving them crying. If they cry send them back to the fucking casting agency. Chop up the seaweed roughly using a knife. Keep the children well out of the way. Maybe even out of shot. Get the producer to throw to jump-edits of the kids playing with said seaweed in between the main shot of you chopping it up. Chop really rapidly and quickly. In close-up. Boil the seaweed for hours; simulate the hours going by with a medley of shots of you and your children being fabulous at the seaside. Use some backing music from a recently sold-out mainstream band to help with the general cooking quality. As I’ve said so many times now that it is no longer funny: if you cook foodwith a fucked backing track,well, youmight aswell fuck your career up the backside badly.
Once the seaweed is boiled make sure the rest of the recipe is all about you. Lose the kids. Altogether. Now drizzle olive oil everywhere and put the chopped-up seaweed stuff into an eighteenth-century ceramic dish purchased from Sotheby’s. Mix some oatmeal into the seaweed. Let it stand for an hour and then fry the mixture in plenty of beef lard for as long as it takes the cameraman to get the shot right.Then serve lovingly to yourself.As soon as you’ve taken the first bite roll your eyes a bit, go "YYYYYUUUUMMMM’, and then tell the audience how incredibly amazing the laverbread is, and wonder aloud why, given it is so easy tomake,more kids at school luncheons, given we are an island nation, don’t get fresh laverbread at luncheon.Wait for a full five seconds after the camera stops rolling, get the limo to come around, and then fuck off to have a proper lunch somewhere decent. Take your PA with you, as she might be up for one."
"Ingredients are the things that apprentices chop up. The ingredients are often bigger things that arrive from a supplier. Or a providore. Or, as people at home would say, the supermarket. You buy them and you chop them up and then you cook them. Finally you serve them. I know this sounds pretty technical, but that’swhat happens in real restaurants."
"Infusions. Place anything you find in your refrigerator into a pot and then pour boilingwater over it. Let it stand overnight, or for fifteen minutes, strain through a muslin cloth, and there you have it: an infusion.Use such infusions as a simple party-starter or as a first course or as a light summer luncheon dish.They are great with lots of crusty bread and some sauvignon blanc. Eat with chopsticks to bring a real air of theFarEast to your al fresco table."
"I use fish widely—almost wantonly—in all of my restaurants. It’s healthy food, it’s versatile food, to be sure; but more importantly, it is an ingredient which can be used to highlight a chef ’s genius. It’s also a wonderful ingredient because whenever it appears on a menu it always reads ‘market price’.Those two words, on a menu, they are music to my ears. Because, let’s face it, if you have to ask the price, you can’t fucking well afford it."
"Here are the (...) five cooking utensils you should have in your home kitchen (...) you should use when desperately trying to bring some edibility—not to mention flavour—to your food.
• A whisk: Whisks are the new knives. Any would-be superstar chef can slice a courgette like Superman
reading the telephone book, but only a real actor can use a whisk.
• A stylist: Someone has to do the fucking chopping up, don’t they?
• An internet-ready vitamiser: These machines are great because they give every home cook the chance to use the words ‘blitz’, ‘whizz’ or ‘jazz’.
• An outdoor wood-fired oven: One day every kitchen will have one of these fantastic appliances.
• A camera: Essential utensil, really. Best if you get a cameraman too."
"The menu must always obey the ‘Four S’ rule. Seasonal. Sustainable. Semi-fresh. Seriously overpriced.
Find a chef who understands these principles and you’ll have in him (or her) a man that knows how to cook, knows how to inspire and knows how to passionately make money."
"Menus begin in the fields and in the countryside and in the seas and oceans; the trees, the hedgerows, the rivers and the streams. In the well-tilled earth, the pristine estuaries; the honey-pots, the herb gardens, the lettuce beds, and in the beat of a farmer’s passionate heart. That’s right. Menus start wherever you can get some really good still photography."
"Menus begin with free things that the customer hasn’t ordered, doesn’t understand, and—but for the fact you’ve sprung it on them with the complete element of surprise - wouldn’t, in the normal course of events, even like. I’m talking about amusing bushes, or, as we say in the French, an amusebouche. These are leftovers served with great attention to detail in terms of assembly, smallness and no-cost-to-you."
"Entrées help a chef stand out for one very simple reason: when the entrée is ordered, and when it is served, and when it is enjoyed by the diner, there is a very, very strong chance the diner can still do the cognitive, chronological thinking thing. That is, they’ve not gassed up on to much Domor gin yet. They can still remember what they ordered, how the menu described it, and what their initial perceptions of the described dish might be. Obviously enough, entrées are therefore critical."
