About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009
Perfect, Really?
I was somewhat disturbed last night, when chef George Calombaris on MasterChef Australia said that red wine sauce should be silky smooth, like “velvet knickers”. Has he just revealed a side to himself that could have only be guessed at?

In fact I could handle that about Calombaris, but what left me dismayed and perturbed was his masterclass on how to make the perfect chip. The perfect chip? Perfect?

Only hours earlier, I read in this month's edition of Gourmet Traveller how to make perfect roast potatoes.

Perfect food is everywhere and it's driving me nuts.

I suppose we could blame Heston Blumenthal for this plethora of perfection. After all, it was his program, In Search of Perfection, where practically everything, or it may have even been everything he cooked, was proudly pronounced perfect.

But what does it really mean, a perfect dish? What is the subtext?

Does it mean that there is no need to look any further, for the definitive recipe has been laid at your feet? It can't possibly, it was only a few short years ago that Blumenthal stunned the world by blanching his chips in water before frying them off, in fact, what Calombaris showed us what a shortened version of that, less the probes, exact temperatures and timing.

Before that, the perfect chip would have been the twice fried version, but even that wasn't enough for some. A friend's dad used to fry his chips ten times before he considered them worthy.

Perfection has always been a moving target.

The problem with describing a dish as perfect is that it suggests that there is no possible way to do any better and as a latent adapter of recipes, that's a thought that ought to be consigned to the garbage. All cooks know that cooking is an intuitive process, hand a recipe to ten different cooks and you will get ten different results and how those results are perceived is totally up to the individual.

Sure, there are better cooks than others, but a cook capable of producing perfect food is a laughable idea.

I wonder what a food critic like Matt Preston actually thinks when he hears a dish described by a chef as perfect?

Probably something like, 'You stick to the cooking, I'll do the describing.'

Perfect, bah, humbug.
  posted at 2:12 pm

At 4:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi neil, nice to see the frequent posts!
I agree, perfect-schmerfect. twice cooked chips are fine, anything else just sounds like an ad for the use of Frytol.
Oh & speaking of masterchef, was that a 'SKIN COLOURED' band-aid on Mr Colombaris's finger? Where was the regulation Kitchen Blue band-aid? Tut tut, perfect-schmerfect!

At 6:53 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Perfect is just plain silly at least in this universe.

At 6:54 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

But I really do like the looks of the snails & liquorice and the plates are elegant.

At 7:14 pm, Anonymous NIall Harbison said...

If you have read Anthony Bourdain's book about the search for the perfect meal (name eludes me at the moment) it is a brilliant story about this subject. BAsically he travels the world tasting everything and eating in the world's best restaurants and without revealing the plot lets just say what turns out to be the perfect meal is something wonderfully simple. There is no such thing as the perfect burger etc, it depends on who you are eating it with, where at etc

At 10:27 am, Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Every time I tell someone the name of my blog, I laugh -- because the point is that my pantry is not perfect at all. Or that maybe it is perfect, but only for me. If we're going to ban "perfect", let's also ban "best" for the same reasons.

At 11:44 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi steve, nice to have the energy to do consecutive posts. Started a new job this year and the work is so much harder. It's not that I'm not cooking or thinking about posts, but there have been an awful lot of days when the couch has claimed me.

Perhaps the band-aid matched the colour of his knickers!

Hi tanna, silly and not a little arrogant either, also daunting for novice cooks. I mean, who wants to make perfect food? who wants to eat perfect food? Not me, I want real food.

Hi niall, I'll look out for that book, thanks.

You've summed that up pretty well, a meal is just more than the food.

Hi lydia, you've nailed it. It's what the individual thinks that's most important, not what they're told to think.

Just for the record, I never thought your pantry was perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than mine, lol.

At 1:29 pm, Anonymous kitchen hand said...

Yes, exactly, Neil: the endless search for 'perfection' is a cliched journalistic construct that gets in the way of far more interesting issues. Must be time for Epicure to do a 'perfect ice-cream' or 'perfect coffee' cover; I haven't seen one for at least three months.

At 6:21 pm, Blogger Intrepid in the Kitchen- JdG: said...

Well said! And who wants perfect anyway... I like a 9/10 so there is a reason to keep searching. How sad a place the world would be if we did find perfection in food- no more the search for that ideal dish! Oh woe is us...

At 7:27 am, Blogger Gigi said...

I love that line ~ Perfection has always been a moving target. How very true! In fact, I plan on using the phrase often; attributed, of course. It is, dare I say, perfect. :)

At 11:54 am, Anonymous Gustoso said...

Wish I'd discovered Masterchef earlier on.


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