Is cooking art?

Is cooking the oldest form of art? Berlin’s star chefs tell how they live out their creativity in the kitchen.

Picasso was known for his dinner parties, Guadalupe Rivera published the Mexican recipes of her stepmother Frida Kahlo, and Salvador Dalí published a surrealist artist’s cookbook in 1973. But art itself can also inspire cooking. From pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s “Cherry Pie” to Way Thiedbaud’s painting “Food Bowls” to John F. Francis’ 19th century still life “Strawberries and Cake,” food continues to be a popular subject.

The Austrian artist Peter Kubleka, who teaches a class at the Städelschule in Frankfurt called the “Class for Film and Cooking as Art Genres” brought the connection between art and cooking to a philosophical level and argues – supported by cultural studies – that cooking is art. But how do those whose daily job is cooking see it – and whose dishes are far more sophisticated than quickly prepared pasta with tomato sauce?

Taste balance
Cooking has artistic aspects, but the craft behind it also plays a significant role, finds Eberhard Lange. He has served as the head chef at Hugo’s restaurant within the InterContinental Berlin since 2015, and he proudly upholds the Michelin star that this renowned establishment has held since 1999. For him, too, the aesthetics on the plate play an important role in the process of cooking. “It starts with choosing the right tableware: round shapes go well with a square plate, and dark dishes in light colors,” he says.

Almost too good to eat
He attaches particular importance to making the food look delicate. To make sure everything lands in the right place and looks beautiful, tweezers and brushes are sometimes used. “The eye eats with you, but that’s not the only thing that counts,” he says. There’s more to attractively presented dishes than just the look. Where a product is placed on the plate determines the order and composition in which a guest eats it – and thus also that he gets the desired taste experience.
“I have often heard from guests that they don’t dare eat something because it looks so nice,” says Eberhard Lange. “In the end, it’s eaten in a few minutes, even if you’ve worked for hours, days or even weeks to make it.” Eberhard Lange finds a special beauty in this process and perhaps this is precisely where an important level of artistic cooking lies: the volatility, the cycle.
Especially in starred cuisine, all dishes must be prepared accurately and finished at the right time. This time pressure in the kitchen is something that free spirits have to be,” he says. Still, he finds, “An individual will never cook something completely new, if only because the products exist in their own right.”

Overall composition restaurant visit
Making a restaurant visit a choreographed experience from start to finish includes service, Lange says. According to different specifications the service staff behaves according to the style of the restaurant. Almost like a performance. “There are restaurants where the waiters are extra cheeky, others who make make decisions for the guest and then again very classically polite forms,” he says.
Standing at the stove is not art for either Eberhard Lange or René Frank. If creative ideas behind the dishes, the ambience, the look and the taste all fit together and taste go together to create a coherent overall experience, then Lange says: “Cooking is art. But only those who have mastered the craft can achieve that in the kitchen. achieve that in the kitchen. “You can be as creative as you want, if you don’t bring it to the plate, nothing is gained.”

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Written by: Maja Goertz | Res Publica Verlags GmbH