The picture here above this article is Javier Ollero’s and Taka from Culler de Pau and myself in Galicia Spain looking between the rocks smelling and tasting and observing what to eat. Ocean foreging. We do this all over the land around culler de pau and everything he uses is from his direct surroundings all as natural as can be. The elements are free and the nature is very alive and fresh in O’Grove were Javier has his restaurant. The Galician nature is still relatively pure and no chemicals are used to grow there vegetables.
I find it hard to bring nature to a city restaurant and I hope that in the future more people will go to restaurants that set them selves up close to the elements in order to bring the freshest ,best and uncorrupted food to you.
I ate Macrobiotic most of my young adult live and then a very japanese vegetarian diet for many years to then completly loosing it recently after stressful work hours as a chef and living in London. Living in London is one of the hardest places for me personally, to eat healthy. I have to fight to focus on what is nutritious, harder then Skywalker having to concentrate on trying to lift that ship out of the mud with his supernatural powers in Yoda’s special training cave.
I dont mean to blame London however after being completely pure and from the countryside eating only things that I knew the name of the person who farmed my food to arriving here in London were people were laughing at me when asking them “were do these carrots come from exactly?”.
I remember supermarkets at the time did not have the multi cultural offers as they do now. I remember walking along the food shelves looking at only white bread, tins, pasta, rice and quite normal unspecific vegetables with not that much flavour and when asking for brown bread all I saw was light brown toast.
Around that time there was also not many health food shops here in London compared to New York at the time and Germany and if you did find a health food store they usually were quite small and did not really have much stock or fresh organic vegetables.
That was quite hard for me.
I used to grow my own potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, corn, tomatos, pumpkins , greens, herbs etc and they tasted amazing.
I also was a vegetarian, and now all this is quite out of hand and I am hungry for change because all the things I have eaten over the last 5 years has made me very ill.
As a chef, I only source the best and prepare with the highest commitment for my guests, however when it comes to myself and especially between projects, I seem to forget about me completly.
Here is a movie I recently saw and it is really reminding me of all the important things I need to look out for when I go shopping for my own home life.
The things they talk about in the film like Aspartame, Amaranth, Parabens, Food colouring Yellow S, Tartrazine and Benzoic Acid…and one of my pet hate MSG.
I do know so many japanese restaurants that use this which is a shame because by doing so we are training people to really not recognise or appreciate the natural feelings and flavours by using this MSG.
I have to say many japanese restaurants also use a lot of sugar in there cooking.
One of the reasons some japanese chefs use MSG here in the west is because the traditional kaiseki is too subtle and many customers have complained of “no flavour” or “not enough”. I strongly feel it is partly because they are not used to Kaiseki so are looking for the wrong thing when tasting, but this can be educated in my opinion without the need of MSG.
I may also say that people generally think they enhance the Umami factor by adding MSG.
It is really tough getting the kind of fish and the vegetables that are on the required standard for top japanese cuisine. In order to produce the finest dishes certain chefs require pure products to work with. Most highest ranking chefs I have ever spoken to in Kyoto and other country’s all agree that the sourcing of there produce is one of the highest aspects that every chef turns such a devoted and special attention to.
I always concentrate on how things are grown and thats how it will taste ultimately, if you are a real natural alchemist in the kitchen, then you will find your own flavour without having to use any product that does not directly come from nature itself!!!!! This natural un-manipulated approach is obviously far more satisfying and bombastic then MSG.
By natural alchemist I mean that by matching and investigating what you get from nature and combining it the right way you create natural new textures and flavours etc without any need for any additional powders!
Why would I want to add a white powder to my extremely amazing produce I just went searching for all over Europe?
We are all perverted by food stuffs that are de-constructed, inverted, elaborate, chemically separated etc etc that then alienates us from the refinement of subtleness and real flavours. In real keiseki it is hard for some people to really appreciate this, especially in the younger generations all raised on processed things.
Chefs also are lending ideas from big food production company’s and using them there restaurants. SOme I agree some I really dont.
Further more the food industry is a product driven industry that has separated itself from nature and is not only misleading us consumers but also brainwashing us with untrue associations of health, wealth and beauty when in fact you will have serious health issues. These health issues caused by all these foods with terrible components leading to hart desease, obisety etc is costing the government billions in health care. I can not understand why the government is allowing so much sugar hidden nasty’s in our food creating so many sick people??????
Food is not food anymore if we are not careful ..food is being treated like a product more and more. Food is sold with a complete life package and dreams that are mostly misleading and untrue.
Coca cola is the most obvious one so please look at the film as it goes in to more detail then I can in this short blog of mine.
We have more food then ever before and many people are overweight or unhealthy. We eat all the time and everywhere but yet we are starved from nutrients. Many of us dont even know how to get the nutrients we need out of the food we choose to eat everyday.
This is a big subject specially in this day of consumer age were food is becoming more and more out of context and more and more a product.
The only point I am adding is from a chefs perspective that we often feel the need to be innovative and we try to do so by buying products to enhance or create some new or magic effect or fashionable texture etc that is created by adding powders of all kinds. Some are ok some are not, mostly I believe it is better to discovery from the nature as it is! You can always find anything you need from nature inorder to get your desired effects and there is no need to buy all these powders. Just because certain top restaurants are using it does not mean we all have to!
Just for example Xanthan gum often used in modern gastronomy nowadays to thicken sauces, emulsifier etc. has the following concerns regarding health:
On May 20, 2011 the FDA issued a press release about SimplyThick, a food-thickening additive containing xanthan gum as the active ingredient, warning “parents, caregivers and health care providers not to feed SimplyThick, a thickening product, to premature infants.” The concern is that the product may cause necrotizing enterocolitis (i.e., NEC). As of July 10, 2012 the FDA has not established the causal link between SimplyThick and NEC.
Anything that MIGHT cause anything bad to a person, I as a chef dont want to use besides the fact Xantham gum is detectable on the palet and there are so many otherwise you can thicken something naturally!! Someone is definitely loving the fact that they can sell this stuff to chefs world wide in there glossy packaging.
Keep looking in and at nature, keep investigating, tasting, wondering, trying things out and questioning but try to stay natural and stay true to you!
Here is a film that I watched recently which I think reflects how food effects us living in a city full of product orientated foods and how that effects us as human beings in every way.