Against my better judgement, I found myself watching yet another MasterChef episode on TV. In this particular one, the challenge for the contestants was to take street food and elevate it. As the frazzled contestants rushed about trying to make fancy tacos, deconstruct Philly cheesesteak and lobster roll and plate posh fusion kebabs, I got more confused by this whole exercise in culinary inanity. What hypothetical customer is looking for elevated street food? Are there diners thinking, “Gosh, I wish I didn’t have to eat with my hands, or off a disposable plate, in the middle of an outdoor alley.” Somebody please tell these poor souls we now have things called restaurants. They have tables, chairs, napkins and the dishes can be enjoyed with real cutlery. Elevated street food is essentially restaurant food. As a construct, it’s as silly as someone wanting to do casual fine dining. It’s either “casual” or it’s “fine”. As oxymorons go, it’s almost as stupid as when fashion tried to deliver us “grunge glamour”. Elevated gastronomy can take many forms. If some dumplings are hastily tossed into a bowl, that’s street food. But if they are arranged artistically, with decorative chives, and aesthetic dots of chilli oil prettily placed on a plate, then that’s elevated dining. Simple pleasures: why Bib Gourmand beats the stars in Michelin Guide You can also give your food an upwards lift with a tiny dollop of caviar, a drizzle of truffle oil, renaming your sauce as a “jus”, or just stating the origin of each ingredient on the plate when you serve it. “For your main course, this is a 100 per cent mild cheddar from Yeo Valley, in between slices of whole wheat bread made fresh daily at Panash, grilled with the finest New Zealand Anchor butter from Wellcome. Do enjoy your sandwich au fromage fondue – or grilled cheese sandwich .” I think a lot of insecure chefs have a fixation on elevating cuisines. Whenever a new type of food comes to town, the first initiatives almost always try to sell it as something authentic, “straight from” its point of origin. Then, to maintain customer interest, restaurants feel they need to raise the cuisine, as if gearing towards the Michelin Guide automatically makes the food superior to that sold on the down low. From a marketing perspective, it’s a great excuse to hike up prices. I suppose it makes for less work and more economic sense to serve one deconstructed tasting menu at HK$1,500 (US$190) than to sell 30 tacos at 50 bucks each. The thing is, I don’t know any Mexican food fan who wouldn’t be happier eating a couple of carne asada pork or Baja pescado on the beach than be in a stuffy dress-up restaurant where a server needs to explain how each taco component has been dissected and reinterpreted. I mean, mariachi music is not better if its songs are performed by a symphony orchestra. Elevating street food doesn’t make it tastier. Interestingly, it’s not just cuisines with street cred that are pressured to elevate for greater prestige, respect or whatever kind of stature this gastro-gentrification is aimed at. Even classic European dishes get sidelined for not being elegant or chic enough. A Frenchman complained to me recently how he can’t find a good pot-au-feu or cassoulet in Hong Kong. These rustic stews made with leftover meats and tough cuts are not chic enough for our bistros. Even “casual” restaurants in Hong Kong have a compulsion to make things more luxurious, exclusive and grand. But Wagyu burgers are not better burgers, Iberico char siu with manuka honey is like an LV logo fanny pack, and truffle mac and cheese is food for rhinestone redneck trailer trash. Real connoisseurs eat street food with their hands. The only thing they worry about elevating is their cholesterol. Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .