Is cuisine an artform?

Earlier this year, legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adria found himself out of the frying pan and into the fire, when the organizers of Documenta -- a huge, once-every-five-years contemporary art show held in Kassel, Germany -- invited him to be one of only two Spanish contributors.

It's an understatement to say that Spanish art critics were not thrilled with Adria's inclusion. Indeed, they were pretty pissed that the genius behind El Bulli (considered the world's best restaurant, by many) was deemed an artist.

What do you think? Are the culinary arts legit? Can a chef be an artist?

I sure think so. In the case of Adria, I'd argue that he's a conceptual artist working in a very cutting edge medium. Just because it's edible, does that make it any less expressive than paint or clay?

Anyway, I was reminded of the Documenta buzz when I saw the name of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts' upcoming fundraiser: Dine Out With the Chefs: A Celebration of the Culinary Arts.

See there? It says "arts" right in the name.

Anyway, regardless of whether you consider any of our town's top chefs worthy of the "A" word, there's no denying that the roster of participants in this year's tasting event is pretty high profile. Here, have a look:

Canal (set to debut in October at SouthBridge in Scottsdale) executive chef Justin Beckett; Confection (another coming up in Scottsdale) pastry chef Tracy Dempsey (the dessert goddess behind Cowboy Ciao); Cowboy Ciao executive chef Bernie Kantak; elements at Sanctuary on Camelback executive chef Beau MacMillan (best known for kicking Bobby Flay's butt on Iron Chef); Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch executive chef Eric Howson; Lon’s at The Hermosa Inn executive chef Michael Rusconi; Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician chef de cuisine Frank Belosic (check out my last blog post); Razz’s Restaurant chef/owner Erasmo “Razz” Kamnitzer (who created the dish in the photo shown above); Scottsdale Culinary Institute – executive chef Jon–Paul Hutchins; Shell Shock (coming later this year to SouthBridge) executive chef Nobuo Fukuda (the Valley's newest Beard award-winner); Taggia executive chef Claudio Urciuoli; T. Cook’s at The Royal Palms Resort and Spa executive chef Lee Hillson (who just taped a top-secret new episode of Iron Chef); Windows on the Green at The Phoenician chef de cuisine Roberto Sanchez; and Zinc Bistro executive chef Matt Carter.

The event is scheduled for Sunday, October 7, from 4 to 7 p.m. Visit Scottsdale Center's website for more info.

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