To those of us who come from the world of journalism, the phrase that titles this article sounds like one of the maxims we learned in college, that of Marshall McLuhan, an influential scholar of the world of the media, who proclaimed “the medium is the message ». One of those semiotic approaches to make us think about where our place was going to be in that world of ink and telephoto lenses to which we were going to belong and which, by the way, then nothing seemed to have to do with this ours of cups and spoons. However, when I recently heard Ricard Camarena affirm “We are not the end, we are the means”, all of MacLuhan’s things came to mind: making people think, looking at reality in a different way, seeing themselves from the outside in order to have a new idea and certain of things.
The truth is that since we finished those studies, more than thirty years ago – yes, I also have that feeling that time passes before our eyes and disappears like bubbles in a glass of champagne, without realizing it – the relationship of the world of gastronomy with the media, first, and with large audiences later, through the different stages of the digital revolution, has changed greatly. They are now more connected than ever. In fact, the current situation of world cuisine could not be understood without this close relationship, of almost dependence, I would say, whose main fruit has been the rise of cooks to those few social groups with public notoriety, in some cases in the style of the artists of other times, and the creation of a layer above the reality of the trade, a kind of metagastronomy that speaks of an infinitesimal group of those who dedicate themselves to the trade and presents them as great creators, wizards of the edible, successful, skilled businessmen or ‘celebrities’ who live in a para-reality or global gastronomy scene, for the first time in history.
And that’s where we are when Ricard Camarena’s phrase arrived with which we started the lines above: “We are not the end, we are the means.”
For what you think
I have been saying for a long time that Camarena is one of the most important chefs of his generation. It is because of what he cooks, of course, but also and perhaps first, because of what he thinks and how he then converts all that potential energy into kinetics. All of this has become a pioneering and liberating proposal, away from the well-known paths and passionate about playing off-piste. Although many people are afraid to say the word again, I would dare to say a new culinary avant-garde, very different from that of Ferraniana, –to be able to be a vanguard, it must be essentially different from the one that precedes it–, but avant-garde in the end and after all, because it provides its own and new, alternative, solid and coherent theoretical approaches, a review of the role that each product plays in a kitchen and suggests a new format of representation of the act of eating and of the characters that intervene in that theater-restaurant .
Camarena has clearly expressed something that many other colleagues are also beginning to do and that beats strongly from the bottom of the culinary water tables and that represents a revolution on the established: change roles, renounce the purple robe, get off the stage and sit down again to look at the eyes of the clients from the same height, without high or low points, share with the rest of the links in the chain –farmers, fishermen, producers– the recognition –and therefore the money– that in these The last few decades had shifted to the last of them: the cooks.
Reconnection with the earth
The other novel idea that he contributes, after a decade working relentlessly in the reconnection with the land and with the farmers – the relationship with Toni Misiano is well known, possibly one of the most famous of his trade thanks to the visibility that has him offered Camarena– is a 180º change on the original thought with which he arrived at the orchard. At that time, from the position of chef-author, the approach was something like: What can nature do for me, what unique and exclusive product can it provide?, While now the approach is the opposite: what can I do? to help nature. How can I use my knowledge and my public recognition to value all that production that is wasted or not valued? How can I add value and interest to an artichoke root instead of having the smallest artichoke in the world?
From this perspective, the kitchen is magnified, becomes useful and is revalued as a discipline worthy of occupying a prominent space among the most necessary, the transforming ones. She reconnects with society facing the opposite path from which she is tempted with colors and beads: the call of the show, of frivolity, of ‘show business’, you know.