What makes a critic ‘a critic’
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What makes a critic ‘a critic’

Chef Nikhil Chib on food critics, their whims and fancies, “unconstructive” criticism and more.

india Updated: May 05, 2007 13:34 IST

Sometimes, as a chef it can be quite annoying to please the New Age critics who know quite frankly nothing much about food. Good paani , puri is all they are crave even as they try to dissect the subtleties of a goats cheese souffle..

So why should we succumb to suit their fancy or whim? So what do you do, add some katha, meetha, theekha, charm the life of them and send him or her home packing with a smile or stand by your creation and tell them “too bad”.

Tough call, as we are so bound by the media and what they think.

Constructive criticism It is good to hear about customer’s reactions to your food.. seasoning, texture, cooking, quality of produce and taste.

One should stomach a good dose of constructive criticism to ensure food quality and taste and that customers are enjoying every second of that gastronomical experience.

Sometimes you may have a bad day, and you should be made aware of it.

Why not? But at what cost?

When you are told how the squid tempura was limp, but was not rubbery and yet was fresh that makes no sense to either a lay person or a qualified cook or chef.

Dummies guide to criticism Today’s band of food critics should start experimenting with foods in their own kitchen. They should also read about the intricacies and histories of world cuisine and cooking, before suffering us with their half bit ideas.

<b1>A must-buy for anyone associated professionally with food is The Professional Chef by the Culinary Institute of America and it goes into great depth of all the herbs, spices, cooking techniques, sauces, the making of sake, the process of kimchee, how AOC can be translated roughly to mean “name of origin” and is the highest recognition given to particular French wines, cheeses, butter, live stock.. descriptions of all the Italian cheeses from grana padano to gorgonzola to mozzarella.. so on.

It is important for critics to know what they eat, where it comes from and this I feel should be given as a license to people who have had much more experience in cooking and creating.

Eating good food is a passion for many and everyone will tell you how they love good food (I have never met anyone who loves bad food) and they are the biggest foodies. But that does not make them great food critics. So to understand more about the actual process of cooking food is important.

Cooking and more I didn’t just throw a chicken on the pan and made a succulent chicken satay I sourced the meat from . the market, cut it up into pieces required in the kitchen — breast, leg, wings — further portioned the breast in to satay slices, marinated them with the right ingredients of lemon grass, cumin, turmeric, coriander, fish sauce, etc and then weaved it nicely onto a satay stick and charcoal grilled it and served it with a spicy peanut sauce and fresh cucumber.

We work hard to see that the food you eat is fabulous, right from the process of buying to the final serving stage. And imagine one has to do this for numerous dishes on a menu with different cooking techniques, styles and ingredients.

So please next time you lovely food critics are out there destroying or praising a dish, appreciate everything from the level of difficulty of making the dish, cooking techniques, styles, presentation, taste, texture, quality of produce. And then I’m willing to hear your meaningful and wise comments.

To end on a practical note, get into that kitchen and make a perfect boiled egg. See if you get it right. No excuses.. three minutes for quarter boiled ( yellow watery and white firming), five minutes for half (slightly firming yellow and white firm) and 10 minutes for full boiled (yellow firm, white firm). It’s like doing the do re me.. in piano.

First Published: Apr 21, 2007 16:11 IST