When cheftestants say "it's clean".

What does that mean? Often paired with “it’s simple”. Is it the opposite of “a lot going on”?

I’ve always thought it means “clean flavors” - meaning you actually taste the few components on the plate, vs. when someone like Katsuji combines 14-20 ingredients. While combined, the ingredients often work together, but you’re not tasting the simple flavor of the main ingredient. I’ve heard the judges sometimes say they couldn’t taste the main ingredient - they only tasted the other components.

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I agree with @LindaWhit, but would add that I think of clean flavors as not being overly rich, e.g., lacking dairy and meat fats.

To me, the epitome of a beautiful “clean” dish is Japanese clear clam soup. I forget the Japanese name for it, but it’s very simple, with only pure and delicate flavors of clams and clam broth.

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I don’t watch cooking competitions but on various cooking demonstration shows, I have heard the term applied to creations featuring healthy/natural/organic ingredients, in an annoyingly holier-than-thou context.

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Ummmm… I don’t eat at Panera often enough to know about ‘clean’ food. In fact, I never eat there.

Binge watching Top Chef on Hulu, most recently Top Chef Masters, season 2. Somewhere around episode 8 someone says " There is NOTHING clean about this dish"!

Trying to find a clip; it was one of the two guys that epitomize looking down their noses ( Jay Rayner, James Oseland ?) , about one of those two chefs who epitomize “I’m not having it!” (Jonathan? Tony?)

If you’re following…you ROCK Marcus!

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I started hearing this a lot a few years ago when stuff like this would happen: I’d be enjoying my sandwich at work with my colleagues and somebody would say, " Wow, you’re eating salami/cheese/bread. Me, I’m eating clean now." As if I’m eating filthy – I guess – and as if “clean” is a noun.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold