Mesubim operates two private kitchens both professionally equipped, both on islands, very different far away in nature and landscape, yet seas and nature surround both.Our old kitchen was considered excellent but our new kitchen is by far much closer to HAACP standards.
In our new test kitchen located in Mykonos Greece, we are starting to realize our dreams. It was a challenging renovation project, co-designed with k-studio Athens, a leading Greek architectural firm headed by brothers Dimitris and Konstantinos Karampatakis. The architectural design was k-studio, and the kitchen and flow of space was Mesubim.
The project was named Anatomy of a kitchen, based on the principles of a test kitchen made up if two interconnected spaces, a practical and theoretical space. The theoretical space is a library made up of one-thousand cook books from all over the globe.
The practical space is equipped with a Marrone kitchen equipped with the latest technology. Here chefs are invited to spend a week, enjoy the seascape, wind and sun. Here you can relax while testing new recipes, sharing ideas and new food concepts.
To understand Mesubim better, I am the founder of Mesubim, and an avid foodie, technical and keen about food science, but I am not a cook, and I say it not to be facetious in any way. I adore food but I am not interested in trying to impress, I am interested in process, the micro world of cuisine, e.g. the ingredients, recipes, science and technique. That is why it is tough for a chef to cook for me.
I am not inspired to try foods, but often more inspired by a chef’s ideologies and techniques. It is similar to a classical music lover; many are interested in just listening, and some in process and making of sound.
This is not to say that all foods prepared by top chefs are excellent because many lack the very basic understanding of detail. Any restaurant chef that has a reputation of being number one in the world should have a clear and well-defined understanding of the role of process, order and hierarchy.
To over simplify it, the use of a tomato in a three-Michelin restaurant to that of a roadside hamburger shop is not the same. They both use tomatoes but the processes and actions used are very different. Line chefs make most of what it takes to make a hamburger. The hamburger is made in minutes, and often contains over cooked meat and ordinary condiments. That’s not to say you cannot find a gourmet hamburger. In fact, the modernist cuisine, or for that matter at restaurant café Daniel Bolud in New York, he single-handedly changed the US hamburger from a commonplace food to a gourmet idea. It’s all how you interpret the hamburger, or for that matter any food.
But interpretation isn’t arbitrary it must have some criterion with which we use to judge. Otherwise McDonald’s would be the best hamburger in the plant as its loved by billions of people all over the globe. But is it a good hamburger? The answer is yes and no.
But if a chef’s credentials are based on old school fallacy, what really happens is they fall into a marketing trap. Without understanding process and hierarchy the inanity of many dishes continues to swamp us yet impress the guides and critics. That’s not to say that top chefs can easily accommodate the challenge of satisfying and impressing clients each and every night. That’s a tough one! But so many just do what they need to do to bring clients back. It’s the equivalent of gastronomic reality television – limited substance.
So many top restaurants are caught improvising dishes without any real substance or innovation. Their menus are based on a certain triviality of one’s own theory without the true understanding of what it takes to be a top class chef.
It proves that too often there is a dilution of tradition (knowledge) and consequently sound concepts are replaced with superficial ideas that are adopted without any intelligent basis. They become popular, even vulgar becoming a reality, or fail themselves before they reach the table.
Tradition still plays a key role in any food. Tradition remains a key element in cuisine, and it has been instrumental in forming some of the world’s top chefs. Great chefs of the world like Alain Chapel a former French Michelin 3 starred chef, credited with being one of the originators of Nouvelle Cuisine based. It takes a skillful, intelligent and technical chef to create a dish that makes any lasting impact. It takes a greater chef to use what we already know and re-engineer it in a way that makes sense.
Food is so basic that the Mehináku People, an indigenous people of Brazil used the same word for food and intercourse with slight variation. The meaning implied was food = life = nature, characterized by the treatment of the whole person, as they considered themselves truly as part of nature. Actually, they based their identity on analogy of symmetry to nature. This is the meaning of Totemism, which preceded mythology and is the deepest origin of Shinto and this is true also about all old cultures. So why is this important in food? The same way Mesubim is important.
The idea of tradition is important to help chef’s understand what has withheld the test of time. From that standpoint tradition can also be used as a guideline to direct chefs in the right direction. Time proves that there are just some things that you cannot change, or if you change them, they become twisted in the wrong way, and that’s nature.
In the case of molecular cuisine, tradition was best dissected and re-engineered from the ground up. That’s what is interesting about Ferran, a chef genius working on concept and techniques. He had no boundaries and his food wasn’t about filling your tank, it was about food for thought. Something some clients didn’t accept, and thought his food wasn’t food but a scientific experiment.
I remember when I was sitting with Ferran and asked him about his break through in cooking he said, “this isn’t something new”. I wasn’t sure what he meant and later began to understand that he was more interested in changing the way we eat. He didn’t invent the idea of molecular cuisine and that was his point. He simply used it as a means to help expand kitchen language.
Ferran’s cuisine isn’t trivial at all, on the contrary. His food is about an organizational product search and creative methods. His style helped unify chefs and aid them to understand how to approach ingredients, recipes and food concepts.
He challenged himself to explore beyond the commonplace recipes. He innovated in a way that hadn’t been seen on such a broad level before. It opened up a new and fresh approach to cuisine that in some ways is so impressive.
Ferran’s motto was based on developing knowledge + order = maximum efficiency. He almost had it right. I believe knowledge + process = order and helps define hierarchy. This is what helps us in understanding the difference between what we like, (personal choices) and knowledge (hierarchy) and the ability to differentiate between the two. Many people are confused between personal preferences and ignore hierarchy.
Ferran understood the concept of developing and building structure through dissecting ingredients. His preparations were structural and his way of thinking in the kitchen had not been see before. Essentially he worked out the hierarchy, embedding and ordering to help define process and technique.
Unfortunately most chefs copy and rarely create unless the dish is new. A close friend defines it by saying, ‘Great chefs are food designers, all the rest are craftsmen or craft-women. New dish is new design. If you repeat it, it’s craft, just as with designing a ring versus reproducing it. The world needs more food designers’ people with a true sense of how to combine knowledge, ingredients, flavors, texture and techniques. We already have so many fantastic craftsmen or craftswoman.’
If you think about it, there are too many food choices; too much confusion and a world of artificial flavors and chemical compound substitutes. This is the dark side of science that has food caused food to become more and more artificial. The more harm than we realize we are doing to ourselves, the greater the chance we have to begin to make change.
The new project of Mesubim is challenged by this debate and officially launches next spring 2016 after we have ironed out some of the new equipment changes. We still miss some key equipment central to flavor extraction.