Everyday I think about how and why I cook. Stripped down to the core, it is to make the guest smile. Sure, the food has to be great, the ambiance is important and many other factors also come into play. Yet, without the smile, I have failed. And here in lies the rub, I should be smiling too.
So, how to cook smartly? For me, it is a delicate balance of refinement and approachability. I must also have a solid reason for the purpose of assembling a dish. The second part is not an absolute, for many times a dish evolves from the assemblage of failures and missteps in other projects. That is alright in my book, as long as at the end the dish draws that smile.
Similarly, I am intrigued and inspired by the process of cooking. Sure, there are right ways and wrong ways to prepare ingredients, and sometimes there is just a different way. I have become less fearful of using the different way and that has opened many doors. I think that is important in cooking smartly. Just because something is different or does not make sense at the moment does not mean it is wrong. What is wrong, is simply to dismiss thoughts because they are not easily assimilated. I cannot count the amount of times I first faced a project and it was almost shelved because I refused to see the different approach.
That is what I have learned.