I am a formally trained chef. I attended the prestigious Culinary institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, the only college in the world dedicated solely to the culinary arts. I was on the Dean's list for every semester. I was, at the time, the only student ever recruited by the school to be a tutor in the first week of school. I graduated with high honors and with a perfect attendance record. I was your quintessential perfect student.
I am told that I am a great cook. People seem to swoon over my food. I love to cook. It is a form of meditation for me. But am I a foodie? No, I am not. I am not one of those chefs constantly trying out and creating new things. Always seeking the bigger, better recipe that would get them their own show on a cooking network, and their own line of cook ware. When I get home, I rarely cook, and if I do, it's usually something pretty simple. People ask me what is my favorite thing to make. I tell them reservations. I love to eat out.
The dictionary defines a foodie as a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby and is a self taught expert in the field. I prefer the urban dictionary's definition of it as douchebag who likes food.
Douchebag – “I'm a big foodie.”
Non-doucher – “Really? I like food too, but I'm not a tool.”
I don't like looking at any cooking shows at all. The only cooking show (if you can call it that) that I look at is Anthony Bourdain's show, Parts Unknown on CNN, which is more about the culture of food rather than cooking. I abhor any cooking competition shows. I think they are nothing more than ego driven platforms for established chefs to belittle those that may be their future competition. I subscribe to only one cooking magazine and that is Cook's illustrated. I don't visit cooking websites. I try not to tell people that I am a chef because I despise when people find out and all they want to tell me is what they made last night. Really? What makes you think that I am interested in how much cilantro you put in your stew to make it your own? And by the way, cilantro over powers the food, so use it sparingly please.
I know. I sound like a bitter fool, but I look at foodies as I do fundamental religious fanatics – really freaking annoying. Do you need to push your passion down every one else's throat without asking? When I go to work, I am told that I am really very good at what I do and that I am creative and innovative. When I create a dish, I am not looking for praise or for people to say that I am a fantastic chef. I think of my self as just an instrument for what the universe has channeled through me to create something joyous on a plate.
I like my plates to go out looking like they are works of art, for the brain to be fed by the eyes, and when the food hits your palette, I want the person to close their eyes and experience what is tantamount to having an orgasm from their tongue. I want you to savor it, become one with the food. I want it to bring you joy. I want endorphins released from your brain and make you smile. For those ten or fifteen minutes you sit eating the dish, I don't want you to think of anything other than the joy of the meal. I want all your worries to disappear from your thoughts for just a brief moment in time. I want you to look at everyone else on that table with you and for you all, in unison, experience such joy and satisfaction that you don't speak. I want you to just look at each other and be happy.
What I don't want is for you to become an “expert” and start analyzing the dish, picking it apart to discern each and every flavor and announcing to every one else what you taste, breaking everyone's moment of joy currently dancing on their tongue and reaching to the pleasure center of their brain. If I wanted you to taste and identify each ingredient, then I would send out little dishes with each spice and herb and have you eat them like that. Picking apart a dish does not make you sound intelligent. Far from it. It makes you sound like you are unable and unwilling to find the joy in what you have in life, and you cannot accept that you do indeed have something joyous right in front of you. And so you must find the parts that make the whole, tear it apart and ruin it, for you and everyone else around you with your supreme intelligence, rather than enjoy the complete essence of the joy in front of you.
I know someone that I refuse to go out to eat with. I don't know if it is that he is trying to prove his knowledge of food, and that he is more versed in flavors than I can be, but he will begin to pick apart the dish and announce each ingredient his self imposed expertise can discern. When I taste a dish, I taste it as a whole. I let all the flavors combine in my mouth to form the new unique taste that makes me close my eyes and moan with joy. Needless to say, this same person must announce all the flavors he is able to derive from a glass of wine. “I smell lemons, and berries, and grass”. Really? It's a freaking glass of fermented grape juice. Where the hell did you get lemons from?
When I went to culinary school, we had to do a three week course on wine tasting, and it always annoyed me when the know it all students began tasting the kitchen fridge in a glass of wine. All I tasted was wine. Everyone was going on and on about how they could taste the oak in the wine. I laughed out loud. The instructor asked me if I could not taste the oak in the red wine. I told him I never licked a barrel before so I have no idea what the hell oak tastes like. He then told me if I really tried I would be able to get the hint of berries and apple in the wine also. I told him that he really needed to put some arm and hammer in his fridge because the other food smells were apparently being absorbed into the wine. I don't know how, but I got an A in that class.
To me a true foodie is one that can go into a restaurant and just enjoy the meal and not try to prove to all and sundry that they are so well versed and the rest of the table obviously have common pallets. A person that can become one with the food without trying to pull apart its inner workings. A person that can just be happy.