Photo by Lee Emmert
It's time to pick your side. It's new-age vs. traditional cooking, battling head to head! Hank Sawtelle loves the sous-vide method of cooking he picked up from his days working at wd-50 in Manhattan. Louisa Neumann is a classically-trained French chef. Whose side are you on?
Louisa and I go back to staging in France together through the La Varenne trainee program, so naturally I'm on her team. She can turn any animal or vegetable into a poem. Check her out at the Portland Pickle.
Sous-vide is a method of cooking food sealed in plastic bags at low temperatures in controlled water baths. The French developed this idea in the 70s, and apparently, the results can be sublime. There's something very artificial about it for me, and lots of drawbacks. Cooking sous-vide is expensive, it takes forever (sometimes days for one dish), and makes ideal conditions for breeding bacteria and botulism. In other words, you really need to know what you're doing.
You can read about the fierce battle between these Oregon chefs in the cover story of Mix, based in Portland.
This proves Anthony Bourdain's theory that chefs are either Bloods or Crips. (For more on this, read The Nasty Bits- it's gritty and wonderful.) I stand corrected, Bourdain was actually quoting Timothy Taylor from his novel, Stanley Park. Bloods are old-school and can devote their entire careers to mastering classic recipes with a strong emphasis on technique. A Crip, on the other hand, reinvents, deconstructs, fuses, and makes foams.
Crips keep the industry moving, set trends, inspire awe. Bloods send you home with a full stomach.
If the results are fantastic, I'll give the sous-vide method a shot some day, in small doses. It is all about how the food tastes in the end. But, like most things in life, the 'journey" to get there is also important. Louisa's quote in the article pretty much sums it up for me:
"...sous vide is cooking at arm’s length — the cook doesn’t seem necessary since there’s no browning, deglazing, sauce-building. It’s also much less of a sensory experience; no sizzling, bubbling, wafting aromas. “Cooking” without those things should go by another name! Hundreds of years of French culinary tradition is good enough for me."
What can I say? I'm a Blood.