Marcella Hazan, the well-known food writer, has some wise words about "chefs" in her op-ed column yesterday in The New York Times.

The word "chef," she observes, has come to replace "gourmet cook" in the minds of foodies and others, blurring its meaning as a job title for a professional who runs a kitchen's "brigade" but may or may not actually cook.

It's a relevant column in part at least because in recent years, chefs have gained more stature than ever before and also have become the objects of more 'hype' than perhaps ever in the history of cooking.

That's not to diminish the role of the professional chef in any way. In fact, it may say more about foodies and the general public than anything else.

But Hazan's point is well taken that "what matters about food is what happens when we put it into our mouths."

A competent home cook, she observes, can achieve the same results as the well-trained chef at "turning that first bite into a blissful moment."

The food prepared at home, she points out, can be "a solid center for our lives," bringing families together, creating connection," and offering a very personal experience that can transcend "the clamor" of dining out or "facelessness" of takeout.

"What experience of food," she asks, "can compare with eating something good made by someone you can hug?"

There's undoubtedly a lesson in all of this about what chefs and cooks might do to merit "hugs" from their customers. Food prepared with love does not have to come out of only home kitchens!

When professionals give of themselves, the results are also better, and provide more compelling reasons for customers to return again and again. Maybe a sub-slogan of "A Fine Time to Dine" could be "Hug a Chef Today!"

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Tags: Hazan, Holaday, Marcella, Susan, chefs, cooking, cooks


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Comment by Paul Paz on November 30, 2008 at 8:43pm
When I was very young we ate fried-mush (oatmeal) with a touch of Karo-syrup for dinner a few times.

Nothing to do with comfort food... it just fit the family budget.

Still makes me uncomfortable thinking about it and I have no desire to relive it.

It's all about marketing.


Comment by John McGrath on November 30, 2008 at 2:27pm
I believe the humbleness of the accomplished home cook is often as capable and caring as the professional Chefs albeit without the education and mentoring which comes with it. Many of our mother's are just such "chefs".

In todays economic climate, just such individual are going to reach back to those "comfort foods to we were all once very familiar, as Alfredo points out. I for one certainly look forward to this.

The times are dictating to us what will be our most frequent fare.
Comment by susan holaday on November 30, 2008 at 10:42am
You're right - an in this economy, a lot more foods that were commonplace and popular because they were cheap will, I suspect, attain a new level of recognition- briskets and other lower-priced cuts of all kinds of meat, stews, etc. that are slow cooked and flavorful.
Comment by Alfredo Nasti Jr on November 30, 2008 at 10:33am
Interesting column, all the food I grew up with is now considered gourmet. Thats funny considering this is what we ate because thats all we could afford. Risotto, macaroni and peas, potatoes, pasta marachiata is what we called shrimp sauce - latte and caffe was expresso with hot milk todays time is called Starbucks but who knew. The list goes on and on. Ciao and enjoy.




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