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If there were Nobel Prizes for Cooking, who would you nominate?

I could think of sooo many people who deserve it: Alice Waters, Julia Child, James Beard, Fanny Farmer, Betsy Crocker. Mario, Lydia, Irma Rombauer--- or my grandmother (an emotional choice, I admit)...so many names for so many different reasons. Not to mention the nameless folks who invented classics. Who would be your candidate, and why?

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  1. Maybe premature ... but ... Jeremy Fox of Ubuntu restaurant in Napa. I believe he will change the way we think of vegetables the same way that Alice Waters changed the way we dined in American.

    Fox's food just doesn't use meat or fish. But you also don't see those dreaded words like tofu, brown rice, etc on the menu. The NY Times summed it up best ...

    "It’s also proof that you can do away with all flesh and hold onto hedonism, at least if you keep enough butter, cream, cheese and wine at hand. Ubuntu is where virtue meets naughty sensuality. It’s the Angelina Jolie of restaurants."

    Even Debrah Madson doesn't have this take on vegetables. No where else I've eaten ... no other vegetarian dish I've seen in a cookbook ... made me literally forget I was eating vegetarian food ... or food without flesh. Delicious as these dishes might have been, I was always acutely aware they were vegetarian and sometihing was ... lacking. Not at Ubuntu. I'd pick this over any meat-serving restaurant anywhere.

    I think your first three definately because they shaped the way we aite and shifted the paradigm.

    Mario Batali and the rest ... why? Outside of NY I don't see Batali's influence. Good food, yes. Impact on a greater area ... don't think so.

    Adrian Ferrar of El Buli definately. He also has a new way of thinking about food and has (for good or bad) influenced a huge section of the restaurant industry.

    8 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      I don't see the point of vegetarian food that uses lots of butter, cream, and cheese. It might taste great, but it's no healthier than a meat-based diet, and still sadly exploits farm animals.

      1. re: pikawicca

        Enough ... not lots ... enough.

        No dishes drowned in butter and cream sauces. The vegetables are the focus and the rest is used in small quantities to enhance them.

        It is not a vegan restaurant, so that is not the issue. They will make any dish vegan though.

        Suppliers are local and the cheese is from organic farms that I've passed by where you can see the animals in the fields.

        Some of the produce is from their own biodynamic garden.

        The site says "Ubuntu, briefly stated, is "humanity toward others", which is the basis of this community-focused restaurant"

        That includes humanity to the source of the food ... be it from the earth or animals.

        You can even do yoga in their studio ... to work off that dab of cheese.

        Remember the word 'virtue' in that quote.

        And all of this sounds like a big eye-rolling yawn ... but it is not. I repeat ... it is some of the best food I have eaten ... ever.

        I went there very skeptical and left amazed.

        This is a different concept in the way of looking at food. Here is the link to the Place record which has their website that discusses what tis is about.

        As I said, it is different from anything I've tried before. If you haven't been there, it is impossible to make assumptions ... and it would be very unfair to a restaurant that is trying to do the right thing ... and do it deliciously.

      2. re: rworange

        I think Batali's influence has been enormous on two fronts: 1) "variety" cuts and 2) house-cured salumi. Five years ago, Babbo was the only restaurant I knew of that regularly served beef cheek and lamb tongue, and Otto and Lupa were the only restaurants I knew of that served lardo. In the past year, I've seen all three in multiple restaurants in the Bay Area and LA. I find it really interesting that of all the unusual cuts of all the animals available, the ones that seem to be especially popular are the two that have been on the Babbo menu every day forever. It is harder to definitively attribute the use of a cut of meat to a single chef than it is to trace a signature dish (e.g. Nobu's miso-marinated cod, or Bocuse's potato-encrusted fish), but I find the chronology convincing enough to credit Batali with the popularization of these cuts (and of offal in general). Lupa was the first restaurant I ever went to that had house-cured salumi (in 1999), and definitely the first place I ever saw lardo. In fact, up until last year, the only restaurants I'd been to that featured lardo were all Batali restaurants. Other people were probably doing salumi at the same time, but Batali is such a public figure, I'd have a hard time believing that he wasn't a major influence in the popularization of house-curing.

        1. re: daveena

          I would have to concur 100%.

