It is a recognised fact that when a restaurant becomes too popular, the chef is worked-off his or her feet trying to keep all those tables supplied with appetising, nutritious food. Increasing the prices may offer a temporary relief from the over-popularity of the eating-place, or it may instead create an atmosphere of quality and exclusiveness, thereby increasing custom further still. What is in fact needed is a way to reduce the number of customers to manageable proportions, but without resorting to such unpopular or illegal measures as salmonella or e-coli. A switch from food to nouvelle cuisine provides the ideal answer in such circumstances.
No one single characteristic describes Nouvelle Cuisine. Rather, a combination of known attributes, when seen together, determine the style to exist.
- Oversized plate: Nouvelle Cuisine dishes are invariably served on a plate at least three times the diameter required to hold the meal itself. Sometimes, the plate is so large that places must be double-spaced. The very large size of plate allows adequate free space, unencumbered with food, for the chef to demonstrate his or her artistic talent. It is also important that the plate be cold, preferably having been deep-frozen until a few minutes before serving. This coldness ensures that the customer has to eat-up quickly, thus freeing the table sooner.
- Dusty eating-surfaces: The plate, and any other surfaces carrying food shall be sufficiently dusty to create the impression of a possible hygiene concern. If plates do not remain unused long enough for natural dust to build-up, then this may be substituted with flour, or in fact with any powdery material typically found in a kitchen.
- Artwork: All plates shall display 'modern' artwork. This is best achieved by way of suspending a ketchup bottle, nozzle-down, over a food-preparation table. The table having been loaded with plates, the ketchup-bottle is uncorked and set swinging in random arcs. Additional colors may be provided by way of multiple suspended bottles, for example tabasco, HP sauce, vindaloo, gravy, mustard.. the possibilities for creativity are endless. This preparation of the plates is not something to be hurried; if a burning smell or smoke comes from the oven whilst the all-important plate artwork is in progress, just ignore it.
- Microscopic portions: A prime requirement is that sufficient exposed area be left on the plate for the chef to demonstrate his or her artistic talent. Thus, food portions must be kept relatively small in volume. The large size of the plate helps in making the portion look even more measly and stingy than it actually is, fostering the impression that this restaurant is very poor value for money. It is in any case the prime objective of Nouvelle Cuisine to ensure that every diner goes home and makes a sandwich immediately afterwards. The customer must be provided with only the very tiniest amount of sustenance, and at astronomic cost.
- Stacked ingredients: As opposed to the conventional lateral arrangement of food items, all of the items making-up the meal are piled on-top of each other, in a Jenga-esque teetering stack. This has a number of benefits, not least of which is that it makes the portion look even smaller still. It also allows the chef to hide items which didn't turn out too well underneath those that look OK.
- Freshness: All Nouvelle Cuisine dishes must be kept as 'fresh' as possible. This dictates that no food-item shall be subjected to temperatures in excess of 40°C for a time exceeding 20 seconds during its preparation, and so because this makes the cutting of food more difficult than usual, it is customary to provide an angle-grinder in addition to the standard cutlery.
- Side dishes are OUT: In traditional cuisine it is standard practice to provide a selection of vegetables or fries along with the main item. With Nouvelle Cuisine, side-dishes simply cannot be allowed as the customer might, in transferring these to the plate, destroy the symmetry and balance of the chef's artwork. Instead, customers will need to get used to consuming a portion of meat or fish on its own. As a palliative, some chefs may place two very small fries or vegetable items symmetrically either side of the meat.
- Sweets: Here the Nouvelle Cuisine Artist gets to have a field-day. Dishes whose name sounds mouthwateringly indulgent, for example double-cream chocolate cake, in fact transpire to be a passable imitation of a spaceperson's lunch-pill in a tiny pill-box, on the obligatory massive plate, with 0.01cc of cream spread uniformly and thinly across the plate's surface, making it totally impossible to collect or apply to the food. Oh, and of course with the obligatory ketchup-art taken to new heights of expressionism.
The aspiring nouvelle cuisine chef will want to acquire skills such as that of throwing food at plates from a distance of several feet, to create an even more artistic result.
Beyond this, there are endless possibilities for the application of modern technology to Nouvelle Cuisine. We are all familiar with the use of tableside oxyacetylene to carbonize the exterior of your steak whilst leaving the interior raw -whilst also setting-fire to your napkin, and sometimes the building as well- although this is becoming somewhat passé.
Vaccuum-cooking has become an established feature of the nouvelle cuisine chef's repertoire. In this, food is first heated in a conventional pan until sizzling, at which point the vacuum hose is placed close above the pan so as to create a localized reduction in air pressure, lifting the food away from the pan surface. A DC-15 is the preferred vacuum-apparatus for this process owing to its strong, reliable suction. Plus, the entertaining way in which the food races round and round inside the transparent collector, gathering a coating of fluff, cat-hairs, and cigarette-ends is an endless source of fascination to culinary-minded onlookers. This same spectacular effect is not achieved with models which simply deposit the food into a collector-bag.
A more adventurous application of hi-tech, gaining in popularity with Nouvelle Cuisine chefs, is the LHe marinade. In this, food is first rapidly cooled in liquid nitrogen to about -190C, and then transferred to a double-walled Dewar flask containing liquid helium II, at a temperature of around three degrees above absolute zero. After several hours, when about to be served, the food is then subjected to magnetic-spin reversal treatments which further reduce its temperature to around 0.02 Kelvin.
The LHe 'cooking' process has several advantages over traditional methods of food preparation. Firstly, whilst heating tends to soften food excessively, supercooling greatly increases its toughness and rigidity. This makes it far more difficult for diners to interfere-with the chef's painstaking artwork. Secondly, the fact that supercooled food will instantly freeze-to any damp surface with which with which it comes-into contact makes it far easier to create that 'stacked-up' look in the centre of the plate, and without any risk of the food-stack toppling whilst being carried to the table. Thirdly, any diners who naughtily use their fingers instead of cutlery will suffer a nasty dose of frostbite. You betcha they won't do that again in a hurry!
Dieticians have expressed some concerns over possible health-effects of excessive or frequent Nouvelle Cuisine meals. The effects they claim can include:
- Extreme pallor of skin, possibly accompanied by a greenish tinge to the complexion.
- Feelings of hunger so extreme that the sufferer may resort to gnawing-at the legs of tables, gnawing-on any other persons in the vicinity, or even the consumption of their own clothes in an attempt to gain some kind of material sustenance.
- The atrophy of connective tissue due to malnutrition may in some cases result in extremities such as the head or hand falling-off and having to be surgically re-attached.
Highly effective. Restaurants which have switched to Nouvelle Cuisine no longer suffer from overcrowding or excess patronage.