Where do we locate the genesis of culinary ideas, and what aspects of cooking should be attributed along the way? In an insightful piece for Eater National, Gabe Ulla outlines the main arguments within a murky realm where every point has a counter-point.
Chefs like David Chang and Jose Andrés believe in the importance of honoring the source of one’s inspiration, at least with an acknowledgement. It’s unfair not to do so when you’ve benefited from someone else’s creativity, they say.
Wylie Dufresne takes a milder tack. Age has inspired the chef-owner of wd~50 to consider “how fascinating and arbitrary it is that we decided at some point that we didn’t need to credit many of the things developed in the past.” He does stand firm in believing it’s up to journalists to keep idea theft in check.
Similarly to Chang and Andrés, New York chef Alex Rajj underlines the need to be “reverential and referential, and connect it to the landscape.” Meanwhile, Dirty Candy chef-owner Amanda Cohen sees the overlap of ideas as less “culinary plagiarism” than a part of “a conversation that chefs are having with each other.”
For chefs like Christian Puglisi (who worked under René Redzepi) and David Toutain (who learned from contemporary French legends), it is difficult to overcome automatic assumptions that their style will just be a reflection of their mentors. To avoid appearing derivative, Puglisi has taken a near 180-degree turn away from Redzepi’s use of wild herbs and foraged ingredients.
Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine, views this as a matter of professional ethics; meanwhile, bartender Jim Meehan points to cocktail books as a good model for attribution. Most cocktail guides come with comprehensive bibliographies—something that is more rare cookbooks.
One of the problems is that recipes do not receive the same institutional regard as other creative works; as Myhrvold points out, “copyright laws don’t extend to ingredient lists or the making of dishes.”
It’s not all accusations and Twitter beefs, though. Chefs like Chang and Marco Pierre White are attributing their sources right on the menus. And even if the industry hasn’t yet caught up on the protection of intellectual property rights, Eater believes that giving chefs proper credit is a good starting point.
Now, if only someone could tell us the true lineage of Cajun Chicken Pasta…
[via Eater National]