How to taste with your ears

 As I noted in our last article, we will look briefly at a person who has conquered a common learning challenge to become one of the leaders in her field. This was very personal for me because as I sat and listened, I felt like my story was being told. The story to which I refer was related by Emily Ellyn during her presentation in the first general session of the Cook. Craft. Create. event, entitled Who Taught You to Cook Like That?

She explained that as a child, everyone thought she was slow and she too realized that she was different. Due to the challenges associated with being dyslexic, she ended up spending a lot of time with the animals on the farm where she grew up, but eventually recognized that she had a talent and while still in junior school, started a business which sprung out of cooking and selling the things she made.

She graduated to cooking for her father’s parties before she even got a chance to attend the Culinary Institute of America, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in the Culinary Arts. She went on to complete her Masters and is currently pursuing a PhD in Food Service, all fuelled by the love of cooking. Emily Ellyn leads a team of professionals and is a television personality, appearing in a season of the Food Network Star.

Her presentation clearly highlighted the power of the culinary arts, emphasizing how the art of cooking can be therapeutic and stimulating, signifying that there is something magical about this art form, while also clearly demonstrating that once you openly give to it, there is much to receive in return, including overcoming barriers which can sometimes seem insurmountable.

This was indeed a powerful presentation!

The final workshop that I will touch on for this year’s Cook. Craft. Create. event is one which I found very fascinating. After all my years in this field, I hardly thought there could be something totally new for me to learn at this stage, so you can understand my curiosity when at the final general session I saw a presentation entitled How to Taste With Your Ears. I remember thinking “why does this sound so weird?” – a thought which was overpowered by that culinary curiosity which started to marry senses. Now, we are always talking about smell and taste being married because they share the same airway to the stomach, but little do you realize that the ear also has a connection to that airway and, therefore, can also influence the way we taste.

So, I went into the session with an open mind, not having a clue as to what to expect for a presentation of this nature, while thinking “what form can this presentation possibly take?” Well, the first clues came when I saw platters of pastries on the table and realised that the room sounded very much like a disco, with music raised to quite a few decibels. Until then, I was still amusingly confused as to what to expect for this presentation, but my most hilarious personal game of  “guess what?” or “guess how?” this presentation would unfold came to an end when the presenter blasted out “Can you taste the music?”  Now, everyone was involved in the raucous laughter.

With the personal excitement over, we got down to tasting with our ears. The presenter instructed us to take a bite of the pastry that was sitting on the plate, just one bite. He said “chew and swallow and tell me what the dominating flavour is”.  By this time, he was playing a specific genre of music at quite a loud pitch – rock music in this case. After a couple of minutes, the genre was changed to classical, which he played for a while before inviting us to take another bite of the same pastry. Once again, we were instructed to bite, chew, and taste, while listening to one of the old masters. Following this, there was yet another music change, this time to modern pop by Michael Jackson, so I was right at home. Again, we were instructed to taste and listen; can you believe that pastry, although maintaining the same flavour, had a different tone or note each time the music changed?

From there, he went into his entire presentation and started to explain the use of the ear in tasting and the influence on what you are listening to while enjoying the meal. Two hours later, we were still deep into the session; me, with a much clearer understanding about the type of music that is played in specific restaurants and the choice of food that is prepared. This underscores how we are guided in our choice of food not only by our nose and mouth, but also by our ear which plays with those chemical emissions in the body, all influenced by the type of music that we are hearing, which has a definite effect on the way we taste our food.

This is a session which I will surely be looking forward to attending at the next ACF Convention, as I found it most fascinating, because it could be the secret weapon in the Chef’s armoury as he tries to increase his sales in the restaurant for which he is responsible.

Source: (Peter Edey is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, a graduate of l’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer peter@dcbarbados.com)

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