          Batali made offal eating sexy and mainstream. The tripe dish at Babbo and oxtail salad at Lupa became instant classics. I'll also credit him with the lambs tongue salad with poached egg adding as much emphasis to that poached egg, the aforementioned beef cheek craze, and calves brain ravioli. He preached al dente pasta recommending that you undercook the pasta and finish in the sauce. He also preached lightly saucing/dressing the pasta and started the movement away from pasta drenching.

          I also concur that the house cured salumi at Lupa came years before the current west coast house cured salumi craze. I'll also add olive oil gelato to the "first in a Batali restaurant".

          His bold move to make Del Posto into the first 4* NYT restaurant seems to be his only relative "failure". But you still have to admire the effort and his love for Italian cuisine.

          It'll be interesting to watch how the house cured salumi trend evolves in LA now that the Mozzas are in town.

          1. re: Porthos

            These are great points, daveena and porthos. I'd also like to add the fact that Batali's early shows on FN were really among the first on US television to teach the public on what "Italian food" really is. The history, cultural significance, and goal of a specific dish all played a part in how he presented it. He taught much of the public on what "authenticity" meant when it came to the seasonality and locality of Italian ingredients.

            1. re: Porthos

              "I'll also credit him with the lambs tongue salad with poached egg adding as much emphasis to that poached egg," Porthos

              In context, you seem to imply that the above mentioned salad is made with the tongue of a lamb, but "lambs tongue" is a type of lettuce. Am I totally misreading you? If so, my apologies!

              As a sidebar, the interesting thing about offal is that up through about the 1960s, it was the food of the very poor and the very rich. Primarily served in the home, and that raises a question of whether it appeared at hunt breakfasts and such as a result of the kitchen staff being familiar with it. Nevertheless, sweetbreads, brain croquets, kidneys, and tripe were all familiar to the very poor, the very rich, and appeared regularly on luxe restaurant menus.

              I think Batalli is a great chef, but I also think he was very smart in staging something of an American comeback for these foods.

              1. re: Caroline1

                Caroline - it's a dish with the tongues of actual lambs! Not mache ;-).

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Thanks, Ruth. You can tell I don't live where it's possible to frequent Batalli restaurants!

            1. re: Ellen

              I think it was a question in reference to the OP, admittedly I have the same one.

              1. re: Ellen

                betty crocker was not a real person.

            2. Jiulia Child, Paul Bocuse, Jacques Pepin, Two Fat Ladies, Jamie Oliver.

              13 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Jamie Oliver, really? He's fine but nothing special, IMO. Why would you nominate JO, Sam?

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  Because any Nobel nomination within the few categories considers impacts on society as a whole. The committee is not bound to the criteria held dear within any particular group

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    sam, what is jamie olivers' impact on society as a whole?

                    1. re: alkapal

                      He's gotten more people interested and taking pride in home cooking good food in the UK--a place where people think that their food is great--even though he is not a chef of the Julia Child or Paul Bocuse level.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        He's also having a huge impact on school lunches in Great Britain. Lots of children are receiving more nutritious meals and are becoming more informed about proper food choices as a direct result of his committment to this project.

                        And he's kinda cute. JK!

                        1. re: Catskillgirl

                          Yes, I mentioned his work with school lunches in another reply below.

                          And doesn't have a posh accent!!

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            yeah, but his working class accent is fake. he's solid middle class. for some reason, that seems to be the latest craze, whether you're a singer (amy winehouse) or anyone else in the limelight... pretending to be lower class than you are.

                  1. re: monalisawoman

                    the two fat ladies were entertaining, but did they really have a profound change on cooking or food? same goes for jaime oliver.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      I find this to be a very interesting topic, but I suspect that there will be little to no consensus, as there were no specific criteria set out by the OP. Maybe that was howboy's point? I'm not sure.
                      FWIW, though, I did list the criteria that I used below, in my response to ML8000. What do you think?

                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Two fat ladies and Jamie Oliver in the same sentence as Julia Child? What's this world coming to? FoodTV has poisoned our minds.

                    1. re: PeterL

                      We don't get FN here.

                      Again, the Nobel committee often weighs factors having to do with social goods and do not necessarily follow only the insiders' disciplinary criteria.

                  3. I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record but I nominate Ms. Edna Lewis, author of "The Taste of County Cooking" et al and the "original" Alice Waters. Also Elizabeth David who almost single handedly elevated English cooking after WW ll. MFK Fisher as well.

                    1. For me you'd have to discuss criteria to get an answer. This wouldn't just mean quality and great food because there's lots of that (which is a good thing).

