Martin & Kristin Laprise: The Art of Cuisine
Restaurant versus art gallery
When I go to an art show I see the same behaviour from the people at the show as I see in a fine dining restaurant. There are lots of oohs and ahs, and some big smiles or sometimes even tears. Food can move your spirit just like a Renoir painting or a da Vinci sculpture. (At my house, emotions can be stirred with an amazing chocolate dessert.)
The owner of an art gallery who showcases art for a living has to keep in mind what the clients are interested in buying and not necessarily showcase only what the owner believes is nice to look at. The chef of a restaurant has to keep in mind what people want, or the restaurant will not make it. I am sure that some artists don't care if a certain artwork does not sell; but as a chef, your art needs to sell or you are out of a job. So a chef creates art with a very specific target audience in mind; where many artists create without any thought of who is going to buy their work.
Painter versus cook, struggling financially
Most famous painters become famous after their death and many famous chefs have had their innovations become classics long after their death, too. For artists, there seems to be an unwritten law that you need to struggle financially for many years - and sometimes all your life - for success to truly find you. Most cooks struggle to make a decent living; sometimes for many years or other times learning quickly that "making it" is tough work. Here too, the similarities between culinary art and any other art can be striking. Think about musicians for a minute. Many young musicians produce one hit and that's it. Some actors will have one or two good movies and disappear. And of course, many cooks and chefs go up as fast as they come down in popularity.
All cooks will be influenced by their surroundings when it comes to creating, just like any other artist. I have seen many young cooks make amazing dishes either in taste or looks; but in general, a cook needs to learn from a good chef to put the whole picture together. In the right hands, a cook can become an incredible artist; and in the wrong hands, a cook will never get a chance to develop to their full potential.
Not many arts actually touch as many senses as the art of food
Most arts - whether you are talking about music, theatre, painting, sculpting or any other - will usually stimulate your eyes, ears and, in many cases, stir some emotions inside you. Great food in a restaurant can affect these senses and others as well. When you enter culinary school, one of the first things you are told is that people eat with their eyes first, so you must make sure that the plate looks good. Where actors, musicians and writers must rely on emotions evoked from what you see and hear, culinary artists can also persuade you with what you taste and smell. The power of this all-encompassing sensory experience can also evoke memories of other experiences, as eating is an intrinsic part of life itself.
In a professional kitchen, a great chef always tries to get your mind going not only with flavours, but also architecture and colours; and they hope that you will leave with a feeling of wanting more. Even amateur cooks however, can take a stab at being artists, for they too can evoke a response with a dish that has special significance or tradition.
Just like any other art form, culinary art can be expressed in various ways. Unique base traditions and styles develop in different cultures; and they evolve not only within those cultures, but also from the blending with other cultures. This fusion results in whole new styles that then evolve as well. As painters have been influenced by political events, so, too, are chefs influenced by lifestyle changes and events such as global warming. Science has also had effects on this art as it has on others; molecular gastronomy shows how the combination of chemistry and creativity can produce foods such as warm ice cream. This could be compared to the development of the airbrush or the electronic keyboard.
As long as there is no law stating how much salt or pepper you must put in your food, there will be an element of creativity in cooking. And the people who make a career of cooking are by nature imaginative people who express themselves with their creations. Who are we not to call them artists when we enjoy their art on the Food Network and in numerous magazines and at tables around the world?
Martin & Kristin Laprise love food in all its forms. What they cook is not always necessarily gourmet food, but it does involve taking the time to enjoy the food, the company and the environment, hence their self-proclaimed titles as gourmands. Martin has been a chef for twenty years in a variety of venues. Kristin has studied food history while writing her two cookbooks, and is a big fan of slow food.