As chefs I think we’re always looking for great ingredients and dishes. When chefs and cooks get together, there’s often the talk about the best this or that. I’ve seen these casual conversations turn loud quickly. I think there are quality products and there are inferior products, though there’s still never a unanimous opinion. Does McDonalds make a quality hamburger? In my opinion, not anymore. I’m sure most chefs would agree. But they also sell billions of burgers a year, so they obviously have fans.
Over the past week I did a few different comparisons between both ingredients and items I prepared. While in Philadelphia last week I picked up some bacon from Di Bruno Bros. I brough back a pound of Benton’s bacon and a half pound of Edward’s bacon. Because my wife and I don’t need to be eating a pound and a half of bacon, I brought some to work to share the bounty. Both of them cooked up nicely. The Edward’s had more chew to it, while both the meat and fat of the Benton’s was crispy. When we started eating them side by side, the conversation turned to “which one do you like better”? Of course there was no clear winner. Both of them are amazing. People preferred one over the other because of the texture or the level of smoke. Also, what is the intended use? Where one would be better in a cooked dish, the other might be better on a salad.
I found the same to be true while testing cupcake recipes. The one that I liked better was the one my wife always made at home. It is very moist and leaves your fingers sticky. It was popular with most, but some of my cooks thought it seemed undercooked, and preferred the one that was more cake-like.
Instead of talking in terms of best, I’m trying to get my cooks to be more specific about why they like or dislike something. I’d rather discuss both the similar and different charachteristics of ingredients and dishes. Sure, you may have a favorite and that’s ok. I find that my tastes change or sometimes I’m just craving something different. It’s also important to strive to be the best. It’s what keeps us going every day.