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Nimis's avatar

Is a heightened sense of taste a sign of a good chef?

Asked by Nimis (13127points) October 9th, 2008

In turn, is a heightened sense of vision a sign of a good (visual) artist?

There are famous examples to the contrary.
(Monet is the first example that comes to mind.)

If visual acuity is not that big of an issue,
I’d imagine colour vision to be even less so.

Yet, why do so many artists and designers (or their employers)
pay hundreds of dollars for them to take the Farnsworth-Munsell test?
There are other ophthalmological uses. I’m particularly interested in its use in the art/design world.

Here is the free online version if you’re so curious.
Mods: I am not affiliated with them in any way. This should not be considered self-promotional.

For those who have taken it before (or just now):
Do your results line up with the assumption that those that work
in the visual field have (or should have) a better developed sense of colour?

NOTE: I chose to phrase it ambiguously as a sign of, so as not to presuppose the notion of the chicken or the egg. (Assuming either of these statements to be true, is it something that was already there and drew them to that particular field? Was it something developed over time while working in that field? Or merely over-projected coincidence?)

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17 Answers

cyreb7's avatar

I have taken the test online, and got a perfect score.

I consider my self a very good photographer, and have always been fascinated by color and light.

Nimis's avatar

Besides bragging rights, do you think the test is actually
indicative of your ability as a photographer though?

Also, chicken or the egg?

Nimis's avatar

Sense of taste aside, I wonder how people would feel
about a chef who had a poor sense of smell? Hmmm…

bodyhead's avatar

No absolutely not. Beethoven continued to compose after he went completely deaf and many would agree that his music got no worse. Some would say he got better.

That being said, I wouldn’t hire a blind photographer.

cyreb7's avatar

It is hard to tell what it would be like if I did not have “perfect color vision”. I think I would be almost as good or just as good at photography. After all it is not just about color but a lot of photography is about composition and subject, not just color.

I don’t think it would be a problem when I was taking the picture, but when I am editing it on the computer I think I would have a harder time adjusting it.

Nimis's avatar

Body: Good point. Though could you also argue that his work (after going deaf) relied heavily on his experience before he went deaf?

Cyr: I think the popularity/importance of the Farnsworth-Munsell test may have risen with other fields like web and graphic design. Something about standardizing the online visual experience perhaps?

SoapChef's avatar

Oh definitely, I am a chef and when I first started seriously cooking, I got the techniques down fairly quickly. Since at that stage I was still following recipes for the most part, I could put out a great product. I think the natural progression of things is for you to start experimenting with your own flavor combinations and recipes. You eventually get to the point where you pretty much know what is going to work and what is not. You begin to be able to taste things in your imagination. I think this is what starts to set a chef apart from the average. I believe this can be taught to a certain stage and then it becomes a matter of how creative/adventurous/experimental one is.

Nimis's avatar

Soap: Understanding flavour combinations seems more of a skill that you learn, no?
Not so much the ability to “taste” them in your head,
but the ability to actually physically distinguish subtleties in taste?

SoapChef's avatar

Sure, thats what I was trying to express (Thank goodness I can cook better than I can talk). Distinguishing subtleties in taste is also a learned skill, much as in learning to appreciate wines. The ability of a chef to do this results in a better, more refined product, and it is sometimes so subtle that only others with the same abilities can appreciate.
As with art and music, I think there are people that are just simply born with these abilities despite any obstacles.

Nimis's avatar

Soap: Besides people who are colour blind, do you think
most people can learn to improve their colour vision?

Also, do you think there are people just simply born with the ability to cook?

rowenaz's avatar

I’m not sure I understood the results. Okay, I am sure that I didn’t understand. I got an 8. Does that mean that I did terrible? Or was it almost perfect? Didn’t get it.

Based on your information, below is how your score compares to those of others with similar demographic information.

* Your score: 8
* Gender: Female
* Age range: 30–39
* Best score for your gender and age range: 0
* Highest score for your gender and age range: 1476

High is bad? Low is better?

Nimis's avatar

Row: Yes, a lower score is better.
Do you work in an art-related or visually-oriented field?

rowenaz's avatar

I sure wish I did! I’m a language teacher…

SoapChef's avatar

@nimis
I do. I remember when I realized there was more than one kind of white! I think a heightened awareness of color can happen with training.
Born chefs? No, I think people are born with creative souls and they happen to channel that to into a culinary outlet of some sort.

jvgr's avatar

No to all.
The capacity to taste and see is fairly even in the population.
Desire is uneven.
A chef desires to create things that taste good and has the creativity to assemble ingredients in a way that goes way beyond simple nutrition. Their desire for creative taste drives them to seek new flavours and techniques of combining flavours.

Visual artists have a desire to express what they see, feel, believe in visual media. They learn/invent techniques and understand the way colour and form can convey their images.

The F-M test you link to is a colour acuity test (commonly, but inappropriately known as a colour blindness test). In industries where colour acuity is critical, it’s not helpful to have an employee who can’t discriminate some shades of red from some shades of green, so the test is certainly valid.

jemsmom's avatar

I would have to say that in order to be a great chef, you have to have a heightened sense of taste. You have to be able to know that what you have put together goes together, especially when you are creating something new. In culinary school, we would do tastings of different foods. We had to write down all of the ingredients, including spices, herbs, flavorings, of everything. My sense of taste is so sharp that I can taste MSG. Its highly unlikely ,according to my biology professor, that anyone or most people can taste MSG but…I have never missed it in anything I have sampled. A strong sense of smell is a must but smell and taste go hand in hand sense you acutally taste with your nose first.

I also agree some are born with certain abilities and talents. I have been cooking since I was 6 (mom burned water) and professionally cooking for about 15 years or so. Some chefs that I know can only follow a recipe and just dont have that “thing” that they need to create. Some I know, can whip up the most tantalizing dishes from a mystery basket of odds and ends groceries.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I think people can be good at things even if the particular related senses are not exceptionally acute. Examples of this have already been mentioned. However, I do think that exceptionally acute senses are a boon if you are working creatively. A chef with a heightened sense of taste and/or smell has a better idea of what flavors work together, as they can taste more notes and layers of flavor than the average person. However, there is more to it than that, in that creativity plays a huge part, as well. With the repertoire of an advanced palate and a developed imagination, a chef can put together things that one might not normally think would go together, then surprise you when you taste them.

This, in my mind, can be applied to other creative fields. Photography, art, music, design, etc. It’s a gift if you have a special eye, palate, ear, or whatever, but all of that is nothing if you don’t have the imagination and talent to apply it to your craft.

For what it’s worth, I’m a photographer and I scored an 8 on that online test. I am not sure if that’s worth congratulating myself over, but I guess it’s pretty close to zero, so it’s not a bad score, right?

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