Is the internet making food homogeneous?

Momofuku ginger scallion noodles

Many home cooks rely on the internet for inspiration and guidance in their cooking. So do many restaurant chefs, and that's a big problem, says David Chang. "Everything tastes the same," he says, "and it's the internet's fault." He tackles this issue in his quarterly magazine Lucky Peach, where he focuses on the foodstuff of his own restaurant: ramen.

He wrote that before the internet, "apprentices would learn from a chef, then work their way from taking orders to washing dishes and finally to working in the kitchen. Once they were good enough, the master would tell them to move on to another shop somewhere else." Now, however, "ramen is everywhere, and a lot of it is the same. I don't want to go to every city and taste the same fucking thing."

Chang elaborated on his thoughts at the recent SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. There he argued that the "rapid growth in food blogs and online conversation around eating out means that it's harder than ever for a young chef to make a mark doing something that's interestingly different, because the pressure to get it right first time is enormous." Since no one wants to fail, Chang muses, they won't put themselves on the line the way they might have in the past. He also says the easy availability of information makes it too easy for chefs to replicate the work of others. "There's no struggle, and I think it's very important in any creative process that you endorse some sort of struggle." 

Not everyone agrees with Chang's assessment, however. In the comments to the article, many readers pointed out that without the accessibility of the internet, they would likely never have been exposed to many cuisines, both in restaurants and in their own home kitchens. What do you think? Is the internet a boon for food or is it leading to dumbed down or copy cat dishes?

Photo of Momofuku's ginger scallion noodles from Amateur Gourmet by Adam Roberts and David Chang

 

5 Comments

  • Radish  on  3/20/2015 at 9:22 AM

    I think I agree with him. We are now cooking with tons of ingredients, and we keep wanting more and more excitement. This causes the collapse of different food cultures and that is a bad thing. It causes dissatisfaction with common ingredients. I f you have to cook everyday, three times, a day, this is way too much. Cookbooks like Plenty More and a change of Apetite are not books for feeding families. Too simple, is of course, too simple, but I feel we need to be embracing the ingredients and asking that they become even better.

  • sir_ken_g  on  3/20/2015 at 11:24 AM

    Our home (eating) life is incredibly richer because of the internet and especially sites like Eat Your Books, Does that provide competition for the professional cook? - Of course it does. We rarely go out locally in our smallish town. Our cooking is better with EYB, our 300 or so cookbooks and the ingredients we can purchase on-line.

  • ellabee  on  3/20/2015 at 11:55 AM

    If food cultures are collapsing, I'd put The Internet low on the list of causes.

  • nicolthepickle  on  3/20/2015 at 2:13 PM

    I live in a very rural area and there are no restaurants to go to so all of my exposure to different food is what I get from the internet. So for me it's wonderful.

  • hillsboroks  on  3/20/2015 at 7:24 PM

    I can understand where professional chefs would be frustrated with their inability to keep recipes exclusive as in the non-internet past but for the home cook the internet has been a major gift. I have always been interested in trying foreign or interesting recipes and started cooking long before the internet existed. Like the other comments on this post I find we rarely go out to dinner because the restaurants locally are pretty ho hum American fare, too salty, too greasy and not many fresh ingredients. We could drive the 20 miles to Portland to find something really exciting but the traffic, cost and parking tend to keep us cooking at home unless it is a special occasion. Luckily we have access to wonderful ingredients within a 10 mile radius. With EYB I find I have been cooking more interesting dishes more often from my cookbooks than ever before.

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