                      Instead it would have to go to someone who changed things for the better and in the long run. Julia, Alice and Jacques all seem like naturals...but I'm sure there's more. I'd also have to say there some be some longevity factor. Cooking can be trendy and with the boom in media and cooking, it's a little more difficult to distill down to greatness.

                      Any way, doesn't the James Beard Foundation already give out a lifetime achievement award? That seems like it would be pretty close to a Nobel...although only a US version. Imagine all the countries and cuisines...for a real international Nobel-like award, you'd have a lot to filter through.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ML8000

                        Right. Without knowing what the specific criteria used for each Nobel is, or how they weigh each criteria, I imagined that a prize in "cooking" (as per the OP) would depend not only upon raw talent, but also dedication to their craft, innovation, sphere and longevity of influence, and the measurable improvement of some major aspect of cooking, whether it be scientific, artistic, or philosophical.
                        Of course, no chef can or will be equally strong in all categories, but I felt that each of these categories was valuable enough to be included, and that together they painted the full picture of what it means to be a great cook on the international Nobel level.
                        Of course, the OP may have had something entirely different in mind, but since the criteria were not specifically defined, I took the liberty of deciding my own :)
                        This was a lot of fun, actually. The hard part was narrowing the list to a few of the most "deserving". I probably could have come up with 20 of them.

                      2. Dick and Mac McDonald (founders of McDonald's)

                        16 Replies
                          1. re: petradish

                            I wasn't joking.

                            Those guys revolutionized how food is eaten in America (and probably the world).

                            And for better or worse, they also completely changed the way how people perceive what good food is.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Right - but isn't a Nobel prize usually given out for some positive achievement. I indulge in McDonalds every once and awhile myself, but not sure that its founder would fit this requirement:

                              "The capital shall be invested by my executors in safe securities and shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                In all honesty, I do in fact think McDonald's has positively contributed the most to the culinary world. And, it's not even really close by my count.

                                It took what Henry Ford pioneered in car manufacturing to food service.

                                Without McDonald's, there is a good chance the entire concept of "chain" or "fast-food chains" might never exist.

                                Now, while you and I (and many others on this board) may look down at most chain restaurants (e.g. Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, Sonic, etc.), you've got to admit that for society as a whole, I think most people would consider the contributions, directly and indirectly, of McDonald's to be a positive.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  I don't look down on them - just generally don't eat at them b/c I think there is better chow to be found usually. What do you view as the positive contribution of chains? (And that is a genuine inquiry, not a snark of any kind.)

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Agree with MMRuth.... as a European, I have a hard time finding anything remotely positive about the philosophy, no, the mere existence of chain restaurants. But I am guessing that's simply a cultural difference in upbringing....

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      I think as a general matter, some of the positives include:

                                      1. Convenience
                                      2. Generally, low-cost meals
                                      3. Creating cost-effective ways to make uniform and consistent food

                                      While I am not a big fan of chains, or McDonald's generally (although I do love their Filet-O-Fish), I think a world without McDonald's would be a much worse place.

                                      And, let's not forget, the Nobel was once awarded for the frontal lobotomy ...

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        The world without McDonald's would have been a much better place. There is nothing Nobel (sic) about itl.

                                        1. It destroyed the family eating together
                                        2. It destroyed our health
                                        3. It destroyed small locally owned businesses

                                        You can eat a lot less expensively at the small local sandwich shop or taco stand or Chinese restaurant , etc than McDonalds. These days when I go to McDonald's I am shocked how costly it is in comparison.

                                        Yes they gave us a good place to find a clean bathroom on the road.

                                        They gave us reliable food that tasted the same no matter where in the world. McDonald's dumbed down the world.

                                        And this is from someone who likes McDonald's. I'm just aware of what it is. I have friends who are not all that Nobel either. I like them too.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          1. It destroyed the family eating together
                                          2. It destroyed our health
                                          3. It destroyed small locally owned businesses

                                          1. ummmm... Television destroyed dinner table conversation, then everyone having their own tv in their room destroyed eating together. Can't blame McDonald's for that one.

                                          2. McDonald's didn't destroy our health. WE did! Unless we're imprisoned or in the military, I do believe what we eat and where is still optional.

                                          3. Are you confusing McDonald's with WalMart? '-) All of the small local restaurants I've ever frequented flourish because their food is so good, and don't go out of business when a McDonald's opens across the street.

