We used to work for a Chef that would “borrow” ideas from other chefs and cookbooks. Okay, in our young and irreverent youth we all referred to it as “stealing”. When he came up with new dishes it actually was something of a pastime/competition among the cooks to figure out the source and find the source and pass it along. He was a master at raiding obscure cookbooks. The benefit of that was that we found them all and created quite a library of our own. He also had a knack for finding the next up and coming chefs so that we saw their dishes in our kitchen just as the buzz got started. Of course we always had to find out who they were ourselves, but seeing the variety of dishes was an incredible education. Thank you Chef! As the years pass and I find influences everywhere around me, from sources both obvious and obscure, I realize that what we called stealing was actually interpreting. No two chefs will take the exact same recipes and ingredients and come out with exactly the same result. We taste things and think about what we would change. The perfect dish is only experienced when there is nothing to tweak and that is a rare occasion indeed. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually experienced it. But imperfect dishes can be incredibly exciting and lead to some of our greatest interpretations and creations. The hardest lesson to learn is that there is no such thing as a new idea in food. Everything has been done before in some way shape or form…except some of the new wackier molecular gastronomy stuff…the technology there is pretty young…but the ideas behind the food, combinations of textures and flavors and the manipulation of ingredients, have been around for centuries. Most “new ideas” in food are in reality, not new or unique, they are just recently popular.
Professional cooking is all about execution. The larger your kitchen, the harder it is to achieve. We have the combined luxury and hardship of being the only two people in our kitchen at the moment. At peak season we may have 2-3 other cooks and a dishwasher, but that’s it. So execution is much less of a problem for us than it is for someone with 20-30 cooks in their brigade. We can change every dish at every meal if we so choose and usually we do. Creativity and execution are the cornerstones of our cuisine. Ingredients are the last element that ties it all together. Everything that we do together in the kitchen is a collaboration. We bounce ideas off of each other all day long. Eventually we pick something and run with it. The interpretation goes to whoever grabs the ingredients for a specific dish first. Sometimes we both grab different ingredients for the same dish and go off in our separate directions and figure out how to make them work when we're done. Sometimes we just start with ingredients, no discussion, each of us taking the things that we want and playing with them. Then we evaluate what we have and put things together. We both taste the completed dish and make whatever changes are deemed necessary. The final creation is the one that speaks to both of us. If we don’t love it, no one else gets to taste it. If only one of us loves it, there’s still work to be done. Once we both approve we know that it must be pretty close to perfect. Or at least to our interpretation of it.