“Cooking is not an art,” says Peter Woolsey, “It’s a craft. Art is about expressing whatever you want; craft is about consistently re-creating what is expected.”
(Thank you! Finally, somebody gets this!)
“An artist works from his life experiences, his feelings, and he’s free to put those into his product.” Not so for the craftsman chef, whose personal life can’t have anything to do with the food. “You may be distraught because your beloved Poochie just died, or overjoyed because your girlfriend agreed to marry you—but none of that can go into your cooking.” A woodworker doesn’t make one chair different from the others, and a chef doesn’t change the carefully honed details of his sauce, just because he’s bummed about Poochie.
Peter Woolsey came to talk about French sauces — mostly. Yes, he mentioned the ‘mother sauces,’ and the unsavory acronym culinary students use to remember them (which involves an unfortunate young lady named Beth). He briefly discussed the derivative ‘small sauces,’ as you would expect. He mentioned Escoffier, as one usually must. He offered lots of practical sauce-making advice. But besides all of that, he also offered some more philosophical observations from his nearly 20 years in cooking. Continue reading →