                                          But don't misread my disagreement with what you say as any kind of support or loyalty to McDonald's. I do occassionally buy food at one, but it's a choice I make at the time. But... The bottom line is that the entire world has embraced McDonald's, why else would you find them all over. For a little fun, go the mcdonalds.com and check out their menus in other countries! Makes me wish they'd sell that kind of food here!

                                          However, despite their international success, I agree that that doesn't necessarily make them Nobel material.

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            I'm old enough to remember a time when tv preceeded McDonald's and fast food in general ... if you don't count stuff like Howard Johnsons ... but that still involved dining together. My parents lived in the radio generation which was the same thing, just without pictures.

                                            There may have been tv dinners ... people may have eaten them in front of the tv ... but they ate together ... if not having stimulating dinner conversation.

                                            McDonald's and other fast food made the current go-go culture possible. No one had to even go into the kitchen anymore even to heat a tv dinner. Dinner time became easier to break up to serve various other functions ... jobs, entertainment etc.

                                            As far as the health issues, it was a long, long time before people started to point out that McDonald's and fast food might not be the best food health-wise. People often gravitate to what is easy ... that becomes the choice ... McDonald's made that choice possible.

                                            I remember a time when our culinary options were richer. If you travel much in the US when you get to the suburbs and some parts of the country ... they are nothing but chain food wastelands ... people eating bland, cookie-cutter food. Maybe the diners and small mom and pops were not the world's best ... but they were unique and personalized and human ... their mission statement, so to speak, was to feed people a decent meal and hopefully make a living.

                                            McDonald's erased a lot of our individualism and created the culture of sameness ... the lemming society ... bland is good ... isn't that what everyone else is eating?

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              Well, I'm seventy four years old and probably at least your parent's age. (How in the hell did that happen, and so fast!) Hey, I'm old enough that I used to rush home from junior high school to watch a TEST PATTERN on our TV set. And friends begged to come home with me! We lived in San Diego, and got our TV around 1948. So yes, I know about 'radio days," and families eating dinner together.

                                              I also understand that many people are angry at McDonald's, but they should be angry at the people who choose McDonald's. But having lived through all of these long years of history, let me explain something first hand about families eating together in America.

                                              I truly believe it's wrong to blame McDonald's. All McDonald's was doing was meeting a need. So, how did the need arise? Gotta look at a little history to answer that one, but I will come back to the question.

                                              The United States entered World War II on December 7th, 1941. That brought immediate freezes on many things critical to the war effort and a massive draft, though enlistments filled the need for a while. With so many men gone to war, women filled the jobs they left behind. Not only the jobs vacated, but the massive number of new jobs created through the manufacturing of weapons and war material. And there was rationing. Meat, sugar, gasoline, rubber, shoes, clothing, all sorts of things. If ever there was a time when fast food would have gone through the roof, World War II was it... EXCEPT for rationing. If I wanted to buy a candy bar, I had to get my mom to give me my ration book because candy didn't just cost money. It also cost a sugar rationing stamp. So the working mothers of WWII still rushed home to fix dinner. There was lots of discretionary income during WWII, but no place to spend it. And restaurants often charged rationing stamps as well as money, depending on what you ordered.

                                              After WWII, the government pressured working women to give up their jobs so returning Gi's could take up their old jobs and support their families. Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! Most women did that. Gave up their high paying jobs and stayed home and put on aprons. And all those returning GI's bought charming ticky tacky houses built in HUGE tracts for their lovely brides in aprons to raise the kids in.

                                              Things were fine for a couple of years, then TV raised its ugly head. Those happy little housewives were perfectly happy living in their GI Bill homes with pre-WWII appliances. Except for TVs. During WWII, there were no new cars or appliances manufactured. After WWII, Raytheon was one of the first companies to switch from producing cathode ray tubes for radar to producing cathode ray tubes for television sets. And those early TV sets had round picture tubes.

                                              The desire for new appliances was a natural. But who's gonna pay for them? TV set, new car, new stove, frost free refrigerator with a built in freezer, washer, dryer... The first microwave ovens hit the market long about then, but they were thousands of dollars so not many housewives lusted after them. The Waring Blender was introduced, invented by Fred Waring, who was famous at the time as an orchestra leader.

                                              Westinghouse Theater, with Betty Furness, came along in 1958 and introduced the complete line of home appliances. You can watch some of the original commercials here: http://tinyurl.com/2o93qf There had been a constant increase of housewives returning to the job market. Why not? The monthly tab for appliance payments was running competition with the house and car payment.

