Do Fine Dining Chefs need Classical Skills?

I have just read an article on a top chef who is self taught and now has a top restaurant in North Yorkshire and after watching another skills test on Masterchef the Professionals where accomplished chefs struggle with the skills test, the question came as to whether classical skills are required? Does going through basic skills help or hinder creativity?

There does seem to be a gap between college and a real kitchen but this is similar to school and working life. Experience in a live situation fills more learning and skills when the pressure is on to deliver good quality against the clock as long as you are prepared to learn.

Watching our chef preparing the meat for our Hogget dish you do see butchery skill in ensuring the most meat is taken from the bone and then the sinew is removed to finish with a lean piece of meat ready for cooking and serving. Is this needed for most chefs? In today's world is it more convenient or cost effective to have a butcher do the work and just deliver the meat to the restaurant/chefs requirements?

Some of the self taught chefs do appear to push boundaries and try different flavours that perhaps would be frowned on in a classical world. The same episode of Masterchef saw a duck dish with various fruits to accompany and the perception from a judge was that fruit salad did not go with duck, however on tasting it worked, maybe right at the edge of acceptable, but would this type of creativity be suppressed if the classical skills were more widely used?

We all know that computers have changed the workplace but could they replace a chef? Our Chef Paul recently attended a demonstration for a professional oven manufacturer, The programme on a small oven was mind blowing in its ability to cook entire meals in 7 minutes at the push of a button. It can poach, roast, grill with precision time after time. Does this again mean that the skills required by a chef are no longer as great as in the past or will there always need to be a fallback to the tried and tested methods if a curved ball is thrown and a customers requires something more traditional.

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