Monday, April 8, 2013

The Link Between Contemporary Chefs and Urinals

In 1917 when Marcel Duchamp entered "Fountain" in the Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in Paris, it was disqualified from the show.  The piece he submitted, a stock porcelain urinal, was seen as a disgrace to Parisian fine art and an insult to years of tradition and finely honed artistic technique.  Duchamp described his intent with the piece was to shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation.  While it seemed like an obvious joke, the act of defiance acted as a catalyst for a generation of upcoming contemporary artists, and is credited by some as the beginning of the modern art movement.

I can't help but think of this when I look at some of the contemporary dishes being prepared in restaurants around the world:  Relae where Chef Christian Puglisi splatters sauce across plates in seeming defiance to years of fine-dining aesthetics;  Noma where Chef RenĂ© Redzepi uses elements like moss and charcoal-both the antitheses of traditional refinement, or Alinea where Chef Grant Achatz has abandoned traditional formalities both in the kitchen and dining room, like the tablecloths he stripped away and deemed unnecessary.   

Much like the fountain, these acts of culinary dissidence have sparked a revolution in the restaurant industry, a complete rethinking of what it means to be a "fine-dining" destination.  These culinary waves can be seen in restaurants around the world.

While I believe most of our cuisine at Sierra Mar is deeply rooted in time honored culinary tradition – we are frequently inspired by new ideas and techniques.  Tonight we are working on Rabbit with Chorizo and Crispy Rice.

Do  you like the direction contemporary chefs and restaurants are going or do you prefer the classic refinement of traditional fine-dining?  Please share your thoughts below. 


  1. While I do enjoy a meal that is rooted in tradition, nontraditional and experimental foods are pretty cool. Not all of them are good but without trial and error we wouldn't have the classics. 12 courses of undiscovered territory is daunting but, 3 of 12 ain't so bad.

  2. Thanks Leo- I agree, there certainly needs to be a balance. In reality, all food and flavor profiles are highly subjective to the audience and the audience has a conditioned response based their individual and cultural backgrounds. If you look at ingredients like Natto, Lutefisk or even Spam- it is evident that our taste in food can quickly evolve based on our environment. While food trends are slightly different, they are still a form of adapting to our environment. Just like our choices in clothes and fashion, an understanding and appreciation of current dining has become a key social component. Whether you eliminate carbs, cut back on gluten, travel to Spain on a Molecular Gastronomy adventure or pursue micro-regional ingredients - your dining habits reflect personal beliefs and social relationships.