                                              So the two income family soon became the norm, and THAT is what brought a huge interruption to family meals. And women's lib didn't help seal family dining.

                                              So McDonald's was simply filling a nreed. As I recall, Taco Bell came along not too much later. Colonel Sanders. Pizza. But all of the fast food places were doing the very same thing: filling a need.

                                              Believe me, I get really tight jaws over the state of food today. Not just fast food. People make choices, and if clogged arteries is their goal, their choice. The information is out there. I get stressed over the homogenization of beautiful ethnic foods through "fusion." The chemicals in our food supply freak me out. The collapse of the culinary language bugs me. But... I may as well mellow out, because this is obviously what the "majority" -- that huge faceless majority -- is willing to buy.

                                              So my best advice to you is to direct your irritation where it's deserved: The two income family that created the window of opportunity that allowed McDonald's to fill a need.

                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                Lol. Standing ovation. My only point is that McDonald's doesn't deserve a Nobel prize ... not matter how illusional.

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  Great post Caroline1.

                                                  I have no doubt the majority of Chowhounders feel that McDonald's is not worthy of a Nobel Prize, but then the folks on this board are not representative of the general dining public.

                                                  Using the latter group, I'm pretty sure people would hold McDonald's in higher esteem than Chowhounders do.

                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                        ".....I do in fact think McDonald's has positively contributed the most to the culinary world. And, it's not even really close by my count."

                                        If that's your criterion, wasn't Howard Johnson's a chain well before MacDonald came on the scene? They started in Quincy MA in 1925.
                                        I'm not nominating them, though. Chains have negatively impacted humankind. Quite the opposite from the guidlines for a Nobel Prize.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      Sure, revolutionized food...sorta like how the nuke bomb revolutionzed warfare.

                                      Seriously, Mickey D's is Mickey D's. I go 3-4 times a year and enjoy myself but I don't think their impact was positive. High fat and sodium food that they fight not to label and the mechanicization of the food process/chain (read Fast Food Nation) that has been very negative to the population. The decreased diversification of food supply, addiction to crap and marketing can't be good things.

                                      Any way, it was Ray Kroc who made Mickey D's what it is today.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        It seems to me that credit for that category would not go to McDonalds at all but White Castle. Personally I think either would be a weak nomination compared to Escoffier or Mario Batali or even Emeril.

                                  2. M. Gavius Apicius
                                    The Capi Cuochi of Caterina de Medici
                                    Auguste Escoffier
                                    Nobu Matsuhisa
                                    Mario Batali
                                    Ferran Adria

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: vvvindaloo

                                      ferran adria for sure!! his advances in "molecular gastronomy" has really changed the way people look at food hes a major innnovator and should not be looked over.

                                    2. I don't think you would have to be famous for your cooking to win a Nobel for cooking if your contributions to food changed the world's diet, so I nominate George Washington Carver.... YAY, PEANUT BUTTER...! '-)

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        George Washington Carver may not have been a great "cook", but he was one brilliant man. Puts these others in perspective!


                                        just look at these products from peanuts:

                                        he is an inspiration, and revolutionized agriculture in the south, the U.S., the world: http://www.nps.gov/archive/gwca/expan...

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          Yup. And he was a gifted artist, a philospher, an intellectual, and an all round great guy. Unfortunately, many of his extant paintings were lost in a fire. I think that if integration had happened immediately following the Civil War, as it should have, then he would have actually recieved a Nobel Prize.

                                      2. All the poor Hispanic (and other) immigrants that toil in our fine restaurants, learning the ropes, and work their way up the professional ladder. Without them there would be no famous chefs and very limited fine dining.

                                          1. I'd nominate the late Doris Janzen Longacre (of the More-with-Less Cookbook), and my grandma.

                                            1. As much as I love cooking and good food, I don't think a Nobel for cooking is appropriate since I don't think any chefs or teachers actually met the objective of conferring great benefit to mankind. The closest would be Louis Pasteur or some other food scientist, not some chef or teacher.

                                              If you're just talking about some lifetime cooking/food appreciation award like James Beard, just say so, don't try to fit cooking into a Nobel when it doesn't fit.

                                              Julia Child's or Mario Batali's accomplishments versus the discovery of the knockout mouse or DNA...I don't think so.

                                              16 Replies
                                              1. re: filth

                                                I agree - in part because it's hard to see how a lot of chefs/cooks/food writers have benefited all of mankind, rather than just people in their geographic area.

