The fact there are lies, both communicative and culinary ones, does not mean that everything is – on the contrary

Santi Santamaría has said nothing new that we haven’t already commented on before, and repeatedly so. One of his greatest merits lies in the fact that he is upfront and willing to speak out in the public sector about his most bitter and controversial feelings and, curiously, almost no one argues with him. His achievement lies in the impact this has had: that a chef should speak his mind about his colleagues, demystifying the honor of their profession in the process, is an exceptional feat to say the least, and one that is praiseworthy. Everything is now open for discussion, but we won’t begin by questioning these accusations, or why they remain afloat in the murmurs of gastronomy still. Subjectivity and interpretation notwithstanding, there are controversial and regrettable actions to be discussed.
It is obvious to all that we are suffering an alarming decline in the quality of raw product in cuisine. The extinction of natural resources, the standardization of production, the lack of ability in many chefs to see the difference… many facets come into play. There are economic aspects as well: the allure of reducing costs, raising profits, keeping the product for longer periods of time and, perhaps worst of all, the arrogance that leads many professionals to attempt to demonstrate that they are supposedly capable of performing miracles independently from the quality of ingredients they use. It is enough to give us a clear idea that the future consists of a cuisine with good raw product and one without, though many of the purists prefer to negate the duality of possibility here. But that is a very different question from the simpler one: frozen or fresh, farmed or wild, substitutes or the real thing, etc. These are questions that decry the lying to and direct manipulation of the clientele, disregarding their knowledge and sensibilities. And this oh-so-common fraudulent behavior exists in all culinary styles and at all levels, regardless of price and prestige.
We have said endless times that a high percentage of famous chefs don’t actually cook at all, and this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are some celebrities that have literally spent decades without so much as picking up a saucepan. Worse still, there are an alarming number of cases where renowned figures don’t even have a look at what is served at home. All this is an effect of their preoccupation with management and business, with the multitude of distractions they are confronted with, their lack of discipline in some cases… and because they make marketing their priority, finding more pleasure in the executive role than in the art form. This role – the deification of the chef – has been taken on by professionals of all styles. Paul Bocuse, a string of culinary dinosaurs that have relied on the presumed safety of their three Michelin stars for years – we can all guess who – and, of course, a certain number of chefs in the vanguard as well.
We live in a society in which fame and money reign – a society in which ethics have been lost. There are very few who care about personal realization through fine work. Appearance and greed are all that seem to matter. Consequently, everything is accepted if it creates success and profit. In this sense there are many impostors and even some chefs that don undeserved artistic airs. The end justifies the means, in their mind. We should instead be selling the true creators and artists to the people, not applauding these fakes. In this current fraudulent staging of events they sell us the most recent trends, versions of more or less worthy creations, or nothing at all… from others’ fantasies. In today’s gastronomy it has become common to get your tits out on the catwalk… two is always better than one and showing a little ass never hurt either - whatever it takes, it would seem. When appearing on television they turn it into a song and dance routine. When the press is calling they start muttering about “science” and “art”. In short, there is a certain sector of haute cuisine that is only posing. They are convinced that publicity and the gift of gab combine to create success, and this happens because television is utter rubbish that is in the business of sweet-talking uneducated people and the press writes whatever comes their way, without any prior knowledge or a sense of responsibility.
However, that the lie be firmly installed in society and that there are a few dozen chefs who practice it on an international level doesn’t mean that all the avant-garde chefs or the traditionalists are frauds. The great majority of them don’t suffer from delusions of grandeur, vanity, etc. Those chefs who manipulate and lie are grandiloquent exceptions to the rule. They are simply another example of people obsessed by glory and a twisted ambition for power.
Which leads to a final question: what is the critic’s role in this gastronomic circus?