I recently “inherited” (not sure if that’s quite the right word) a lot of cookbooks from my father-in-law who passed away and have greatly enjoyed flipping through them over the past month or so.
I’ve noticed that most of the American chefs have statements in their introductions stating something roughly like this: “Please use these recipes as a guide or inspiration and feel free not to follow them too closely. Use ingredients that are in season and feel free to substitute.”
Then I come across this jarring statement from Joël Robuchon in Patricia Wells’ book, Simply French: “If a well-written recipe fails, it’s usually for one of two reasons: The cook failed to read the recipe carefully, or he chose to carelessly substitute ingredients, a not so mild form of cheating.”
On substituting ingredients, he goes on to further state: “With that approach to cooking, the dish could not possibly resemble the original, so why bother with a recipe from the beginning?”
Is Robuchon that big of a dick or is he just that serious about his recipes? Hard to know. Sure, in the restaurant setting a cook is not to substitute, but at home?
I did make one of the recipes from this book though, and while I admit to altering the cooking technique some, I didn’t substitute a thing and it was ridiculously delicious. But then, perhaps altering cooking techniques is a “not so mild form of cheating” too.