I cannot comment on the global state of the progression in food and it’s impact on culture but I can give my report on the industry I know well here in Canada, and the one I know even more intimately here in Vancouver, B.C.
I was motivated to write about the desire to be relevant in food after listening to some musicians talk about their work and how it seems that most (meaning a lot, but not all) musicians are chasing likes, streams, and downloads more aggressively than ever before. Very few artists are doing what the name suggests, creating art. You know the stuff from the soul, the stuff that when you hear it for the first time it gives you shivers and goosebumps. It is that music, that art that changes industries, redefines a genre and likely motivates a whole other legion of young and up and coming musicians.
While listening to this conversation I was reminded of a section of The 50th Law by Robert Greene where Greene talks about Jazz in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. He describes how “the total destruction of these dead conventions, creating space for something new”. Greene is talking about how Jazz at the time (1940’s) had become hardened and was less “freewheeling” and was quickly becoming all about popular music, which at the time was big band and swing. “To make money you had to play by the rules and perform these popular genres” which left some incredible talents truly muted by their inability to express themselves and show the world their talent and their work.
Greene goes on to say that “the only way around this oppressive situation was to destroy it with a completely new sound (bebop).” This new sound gave the artist the ability to perform “on their own terms and some control over their careers.” This new sound that was being provided by the likes of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie and completely shift Jazz music for the next 20 years. For these artists, being relevant simply wasn’t enough.
Jazz and food aren’t so different.
I offer that the creation of food and drink is just as much of an art as is Jazz, Blues, Rock, any type of music or even traditional art such as painting or sculpting. So I ask all of those who are partaking in food and beverage today, are you working to stay relevant or are you working to create your art?
Robert Greene says that to destruct the current way of doing things “you must be a lion, as bad as can be.” While that may sound dramatic, I don’t disagree one bit.
I am aware that there are 1,000 different variables that play into why a Chef cooks what they cook or why a certain concept exists, but I wonder how all of these kitchens approach each day or each seasonal menu rollout. Are they looking for “likes” or are they looking to add something to the food culture that will help push them and this industry forward.
I challenge the masses to find restaurants that are willing to be that lion and take part in what could be a movement forward unlike ever before. The kitchens that are playing it safe, I get it, they are speaking to the masses and a lot of these kitchens aren’t set up to test new boundaries, but come on, we can try a little bit harder to move this industry forward.
Again I cannot speak for the global presence of Chefs creating art first and sexy instagram photos second, but I promise you that there are a million restaurants who have a formula thats comfortable, predictable, and it works. I don’t blame them one bit.
Looking back at the Jazz example, can you imagine a world void of the music from the likes of Charlie Parker? Heck I am not even a big Jazz fan and I know how influential he was not only in Jazz but a plethora of other musical genres. So if Parker didn’t play the role of the lion and shake things up Jazz would have looked, felt and sounded way different, one might argue not nearly as good.
So when it comes to our food scene, locally and globally who is willing to be the lion and create art that will impact the industry for decades upon decades?