The art of cooking is peculiar. Cooking, because it supplies us with energy and nutrition, must fit into the rhythms of daily life. It is constrained by practicalities of all sorts—money, time, personal preferences–that limit what can be done. Within those constraints of course there is ample opportunity for a cook to be creative by playing with ingredients, modifying recipes or trying new techniques all with the aim of making the food taste good.
But that’s not art; that’s life.
Art, by contrast, is the realm of consciously-developed form. Edible art, like any type of art, must have meaning, emotional resonance, and distinctive pattern. To make edible art it is not enough that the food taste good. The flavors must be organized into patterns that allow us to mentally grasp the work and understand it. Art isn’t the realm of pure freedom where creativity goes on a wild bender. Creativity is constrained by the demands or form just as for a novelist an elaborate, subtle plot limits the way characters can be developed.
So for the artistic chef, cooking is not just a matter of making food taste good but of giving the food significant form by displaying flavors in meaningful patterns that provoke a reaction. Art occupies the tensive border between ordinary life and something that transcends the ordinary, and if cooking is an art it too must embody that tension.
I think that is a challenge for cooks or chefs who are accustomed to providing only comfort.