A story in the latest issue of Lucky Peach tackles the topic of influence in cooking. Specifically, the story talks about the “trickle-down” effect that big-name chefs have on the restaurant world. Chefs like Alain Ducasse, Eric Ripert, and Manresa’s David Kinch weigh in. Who, then, influences the influencers? Kinch says the man who’s really had the broadest impact on modern menus and plates is Michel Bras.
“I think Michel Bras is the most important and influential chef we have seen in a long time,” Kinch says. “He influenced Adrià tremendously and appears to be the godfather in most of the Spanish vanguardia.”
We spoke to Kinch and got him to elaborate on the idea that Bras broke the mold in France long before molecular gastronomy and El Bulli. “Bras’s biggest influence was vegetables taking equal footing on a plate with the proteins,” Kinch says. “A revolutionary idea when he was coming up” in the eighties. Also Spanish chefs — especially Adoni Aduriz of Mugaritz — owe a huge debt to Bras’s painterly plating technique. Kinch calls Bras “a masterful modernist … naturalistic, atmospheric with landscapes being evoked, and a discoverer of new plants and vegetables, both cultivated and wild.” Kinch has one of Bras’s menus framed on the wall at Manresa.
Kinch is quick to dismiss the idea that any specific dishes are really “copied” anymore so much as specific techniques are. New kitchen technology, he says, “allows people to ‘create’ without being derivative, or being called out on it.” (Even still, the Lucky Peach issue credits Bras with inventing dishes like the molten chocolate cake, and the composed, multicomponent salad with edible “soil” — a salad about which much has been made.)
Bras himself is much more Zen about the whole issue of other chefs copying him, especially when it comes to that salad. “If people copy my salad, I couldn’t care less,” he told Grub Street New York last year. “It’s not a competition. As a general rule, I don’t personally borrow ideas from other chefs myself.”
Trickle-Down: The Circuitous Path of Ideas in Food and Fashion [Lucky Peach - print only]
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