Starchefs ICC 2010: Art vs Craft – Jordan Kahn & Albert Adriá

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For most of the rest of the Congress, the presentations did little to advance the concept of food as art rather than craft, although there was plenty of "artistic" food. There were two outstanding exceptions, however, and both happen to be known principally as pastry chefs – Jordan Kahn and Albert Adriá. Adriá presented a video based on his work and the book of the same name "Natura." The beauty and creativity behind his work is astounding. Even better is that his "art" happens to be delicious. Unfortunately, Adriá's visual presentation was in the form of a video. This was unfortunate only because, I do not have anything to show you from his presentation other than some pictures of Albert himself.

Adria's presentation closed the Congress. His video Natura showcased his incredible creative skills not only as a pastry chef, but also as a film-maker. He made the Natura film himself and was also the director on the incredible film A Day at elBulli. The latter film was shown only as a trailer, though I got to see the whole amazing thing a few weeks later during Ferran's visit to Bar Basque. It is absolutely worth the time viewing it, if the opportunity presents itself.

 

Jordan Kahn also showed a video of his making, demonstrating creative skills beyond his talents as a pastry chef as well as highlighting his pastry brilliance. His video played a soundtrack of music by Chopin interspersed with surrealist clips of Dali, Rothko and Kahn himself plating desserts. While this played on a large screen, Kahn plated the same desserts pictured in the video, live in front of the audience, all without uttering a word. The scene was absolutely mesmerizing and his on stage creations simply beautiful. After the fact, Kahn had to stop people from trying to taste his plates. Though based on real, delicious desserts (I had his desserts at Varietal in NYC), these were not made for actual eating. Given the need to transport some of his work from California, the elements of his on-stage creations were designed to mimic the look of his actual platings, but to also allow for stability and transportability. Regardless, the effect of his presentation certainly showed that food preparation can be art and no less an art than any other aesthetic discipline. As for any good artist, craftsmanship is a necessary ingredient. An artist must be able to convey a message,a statement or a feeling. Craft, whether it be drawing ability, the ability to handle an instrument, the knack of applying paint to canvas or a chisel to stone or creating a dish of food to achieve a specific effect, is something a good artist must have. Both Adriá and Kahn, as well as other presenters at the Starchefs ICC, have craft, which they are able to apply to create something on a plate that strikes a chord in the diner, both visually and through taste. Occasionally other sensory components come into play as well. The bottom line is that food as art must employ craft, but not all well-crafted food is art.


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