- Michael Chiarello - http://michaelchiarello.com -

Food & Relationship

Posted By mchiarello On November 16, 2011 @ 9:54 pm In Commentary,Food | 3 Comments

Last week, a young chef and I were talking about a technique. The chef went to a computer, watched a YouTube video, then modified that technique later that day. This has me thinking about how a chef’s learning process has changed in the past two decades. When I was a young chef and I wanted to learn a new technique, I had to find somebody who knew how to do what I wanted to learn. I had to track them down, give them a call, and establish a relationship before I could ask them to teach me a method. This took a lot more time than an internet search, but I ended up with much more than just a technique.

The time I got to spend with Lidia Bastianich, learning her techniques for prosciutto, is a perfect example of how the old-school ways have some great fringe benefits. At 24 years old, I was opening Tra Vigne and I wanted to learn more than the one or two methods for meat-curing that I had picked up from my grandmother. My friend and mentor, Daryl Corti, suggested I contact Lidia, whose restaurant Felidia in New York City was known for house-cured meats. I reached out to Lidia and she talked me through the process, first over the phone, and later face to face when I visited Felidia. Lidia shared with me a mimeograph of her prosciutto method and she continued to make herself available to me for all of my questions as I learned to master her techniques.

Through my friendship with Lidia, Tra Vigne became known for its house-cured prosciutto and salumi. Lidia and her family have become lifelong friends; the techniques she taught me have enriched my entire career.

Hundreds of prosciutto later, I’ve shared what I’ve learned with dozens of young chefs who, I hope, will mention me as they teach the young chefs they’ll mentor down the road. Lidia’s generosity to one young chef has been passed along through three generations. Can watching a YouTube video offer the same rewards?

The internet is an amazing place for any chef to expand their knowledge but I’m not convinced that it’s the best way to learn a new technique. When I talk to young chefs about the difference between taste and flavor, I think of Lidia, and how her care and friendship flavor the prosciutto I make, even twenty years later.

What do you think? Has the internet and the ease of finding recipes and techniques online in some ways made it more difficult for young chefs?

-Michael


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