                                                1. re: filth

                                                  Well, I think this was intended to be a philosophical question inviting theoretical discussion on which significant individuals in the world of food preparation have impacted the world in away that goes way beyond cooking well. I think that, from a historical perspective, it is possible to argue that certain individuals- be they the first known author of a "cookbook", the pioneers of a food revolution, i.e. the Arabs in Sicily or the Italians in France, or the inventors of food preservation methods- are arguably candidates for this kind of praise. Perhaps the name, Nobel, is being used to emphasize the requirements of gravity and universality in the contributions made by the the individuals we "nominate". It's just a thought-provoking question, as I see it, and a fun one, at that.

                                                  1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                    Actually, the OP just proposed a Nobel prize for "cooking." She didn't talk about pioneers in food preservation that have impacted the world beyond cooking a good meal. If the person to first figure out how to dry food or salt it or can it had accomplished this after 1901, I could go with that being Nobel-worthy. Or if Julia Child had invented the printing press to disseminate MTAFC, that would be Nobel-worthy.

                                                    The OP shows a lack of understanding of the history and rationale behind the Nobel Prize and, I would speculate, just thought she had invented yet another "most influential chef" or "James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award."

                                                    I think the title of the thread should be "Who do you think is/was the most influential chef/food person?" While I believe that some Nobel Prizes, most notably the Peace Prize, are a joke, giving a Nobel to the most notable contributors in food/cooking makes the Nobel into a complete farce.

                                                    As a medical scientist, I admit to being biased but there is no way can you compare Julia Child or Mario Batali to Watson and Crick or Marconi or Plank or any of the great scientists, whose work, in a very real way, affects and benefits each of us today.

                                                    Julia Child was ahead of her time in getting Americans interested in good food in both written and media form. Mario Batali runs great restaurants, has great cookbooks, and is an electric TV personality. I suppose that, if you really want to stretch, you could argue that they affect every CHer's life positively.

                                                    But in comparing them to a Nobel Prize winner like Marconi, consider this. No Marconi...maybe no radio (or maybe it would have been invented by someone else; the same could be said for JC or MB). No radio, no TV. No TV, no JC or MB reaching large numbers of people.

                                                    That is why this thread irritates me. To put cooking into the Nobel class is ludicrous.

                                                    1. re: filth

                                                      Medical scientist and adult entertainer! Good is that one can do both at the same time.

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        Got me Sam. Actually a medical scientist, not an adult entertainer. :)

                                                      2. re: filth

                                                        Comparing Al Gore who won a Nobel prize to Marconi is equally ludicrous.

                                                        I think most people understand that this thread is about making a significant change in the way we eat ... and Aunt Marge might even qualify if her delicious cooking influenced generations of her family to eat better and they influenced freinds and family and on and on.

                                                        It would improve the lives of a vast majority.

                                                        I'm still not convinced about Batali who has just influenced a trend.

                                                        However, I'd argue that Alice Waters is more deserving of a prize than Al Gore. While Gore may have brought the issue of global warning to the attention of a larger audiance ... seriously, what has actually be DONE about that?

                                                        Whenever you walk into a supermarket and pick up the can of organic veggies now de riguer for even brands like Safeway ... when you stop at your farmers market ... the very way the majority of many of us eat ... you can thank Alice Waters.

                                                        That there are organic farms ... small and large scale ... that actually do improve the environment and our health ... thank that small little revolution in Berkeley.

                                                        No ... Waters didn't do it all ... but it was the influence of that that spread through other restaurants ... then markets ... from the Bay Area and outward ... well, IMO it did a whole lot more concrete value than what Gore has actually done to date.

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          "and Aunt Marge might even qualify if her delicious cooking influenced generations of her family to eat better and they influenced freinds and family and on and on."

                                                          The problem with this question, as I see it, is that it is unlikely that Aunt Marge, or even many of the writers mentioned, have conferred a great benefit on mankind, which is the criterion for a Noble prize.

                                                          Much as I admire Alice Waters, I wonder how much influence she has had outside the United States.

                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                            Well, when it comes to impact on produce and such, I have to question Alice Waters! I shopped farmer's markets and bought organic produce long before she opened a restaurant. Maybe even before she learned to cook! '-)

                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                              "Much as I admire Alice Waters, I wonder how much influence she has had outside the United States."

