Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question. Form
researching your question I?ve concluded that the three most important
concepts successful chefs must be capable of understanding are:
Education, observation and innovation.
Chefs are far from being merely ?cooks? as they might seem to some.
They are essentially scientists whose laboratory happens to be the
kitchen. They must fully comprehend the blending and interaction of
ingredients down to the microscopic compounds in the foods they
create. A good analogy is an orchestra leader, who has not only
mastered the intricacies of each and every instrument in his ensemble
and can, by ear, pick out the ill placed tones throughout a
complicated piece of work, but can also recognize the flawless
marriage of perfection when it presents itself.
An accomplished chef is a brilliant connoisseur with an uncompromising
obsession for perfection on an unending quest for cutting edge tastes,
unparalleled dining experiences and unique presentation. This forms
the drive for his or her desire for their professional education.
Without the knowledge one cannot be competitive in this field. Like
music and science, culinary prowess is measured as an art; some
artists are masters and geniuses in their field while others are
mediocre hobbyists. Education is the catalyst that defines the skill
of the ?artist? and separates him or her from the mere ?painter?.
While a ?painter? seeks an opportunity, a true ?artist? is on a
never-ending search for a meaningful subject that goes much deeper
than the finished product itself.
Few world-renowned chefs work independently. Contrary to what many
people might think even the greatest minds in this industry rely in
part on what they?ve seen and experienced in the kitchens and dining
rooms of others in their respective fields. New dishes are often a
combination of the known and the unknown ? trial and error on an
enormous scale. It is not uncommon for a chef to work on a dish for
months or even years in order to find the right blend of ingredients
and aesthetic appeal before offering the dish to the public. Even
technique is modified, sometimes down to the number of beats on an egg
yolk or the precise temperature of the mixing bowl.
Observation plays a very important role in the creation of new dishes.
Chefs around the world occasionally confer and share information thus
spawning new concepts or breaking down barriers encountered by others
before them. Like a linguist trying to solve a long misunderstood code
they constantly work to solve the mysteries that the infinite number
of ingredients and combinations of them poses. Through observation
they gain insight into what has already been attempted versus what has
yet to be attempted.
Inspiration is key to developing new dishes in the culinary industry.
Through observation a keen chef embraces new techniques, ingredients
and subjects for his canvas, the plate. In order to embrace these
designs a chef must first experience them himself. Often he must leave
his kitchen and strive to think outside the confines of his own
boundaries by collecting knowledge from other schools of thought.
Occasionally, especially on a large scale, this requires a great deal
of commitment, research and financing. International symposiums where
the greatest minds gather are common in this industry and through a
cooperative sharing of knowledge inspiration is refueled and new,
highly competitive crusades are born.
Without education and observation, innovation would be as meaningless
to a chef as space travel would be to an ant that lives at NASA.
Education and observation supply the necessary tools that a chef needs
to spark his curiosity and feed his innovation. John Wood, executive
chef at the Burj Al Arab in the United Arab Emirates, for example,
employs an army of 151 chefs to carry out his instruction and
experiment with various designs and culinary concepts.
This is innovative indeed and is an unprecedented attempt to get more
new dishes to the table in one year (5000 annually) than most chefs
produce in a lifetime. It is this type of approach that provides
others, who might not have these kinds of resources available to them,
an opportunity to consider new discoveries rather than rely solely
upon new thoughts about old ideas.
Simply put, new dishes are traditionally judged at the cash register.
First tried in the furnace ? literally, in the kitchens of educated
and innovative chefs around the world ? the end consumer defines the
success or failure of a new dish. As a paying participant the consumer
is the final ?judge?. The end consumer is unforgiving and their
decision is always final. They either like the dish, thereby
increasing demand for it, or they brutally reject it without regard to
the science or effort behind it. Some chefs like to ?showcase? their
work on a limited scale prior to wide-scale public offering,
occasionally in upscale restaurants where their consumers are not only
capable of ?judging? the dish but they have a sophisticated tastes
that supports their highly sought after feedback. Likewise reputable
publications often judge aspects of the dish that go well beyond taste
and experience such as presentation, compliment, and price.
The success or failure of a dish varies with the type of dish, the
type of consumer and the regional, traditional and customary trends of
the consumers locally and at large. Fruit and vegan concepts for
example are not necessarily as popular in some regions as they are in
others while savory meats, sauces and pastas tend to be relatively
universal. Breads, seafood, desserts and candies are often seasonal so
the timing of a particular dish?s debut is as commercially
instrumental as the science and research behind it. The end consumer
is a fickle appraiser and economics plays no small role in their
The market is always an unpredictable obstacle an it is not unheard of
for old concepts to be revived in a time better suited for their
presentation. Soybean and tofu are two products that some to mind. In
the 1970?s these foods were viewed by some as cultural ?fads? that
lacked a great deal of potential. However, in the years since, many
creative ideas have been experimented with to warrant a revived
interest in them, particularly among the health conscious. Foods like
these that were rejected outright based simply upon what they are (or
are not) are now being given a second look.
