Time Magazine’s ‘Gods of Food’

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Time Magazine recently came out with a rather controversial ‘Gods of Food’ issue. I say controversial, because the food world is up in arms about why there is not even one female chef in this curated list. Where is Anne Sophie-Pic’s name, they say? Or Elena Arzak, the culinary genius who runs the Michelin starred restaurant with her father in San Sebastian, Spain? There have been many a discussion online about it, so I won’t rehash all of it here. However, I would like to take it a step back and raise the question – what should being considered “the best” entail?

While I agree that there is a place for food as art in the culinary world and admire the oeuvre of these chefs, why is it deemed as “the best”? Chefs who are on “the best” lists often create food which is so beautifully presented, that you almost don’t want to eat it. I can appreciate that one has to go through great pains to  produce a masterful canvas, like what Elena Arzak creates. Have a look at this post here which has some photos from a dining experience at her restaurant in San Sebastian. Yet, there are head chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants like Nadia Santini (of Dal Pescatore fame) who makes a tortelli di zucca, which may remind you of the simple, wholesome food your grandmother made for you.

That said, I do wish that we celebrated women who adeptly make saffron bread pudding for 500 people at weddings in Pakistan. Such artisans produce delicious dishes night after night, often so good that one wants to eat one’s fingers. And what about the lady who, in one day, makes 250 prawn and chive dumplings for her son’s graduation party?

Though we are celebrating these women more and more now, they are still not on the mainstream “best of” lists. Is that a good thing? I often wonder about this question and don’t claim to know the answer. I would love to know what everyone’s thoughts are on this. Who are the cooks and chefs whom you think are the best? And why?

Photo above is from my meal at Le Galopin in Paris this summer. Though I had a lovely meal, the foam and small portions were not something which will pull me back to this restaurant.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Agree. The celebrated chefs on lists like this are creating innovative food one wouldn’t think of – it evokes an emotional response akin to art. Whereas culinary delight i feel evokes feelings of comfort and satiation. Reminds me of my father after a particularly minuscule fancy meal “I just want to go home and eat your mother’s biryani.”

    • That’s a very interesting way of looking at it, and I agree with you with regards the innovation aspect. I wish, in an ideal world, that the best chef lists/awards also included the mothers and grandmothers, or else, call it the “most innovative” award 🙂 rather than “best”.

  2. Thank you Shayma for sharing this thoughtful piece. I can associate with Kiran’s thoughts on art vs quality sustenance. The question on Innovation is what is it? Many ‘innovations’ are merely takes on old dishes,those repeatedly prepared in only a less glamorous way by the mothers and grandmothers in the history of the world, a current good example of this, the cookbook Jerusalem, chefs sharing common homeland foods in a more exciting, photographic image- artful form, still, the food and ingredients are the same. Another angle also seems to be the world accessibility of varied food ingredients for testing so Chefs have many combination options perhaps not afforded by women who may have just always prepared the same dumpling throughout time. It is a topic for hours, days, even months of sharing.

  3. Felicity F says:

    This is such a good point, Shayma! Why don’t we honour home cooks more? I think it goes back to the history of restaurants. Even though women had been the main cooks at home for years, men were the first chefs at restaurants, because they thought women couldn’t hold any kind of professional job. How is this sexism still so prevalent in 2013???

    P.S.: I have been reading and loving your blog for a long time. Made chana dal last week and it was a hit!

  4. mehrunnisa says:

    s, i haven’t read this issue yet although of course i have heard about it. nonetheless i think your point about what are often deemed as home chefs is one of great merit. i sometimes have trouble with curated lists of chefs and restaurants because there is so much subjectivity involved in those listings. and then of course there is the discourse of power too. i recently read perry’s reith lecture on ‘who decides what makes good art’ and i think his reflections have relevance here. the addition of the gender element of course further complicates it. needless to say, there has to be recognition and celebration of everyday people like the women that you mention above and by extension men who do the same.

  5. What a thought provoking write up Shayma….makes one think! We really do need to acknowledge and honour home cooks , mothers , grand mothers , local wedding caterers …I think they cook some fantastic food!

  6. I agree. And I very strongly believe and have experienced that home cooks can cook way better food than gourmet food served in restaurants. Although I believe that the list is certainly biased, is it true to assume that most of the home cooks are women and not men? why is that so? If there was a list of best home cooks, do you think it would mostly be woman on the list?

    P.S. – I hate foam.

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