                                                              Or how much influence she has had outside of certain socioeconomic groups, who are just happy enough to have food on their tables and don't have the luxury to worry about organic vs. inorganic food (and I'm talking about our own country here).

                                                            2. re: rworange

                                                              As a scientist working in part on climate change, we all see Al Gore as a complete non-scientist who used his political prominance to help get popular opinion over the two ridiculous popular claims of, "Scientists can't agree among themselves as to global warming" and "Its just a theory". As such, Gore deserves the Noble much more than some of us.

                                                              Similarly, while Paul Bocuse (one of my nominees) can cook Jamie Oliver's a** off, Jamie also gets my nomination for good, useful approaches to food that are accessbile to many--something that continues to be needed in the UK and the US. That and his work on school lunches.

                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                I wrote that the Nobel Peace Prize is the real joke of the Nobels. I'm not gonna get political but, IMO, most of the Peace Prize winners have been jokes.

                                                                However, as a scientist (medical, not a real scientist like a physicist or chemist), to put in Jamie Oliver in the same class as Einstein is a fuckin joke.

                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  I think - at least I hope - that offal-eating and charcuterie-making will prove to be a movement, and not just a trend. If the American public can learn to eat more of the animal than just the flank, loin, and shoulder, it could result in as seismic of a movement as the shift from canned veggies and TV dinners to local/seasonal cuisine. And, as vvvindaloo pointed out upthread, Batali has had a huge influence in educating the American public about authentic Italian food. Obviously, he wasn't the only one doing it, but he had the most public platform.

                                                                2. re: filth

                                                                  I both comprehend and respect your opinion that putting "cooking into the Nobel class is ludicrous".
                                                                  As far as what I actually wrote above, I named "food preparation" as the category for which we were to ponder who the international giants were. Figures so inventive and influencial as to have had a positive and permanent international impact. My guess is that the OP chose the name, Nobel, because it automatically imparts this sense of profundity, and did not intend to bring triviality or degradation to the Nobel name.
                                                                  Besides, there is a Nobel prize for Literature. Does this mean that Doris Lessing, winner of the 2007 Literature prize, is being "compared" to Joshua Lederberg, the 1958 winner of the Physiology/Medicine prizze for his studies in genetics of microorganisms? No, the Nobel committees are not comparing them, only pointing out what they have accomplished in their respective and separate fields. As chowhounders, we are simply comparing the accomplishments of people we admire on the food stage. No disrespect meant to Arthur Nobel. We are not even suggesting that there *should* be a Nobel prize awarded to people for "cooking". This is a simple discussion that people can either choose to take part in or leave alone, and it's been fun.

                                                                  1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                    Personally, given the rates of illiteracy and censorship in the world, I don't think literature should be in there at all because, I would argue, many people don't read the Nobel Literature Prizewinner's work. As such, literature doesn't confer great benefit to mankind.

                                                                    I definitely think the ideals of the peace prize could benefit mankind. I also think that in many years, no one is worthy of that prize so it shouldn't be awarded just because it's December 10, ####.

                                                                  2. re: filth

                                                                    Then how about a Pulitzer for cooking? Would that work better for you? '-)

                                                              2. Ok...So I'm gonna go way out on a limb here. And I know that I am opening myself up to alot of grief, but My nomination for a Nobel Prize in Food goes to....Thomas Jefferson as the Father of American Cuisine. WHAT??? Yeah you read it right. I'm not going to list his accomplishments. You're sitting in front of a 'puter, Google it and convince yourself.
                                                                Oh and a far as McDonalds, they're kind of like the Henry Ford of the Food Industry. You may not like the food, but their infulence goes far beyond fast food. Mcdonalds has perfected Sanitation Procedures that are the envy of the industry. When was the last time you heard of someone getting a food bourne illness at McDonalds?

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: tastelikechicken

                                                                  WHAT! Thomas Jefferson instead of Ben Franklin???? Where would America be without French fries? Yay Ben!

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    There is some dispute over that. Franklin was known to eat french fries while he was Ambassador to France and they do appear in his writings. However, Jefferson who followed Franklin as ambassador returned home with a number of French recipes including one which was titled "Potatoes cooked in the French way" He was known to serve them to his guests at his home in Monticello

                                                                    1. re: tastelikechicken

                                                                      ...to say nothing of the many varieties of food he brought back and his work in plant husbandry. Or should I say his slaves' work in plant husbandry under his direction :-( Ice cream and other foods were a result of his interest in different foods while abroad.