With the advent of ?Food TV? and other media phenomenon exposure is
partly responsible for some consumerism. People who might never have
experienced dishes containing foie gras, kale or roe now know what
these things are. Because the average consumer is now much more
sophisticated that their parents were, it is not uncommon to see
households incorporate fondue or flaming desserts into their domestic
dining experience. In short, today?s consumer is more educated and so
the chef is under much more scrutiny than ever before. The consumer is
a brave and daring new customer than ever before and he is not nearly
as uneducated or closed minded where cultural crossing of the culinary
boundaries are concerned.
Add to this availability. Today a consumer can buy quality dishes at
their local supermarket that were not only unavailable just a few
years ago, but they are also now well within a reasonably priced
reach. Within a few minutes drive most people can acquire foods that
their grandparents never had an opportunity to taste in their entire
lives. Again, contrary to popular belief perhaps, mass marketing is
not the mark of a successful product, rather it is in this electronic
age, every purchase and every selection of every product is a survey
in it?s own right. The production and distribution of a product is one
of the final experiments in a long line of experimentation whether
this takes place on a small scale at the restaurant table or on a
massive scale in supermarkets. How fast products fly out of the
kitchen or from store shelves or whether or not sales plummets is a
participatory experiment in which the public subliminally votes for
the selections that please them most. These votes are tallied by the
cash registered and are measured in terms of dollar as well as volume.
Some of the ?newest? dishes are as numerous as the imagination can
conceive. East Indian cuisine is becoming more popular as are dishes
from the Middle East. This, in part due possibly to increased travel
and attention to the cultures in these areas, results in even more
exotic combinations, ingredients and innovations. New variations of
Southern US cuisines such as Cajun-style and Tex-Mex seem to be making
a comeback as well in the form of blended and traditional dishes.
Florida and the Islands of the Caribbean have always been the hub of
exotic cuisine and it remains so today. Chinese food has always been
the frontrunner of expanded dining concepts and variations of dishes
both old and new remain a proving ground for fine dining. On the whole
the industry is fluid and international happenings such as wars,
economies and politics plays no small a role in how diets evolve and
how exposure opportunities present themselves.
I hope you find that my answer exceeds your expectations. If you have
any questions about my research please post a clarification request
prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating and your
final comments and I look forward to working with you again in the
near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher
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Clarification of Answer by
25 Oct 2005 11:21 PDT
In the commercial world the introduction of new products is often a
decision made at the team level. Wegmans, for example, uses category
merchants whose sole responsibility it to juggle some 2000 new
products each year onto and off of the shelves based on sales.
In other arenas great care is given to impress the publication trade.
The marketability of a product is judged by various publications and
journals and their opinions are taken almost as gospel. In the view of
many this collective opinion is equivalent to a microcosm of the
public opinion as a whole.
?Approximately 10,000 new processed-food products are introduced every
year in the United States. Almost all of them require flavor
additives. And about nine out of ten of these products fail. The
latest flavor innovations and corporate realignments are heralded in
publications such as Chemical Market Reporter, Food Chemical News,
Food Engineering, and Food Product Design. The progress of IFF has
mirrored that of the flavor industry as a whole.?
It seems then that some reputable backing is necessary for a dish to
come a successful item on the market. The goal is to satisfy those who
have the wherewithal to publish the new creation and then generate
some interest in it among both chefs and consumers. A number of player
are involved from start to finish long before the dish makes it to the
publications. Product developers, food technologists and research
chefs assist with product development from the concept stage to the
supermarket shelf or the restaurant tables. There are many complicated
processes that this culinary technical team is involved in as product
refinement/reformulation including ingredient research, cost
parameters, process evaluation, etc.
On a corporate level these teams might include specialists with such
titles as Director of Promotions, Product Development Innovation and
Process Coordinator, or (get this) ?Opportunity Thinker?
A good book on the subject might be FOOD PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT by Mary
Earle and Richard Earle ISBN 1 85573 468 0:
Key features of Food Product Development:
--Provides comprehensive coverage of the complete product development process
--Includes a range of international case studies from various sectors
of the food industry
--Written by a distinguished international panel of experts
--Invaluable for all food professionals concerned with product development
?The first half of the book examines the four core elements of product
the business strategy directing product development; the various steps
in the product development process; the knowledge required to fuel the
process; the need for keeping the product development focused on the
consumers needs and aspirations.
The second part of the book looks at managing the product development
process in practice with four case studies of successful product
launches. It also discusses how to evaluate and improve the process to
make future product innovation more successful?
You might also be interested in reading publications from THE
INSTITUTE OF FOOD TECHNOLOGISTS: http://www.ift.org/cms/
You may find other useful information in this directory:
?PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND PROMOTION?