There are people who feel their food preferences or knowledge may not reflect what is correct or up-to-date in the culinary world.
This is completely understandable as there is always an endless supply of information and techniques.
This does not commensurate, however, that one should be ashamed—or be denied of the right—to express their passion for this necessity in our lives.
One of the many things I love about food and food preparation is that I never stop learning. One can never know everything in this industry, and I consider it to be one of “the arts” like music or painting.
Never can every musical note and lyric, colour and design, or food flavour combination be “used up.” It is literally impossible.
No matter how much or little you know, chances are you have preferences in your appreciation of this medium that is both an essential and an indulgent part of our lives.
This individuality not only guides you to determine likes or dislikes, but defines you as who you are.
Carving a baron of beef in a buffet line at a hotel many years ago, I was approached by an elderly woman with an empty plate. As always, I asked the level of doneness preferred.
Looking nervous, she whispered, “I know it’s not the right way, but I prefer an extra well-done piece.” So I asked her “what do you enjoy?” and she repeated “extra well-done” with a sense of bewilderment.
“If that’s what you enjoy,” I stated to her, “how is that the wrong way?”
Many people lose sight of this and, in the meantime, get blackballed by a definition governed by the culinary world. The “textbook” doneness for red meat is medium-rare for optimal flavour, juiciness, and tenderness.
This is a merely guideline, however, and not meant to overrule one’s preferences. If you don’t enjoy red meat medium-rare, then it is not the right way for you.
As long as one seizes opportunities to try new foods and preparation techniques, then there should be nothing wrong with their final individual evaluation.
The culinary world is full of guidelines, but the sooner people realize that these “guidelines” are not necessarily “laws,” the better off everyone will be.
Dear Chef Dez:
Recently I went to a restaurant and ordered a well-done steak. The server advised me that the chef in the kitchen refused to cook my steak of choice to that degree of doneness.
What is your opinion on this?
Depending on the cut of steak, most restaurants will fulfill your request. Some, however, feel that for a top grade cut of beef, cooking it well-done is a waste. It just dries out the optimal flavour and tenderness that a choice cut is expected to offer the consumer.
I think the situation should have been handled differently. You should have been advised that the kitchen doesn’t recommend “well-done” for the selection of steak you made, and offer you a different cut.
If at this point you still insisted on your original choice, then your request should have been honoured.
I feel, as professionals, it is our obligation to educate people on the culinary guidelines we are trained in and to make appropriate suggestions. If, however, the consumer still chooses otherwise, their wish should be respected and their individuality recognized.
Send your food/cooking questions to email@example.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C., V2T 6R4.
Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor, and cooking show performer.