Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Response: "Not Young. Not Restless. Still Killing it" The Grid, 1-7 Nov 2012

Response: “Not Young. Not Restless. Still Killing it” The Grid, 1-7 Nov 2012 
Read it HERE

The article, written by David Sax, highlights Keith Froggett, who has cooked at Scaramouche for 29 years, been it's executive chef for 27, and it's co-owner for 17. Sax intends to contrast the cult of the celebrity chef with Froggett, who stands in for a bygone era of chefs focused exclusively on technique. Sax believes that “hot young chefs have become akin to rock stars, complete with tattoos, devoted followers (both the diner and the Twitter varieties), and the attitude that nobody over 30 is doing anything interesting in this town.” After expressing claiming that no one cares about chefs over thirty, a few sentence later Sax claims that Froggett is “one of the best-respected chefs in this city, admired by the old guard and the young upstarts alike as a mentor, challenging leader, and one hell of a cook.” 
Froggett's “...long-term, low-key success, and the sheer quality and consistency of his kitchen, make a strong case for the virtues of experience and longevity over flash-in-the-pan talent...” Interestingly, Froggett “rarely mentions flavours or inspiration when he talks about food. What he loves more than anything is technique, execution, and consistency, three of the attributes many young chefs helming their own restaurants often lack.” Young chefs have the knowledge and ideas but not the skills and experience to back it up. Young chefs, perhaps, lack the patience to properly execute dishes night after night.
Sax intends Froggett to stand as the prime example of the old guard of chefs. Chefs focused exclusively, and perhaps rightly, on the execution of technique. However, when Froggett was young, I believe, that he would have exhibited many of the same qualities that Sax finds negative in young chefs today. Froggett entered chef's college at 16 and started working at Scaramouche at 24. At 26 Froggett was running the kitchen at Scaramouche. These are the same age ranges that describe many young chef's career's today. Additionally, the chef Froggett worked under allowed “everyone in the kitchen ... enough freedom to take risks, but only if their skills were sufficient.” This could, perhaps, describe many of the freedoms justifiably given to young chefs today.
The article does not present Froggett as having worked in many restaurants. From 1979 to 1983 he worked in a number of unnamed kitchens but since 1983 he has worked almost exclusively at Scaramouche. The young chefs of today appear to both work and own a number of restaurants of various cooking styles, seating numbers, and locations. This appears to offer young chefs a variety of experience and opportunity. The depth and breath of knowledge that this type of education offers is something that the older guard of chefs may lack.
While Sax wants to pit the old guard against the young I view Froggett as the young guard, aged. He was very young when he started cooking at Scaramouche and while he may have the benefit of focusing on technique (which young chefs may not) young chefs of today have the benefit of a breadth of food knowledge that chefs such as Froggett may not. 

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