Adam Sayler, the executive sous chef at the Renaissance St Louis Grand Hotel, emailed me last week with an interesting question. He and the culinary team had been debating which culinary innovations have had the most impact on food over the last 20 years, and wanted to know what the corporate team thought.
I listed our thoughts below.
There have been several divergent paths culinary innovation has taken over the last 20 years.
1. Tools designed more ergonomically like the microplanes, rivet free knives, pot handles to better fit hands, etc.
Food itself has taken two roads:
1. Ingredient based simple cooking that strives to enhance the essence of natural flavors and product integrity. Best example is what Thomas Keller does.
This was such an interesting question, that I thought it would be great to hear from you. Send me an email and I’ll post your thoughts in November on the most important culinary innovation of the last 20 years.
What’s on YOUR plate today?
The basic innoation which we have seen in the past twenty years is the harmony of technology and the the expertise of chefs. Technology brought in the the latest ovens, blenders, pots, pans, etc. But the most important thing is the availabilty of ingredients anytime and anywhere in the world. Anytime would be like getting ingredients all the year round and anywhere would be for example Ireland where they do not grow anythinfg but have everything. Apart from that syles of food have changed and the awareness amongst the people has grown. We know what we are being served because people are well travelled and more exposed. The word globalisation cannot be dismissed here since the chefs are using various ingredients from different cuisine to eleveate the experience of the diner. So one should nor be surprised to find a blend of geographical flavours and style on the plate.
However we should not forget the crockery and cutlery teams whose imagination has added the food industry a new dimension. The platters, the plates, the glasses all of them look so different that it has given new look the industry. A burger would remain a burger until we brought in a new set of crockery and people start saying wow that was the common burger we eat everyday. Thank you all for the developments and excitement you have kept alive in this business, Looking ahead for more ideas and innovaton.....
I would add something that doesn't readily come to mind until it is gone: FedEx - the rise of international and domestic shipping, in a matter of hours you have figs from Syria, olives from a small willa in Sicily, handmade miso from Japan and fresh berries from South America in the dead of winter. This ability to access a world of product, which you could only read about twenty five years ago in gourmet travel magazines, in my opinion is a true bedrock to the culinary creativity we have been experiencing in the past generation.
- John Usher
For the _home_ cook, you can't argue that the microwave oven has had the biggest impact. I also think the availability of a broader and higher quality cuts of meat and fish have changed the way we eat at home.
The last twenty years has developed countless culinary innovations, and the amount of great chefs, restaurants, and hotel food and beverage coupled with the nations overall infatuation with chefs and great food is proof of this. But for me the answer is simple and clear as consomme. The internet!
I can google Michel Richard, David Burke, Charlie Trotter, and even you Brad, and in less then a second see not only what your serving but how to prepare it. I can find out what wild mushrooms are abundant for my event in two weeks, or the halibut harvest in Alaska, before the boats even reach the docks.
The irony is that without the internet, you would not even be able to pose the question to all of us.
Happy Cooking Always,