Creating great-tasting cuisine requires chefs to master the art of developing flavor through balanced combinations of complementary elements. This includes foods, condiments, and cooking techniques that work together to create a unique flavor experience. The perception of these flavors is experienced through all the senses, but particularly through the flavor, aroma, and textures of food. Everyone's ability to distinguish taste is different, and some people are more sensitive than others.
While some chefs may have a natural knack for analyzing dishes, most must train their palates to recognize the characteristics of ingredients and learn how to combine them in the right proportions for a harmonious result. It's important to note that this isn't a matter of simply consulting a dictionary of flavors and trying to put together combinations that are scientifically combined in some way. Good chefs have an intuitive understanding of what flavors go well together, based on both flavor combinations and culinary traditions. The possibilities for flavor combinations are virtually endless, but people tend to gravitate towards familiar flavors in their food.
To some extent, diners want comforting foods or flavors that they recognize. This is true even in molecular gastronomy, where the objective is often to present unknown flavors in a very mundane and familiar presentation, or vice versa: to take known and beloved flavors and present them in a seemingly strange way. Chefs must also master the skill of tasting while cooking and adjusting flavors accordingly. This includes considering flavor saturation and cleaning your palate as you taste to ensure that your taste buds don't become desensitized before the flavors are balanced.
Mastering the balance of the five key flavors is the hallmark of an expert chef.