                                                                      He also could be the father of the American Wine Industry.

                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                        Exactly. Jefferson is known to have brought back numerous food finds from Europe including vegetable varieties, cheeses and is often credited with introducing Pasta to the US. He is also credited as being possibly the first ot serve that American Classic, Maccaroni and Cheese.
                                                                        As far as wine, Jefferson was a noted authoirty on French wine and advised several presdients on serving wines at official functions. He as was the first to plant the European Vinifera grape in the US although he never made wine.

                                                                2. Currently living candidates only...

                                                                  Ferran Adria - molecular cuisine
                                                                  Harold McGee - popularizing the scientific basis for food and cooking
                                                                  Thomas Keller - proving that details count & finally making "California Cuisine" world class.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Paul H

                                                                    Harold McGee ... good one ... I second the nomination.

                                                                  2. I second Alice Waters for calling peoples attention to eating locally.
                                                                    I would also nominate Nobu Matsuhisa. Others may not agree, but for better or worse I think he really did a lot to start the "fusion cuisine" movement that is so prevalent today. Plus I could eat at his restaurants every day and never get sick of the food!

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                      I agree on Matsuhisa! Check out my post, above.

                                                                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                        Ahh, we're in agreement as usual! I missed your post when I was skipping past the "fast food" banter ;-)

                                                                    2. John Thorne. He transformed me from a blind recipe follower into a cook.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                        I admit to being a luddite and finding Thorne to be a cult figure rather than a widespread influence.....

                                                                      2. Many many candidates would qualify for the second award, but the first award would have to go to Julia Child. At the time she was cooking the vast majority of Americans were unaware of anything beyond what their mother or grandmother cooked, perhaps a close neighbor. It was her work that paved the way for those who followed. She was in the right place at the right time, and did an extrordinary job with no models to follow.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                          To be honest, I'd rather see a major prize be given for nutrition and maybe another one for sustainable agriculture and agronomy. Yet even there, the differences between the scientists and the popularizers would need to be taken into consideration. Maybe there ought to be a prize for each. Wendell Barry deserves recognition. I suspect Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, vegetable, miracle" will have some long-term impact. And there are so many scientists and activists working to protect environments, conserve biodiversity, support local farming economies, reclaim exhausted soils, and improve the nutrition of emarginated populations both in impoverished rural areas and in major cities. Human lives are at stake here, and that to me is far more important than haute cuisine. And yet, knowing how to prepare food well is certainly an important part of human life, and eating together is a major way of celebrating life. So that aspect of nutrition shouldn't be neglected, either.

                                                                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                            Good thoughts FK. We do have prizes such as the World Food Prize.

                                                                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                See: http://www.worldfoodprize.org/index.htm

                                                                                "The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the accomplishments of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world."

                                                                                Recipients are people in international agricultural research, a number of whom I've worked with over the years. Winners get $250,000--I think--to help do more of what they do.

                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                    That's terrific. Thanks for the info.

                                                                              2. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                I'm so glad to see Barbara Kingsolver mentioned in this context. I loved her ideas about vegetarians also having blood on their hands - it's one of those ideas that keep coming back to me over & over again.

                                                                            1. Possibly Michael Field, posthumously, as being the lynchpin in the development of the Time Life series "Foods of the World." a U.N. of chowishness, that holds up after around 40 years, and seems as rich with information as anything I can find. Field also authored a few books on his own, and is, to me, somewhat undersung. Nobel worthy? I don't know. But Fields deserves a bit more recognition in the food world.


                                                                              1. Paul Prudhomme -- brought Louisiana's rich and varied cuisine to the attention of America. Educates us about the food and its historical background and lore.

                                                                                Emeril Legasse -- for making cooking per se fun and accessible to the TV mass market. For making cooking easy to approach, and non-intimidating. For getting people talking about food -- and being excited. (Don't forget the phenomenon of his "live"show for influencing American cooking, and his superb "Essence of Emeril" for demonstrating classic technique, good ingredients).

                                                                                Julia, Pepin, obviously. Craig Claiborne, too. Maybe Justin Wilson? ;-)

                                                                                1. My sister. She's such a wonderful gourmet cook and hostess that she manages to bring people to the table time-after-time who may otherwise not meet in peace!

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Bite Me

                                                                                    Julia Child. No question.

                                                                                    All the posers on the Food Network owe their undeserved bank accounts to her.