"Cuisine duMoi began its amazing life on aTuesday night in summer at 6.01 pm. Having found an old shop front in the lower-upper sub-53rd Street arrondissement that is lowerupper Little Italy, I knew I’d found a place that was both here, now, then and if. It was a shop with nothing, but with everything. It had no natural light, but it had a fire escape. It had no parking, but it was on a corner. It was without any working toilets, but it had a cheap 15 x 15 x 15 lease. It made no sense to a business analyst, but what do these people know of cooking and of food! It spoke to me, so I signed the lease.
We had some mock-up photos of the place computer-corrected in LA, and then I staged a pre-opening masterclass dinner for some of America’s top restaurant reviewers in Wolfgang Puck’s Las Vegas restaurant, complete with backdrops of the still unopened Cuisine duMoi frommy designer’s workshop. It was authentically CdM, as I say, albeit in Vegas. I cooked authentic Noo Yark cuisine in a bold and modern and international style reflecting the realisations of my superb 53rd Street temple, CdM. The result spoke for itself. Reviewers raved. They wrote of nothing but CdM in Noo Yark for months; indeed, they wrote of nothing butCdMright up until the time Imanaged to open the restaurant itself in the following winter! And it was as authentic as that first degustation dinner I served inVegas all those months before."
"Costings are critical in the success of any restaurant. This is evidenced by the fact that virtually anyone can run the Bank of England, yet very few people can run a restaurant. Running a restaurant profitably means you need to stick to some fundamental fiscal rules.
The first of these is the old 30/30/30 rule. Of all your ingoings and outcomings and costs and expenses and petty cash, 30 per cent must be food costs, 30 per cent must be staff wages and lease payments, and 30 per cent must be profit.This gives you a business running at 100 per cent, allowing for the 10 per cent you rake off the till every week. This last bit of the equation is very important. I haven’t met a successful chef yet who doesn’t have a bit of serious 'flash’money on him.Without it you just come across as some wide-boy, lager lout in a bad pinstripe suit. Cash is king.
The other critical fiscal rule is portion control. Part of the chef’s art is being able to take a perfectly good 200 gram piece of meat—like fish or lamb or tofu—and turn it into about eight main course dishes. Typically, this is how we do it at CdM. Cook each little morsel of meat in an ice-cream maker, balance said morsel on top of some wilted organic weeds that have been tossed through cornflour, and then garnish with about five or six grains of finely milled polenta. Serve to table in a small enamelled smoker before finally bathing the finished dishwith a specimen jar of sumac froth.Thismakes a great€38 luncheon dish.And it is not hard to do themaths.You’ve turned a€6 piece ofmeat into€304.And 10 per cent of that is a couple of nice drinks for me and a special new lady friend at a bar one night. Cash. And it’s cost me nothing."
"De-re-unconstructed T-bone Foam
A CLASSIC FOAM SOMETIMES, WHEN I HAVE HAD A PARTICULARLY GRUELLING WEEK OR I’VE BEEN OUT ALL DAY RIDING ROUGH ON ONE OF MY HORSES OR GIRLFRIENDS, MY APPETITE CAN BE ENORMOUS. THAT’S WHEN I LIKE TO EAT A SIMPLE T-BONE. WHEN ONE SPENDS AS MUCH TIME AS I DO IN KITCHENS CONSTANTLY PERFECTING IMPERFECTABLE DISHES NEVER BEFORE SEEN OR TASTED, IT IS NICE TO COOK SOMETHING SO SIMPLE YET SO SUSTAINING. SIMPLICITY IN THE KITCHEN—AS ANY OF WE GREAT CHEFS WILL TELL YOU—IS, AFTER ALL, KING.
Cook the T-bone perfectly over your Tuscan or Provençal charcoal grill. I tend to do this in Tuscany or Provence, but if you can’t get there import one of these grills and the effectwill be pretty similar, particularly if you use some rosemary to brush over the steak as it cooks. (Brushing meat with rosemary gives you great options back in the editing suite, too.) In any case, a 650 gT-bone that is 45min thickness will need 6 minutes on its left side. Salt the meat, turn onto its right side. Cook another 3 minutes. Remove from grill and rest in a warm place, such as Florida, for a further 3 minutes.
Debone the T-bone. Remove any fat and discard. Keep the bone, however. Process the meat in a vitamiser on high for 10 minutes. Mix this pureed meat with the agar and then force into a whipped-cream canister equipped with an N2O cartridge (available inmost supermarkets). Place the T-bone onto a plate and then extrude the foam around the T-bone.The extrusion should take the shape and form of a perfectly chargrilled steak. Garnish with parsley. It is the only way to appreciate this cut of beef. This is beef in its most natural state."
And this is the foundation of our unquestionable professionalism vis-à-vis their independent reviewing and photography of my restaurants. I demand they are tough and honest and impartial. I drive this particular point home every time we are drinking Bellinis in Venice together."