Since I have been spending more time organizing and working with the culinary programs at the Wayne Art Center these last 4 months, I’ve been thinking a lot lately how cooking and art collide. I’ve been asking myself, ” Is cooking an art ?” It is true that artists appreciate beauty and can make beautiful things, but does this hold true to chefs? Can we see the beauty in the food we cook? I guess to answer this question we need to look at the differences between cooking and art.
The first difference I see between cooking and art is that cooking is a craft. A craft is something that it is useful and has a purpose or end goal- after all, food fuels and wards off hunger. Crafts are useful things like tables, chairs and housewares. Art projects on the other hand, often don’t have a purpose or end goal. Artists often talk about starting off in one direction and during the process finding themselves making something quite different with its own momentum. “I like to surprise myself” is something you hear artists say often. Chefs on the other hand, need to produce a tangible product often with predictable taste, texture and flavors and seem more like crafts people than artists.
The second difference I see, is that cooking involves instant gratification. While art can take a while to produce sometimes years- it sticks around. Art can be hung on walls, placed in rooms or displayed outside for longer periods of time. Food on the other hand is made within a shorter time and then immediately consumed. Ever wonder why you spend 3 hours in the kitchen making lasagna only to have it all consumed in a single 20 minute sitting. Yet you may have artwork hanging on your wall for 20 years.
The third difference I see between art and cooking, is that chefs most often follow a formula or recipe. Even when they are experts – it is through practice of the same techniques over and over again that make them skilled. Perhaps this is true of great artists- they have also practiced their skill but it appears chefs may do more predictable prepping and planning to be able to re-create the same dish again and again.
One thing is true of both art and cooking , both artists and chefs use their hands to create, use tools to assist them and whether it is paint, clay, wire , cloth or food, they often utilize at least one of their 5 senses. The senses involved may be touch or sight for texture, composition and color or involve taste and smell.
I believe, cooking is a craft which can develop into an art through skill building, vision, risk taking and experimentation. A perfect example of seeing chefs at the artists level is watching the Netflix series ” Chef’s Table”. Link here to watch http://thechefstable top chefs around the world at their best- they embody craftsmanship, beauty, creativity and yes – art. Chef’s Table will convince you that cooking : ” it’s not just about the food- its about something more.” For me that something more has to do defining cooking as an art.