I didn't mean to say cooking can't be a creative endeavor, for example, when creating a new dish. And even scientists use creativity when devising experiments.
My point is that any particular final output, e.g. a Da Michelle tasting pizza, does not require one to be making pizza in Naples since one was 10 years old otherwise one might as well give up. There is no "magic" to any particularly tasting pizza and no reason why a recipe and associated processes couldn't be clearly written down to recreate that pizza.
A good example would be McDonald's fries (see story below). It was a very creative endeavor how the unique taste was originally stumbled upon - the sacks of potatoes were being left outside in the dry desert air. Now Ray Kroc/the McDonald brothers could have claimed good fries were an art and only their lone restaurant could do them properly and artisans would have to study on site for years before being qualified to properly make the fries. Instead Ray Kroc had scientists study the fries, figure out exactly what conditions were making the fries taste so good, and create a reproducible recipe so people around the world could enjoy the authentic taste of the fries.
I wish Neapolitan pizza experts would take a similar attitude and approach so that everyone could enjoy authentic Neapolitan pizza regularly instead of consuming so much bad pizza for lack of anything better.
The Trouble with Fries
March 5, 2001
ANNALS OF EATING
In 1954, a man named Ray Kroc, who made his living selling the five-spindle Multimixer milkshake machine, began hearing about a hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California. This particular restaurant, he was told, had no fewer than eight of his machines in operation, meaning that it could make forty shakes simultaneously. Kroc was astounded. He flew from Chicago to Los Angeles, and drove to San Bernardino, sixty miles away, where he found a small octagonal building on a corner lot. He sat in his car and watched as the workers showed up for the morning shift. They were in starched white shirts and paper hats, and moved with a purposeful discipline. As lunchtime approached, customers began streaming into the parking lot, lining up for bags of hamburgers. Kroc approached a strawberry blonde in a yellow convertible.
"How often do you come here?" he asked.
"Anytime I am in the neighborhood," she replied, and, Kroc would say later, "it was not her sex appeal but the obvious relish with which she devoured the hamburger that made my pulse begin to hammer with excitement." He came back the next morning, and this time set up inside the kitchen, watching the griddle man, the food preparers, and, above all, the French-fry operation, because it was the French fries that truly captured his imagination. They were made from top-quality oblong Idaho russets, eight ounces apiece, deep-fried to a golden brown, and salted with a shaker that, as he put it, kept going like a Salvation Army girl's tambourine. They were crispy on the outside and buttery soft on the inside, and that day Kroc had a vision of a chain of restaurants, just like the one in San Bernardino, selling golden fries from one end of the country to the other. He asked the two brothers who owned the hamburger stand if he could buy their franchise rights. They said yes. Their names were Mac and Dick McDonald.
Ray Kroc was the great visionary of American fast food, the one who brought the lessons of the manufacturing world to the restaurant business. Before the fifties, it was impossible, in most American towns, to buy fries of consistent quality. Ray Kroc was the man who changed that. "The french fry," he once wrote, "would become almost sacrosanct for me, its preparation a ritual to be followed religiously." A potato that has too great a percentage of water--and potatoes, even the standard Idaho russet burbank, vary widely in their water content--will come out soggy at the end of the frying process. It was Kroc, back in the fifties, who sent out field men, armed with hydrometers, to make sure that all his suppliers were producing potatoes in the optimal solids range of twenty to twenty-three per cent. Freshly harvested potatoes, furthermore, are rich in sugars, and if you slice them up and deep-fry them the sugars will caramelize and brown the outside of the fry long before the inside is cooked. To make a crisp French fry, a potato has to be stored at a warm temperature for several weeks in order to convert those sugars to starch. Here Kroc led the way as well, mastering the art of "curing" potatoes by storing them under a giant fan in the basement of his first restaurant, outside Chicago.
Perhaps his most enduring achievement, though, was the so-called potato computer--developed for McDonald's by a former electrical engineer for Motorola named Louis Martino--which precisely calibrated the optimal cooking time for a batch of fries. (The key: when a batch of cold raw potatoes is dumped into a vat of cooking oil, the temperature of the fat will drop and then slowly rise. Once the oil has risen three degrees, the fries are ready.) Previously, making high-quality French fries had been an art. The potato computer, the hydrometer, and the curing bins made it a science. By the time Kroc was finished, he had figured out how to turn potatoes into an inexpensive snack that would always be hot, salty, flavorful, and crisp, no matter where or when you bought it.