In the world of cooking, “it is no longer the product that counts but the chef’s gaze”

Lecturer in sociology at the University of Toulouse-Jean-Jaurès, former cook and cooking teacher, Frédéric Zancanaro is interested in his research work in the creative process and trends in gastronomy. He is the author of Culinary creativity. The three stars of the Michelin guide (Francois-Rabelais University Press, 2019).

According to sociologist Jean-Pierre Poulain, cooking brings to life the most fundamental values ​​of a society at a given time. What do we see manifesting itself in today’s culinary creation?

We are struck by the revegetation of chefs’ cuisine as well as our food model. This is due to a growing interest in health, attention to body aesthetics, a refusal of food “murder” and considerations related to the protection of the environment. Currently, vegetables are mentioned on average in more than three quarters of the names of dishes on the menu of triple Michelin stars. They are sometimes even entitled to a section in their own right. Forty years ago, they were mobilized only up to a third in the offer and they played the second role, that of garnish, in the meal organized around the meat.

We can also relaunch the growing share, in gastronomy, of self-production or picking which is also beginning to spread among individuals. A final trend is the use of “abandoned resources”, such as cucumber or tomato skins which chef Pascal Barbot makes coulis, or the positioning of a dried and crispy fish bone in the foreground of a plate. perch of Laurent Petit.

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In this world of cooking, would luxury change in nature?

It is no longer the “noble”, rare and expensive product that counts, but the disruptive look of the chef who will sublimate the raw material. Creation is now at the center of gastronomy. For this, the chefs draw on culinary tradition by interpreting it, they incorporate products and techniques from elsewhere by mixing them; they offer new dishes by transgressing classic culinary grammar; they are interested in popular know-how by raising them to the rank of gastronomic dishes.

These culinary works are judged by everyone on social networks, even by those who will never have access to them. What does it change ?

The model of expert criticism, launched by Grimod de La Reynière in the 19e century and embodied by the Michelin guide in the XXe century, actually tends to crumble in favor of so-called “profane” criticism. It started with the English Good Food Guide, the American Zagat or the French Fooding. A shift accentuated by the Internet and social networks which has favored the inclusion of a greater number of restaurants and the multiplication of opinions from “foodistas”, customers and influencers. This new horizontality brings notoriety and brings customers to restaurants.

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