Friday, April 29, 2005

Improvement

One of the first things you learn as an athlete is how to improve yourself. And one of the best ways to improve on anything is to watch someone who is better than you. This is one of the biggest advantages of my stage. Daily I have the advantage of watching cooks who are better than me, seeing chef's who are better and calmer than most, and observe food start to finish that is innovative, refined, and considered some of the best in the world right now.

Another way to gain this advantage is to eat in the restaurants that house other leading chefs. Each chef's cuisine is a personal interpretation of the aesthetics of food. Seeing how different people interpret these aesthetics and what they create from it is a great way to inspire yourself. I don't have the financial means to do this very often, so I have to gather what I can about these people from magazines, the internet, book stores, and word of mouth. My favorite website for this is www.tastingmenu.com. Hillel and company travel, eat, and document an amazing amount each year. Their section of photographs is extensive, and their written interpretations of the meal are intelligent, insightful, and refreshing.

I heard a story along these lines in The Fat Duck a few days ago. When the restaurant was young Heston made a large effort to eat in all the 3 star restaurants, and many of the 2 star. One year a trip was planned but the money was too tight. He and his wife decided that rather than cancel the culinary vacation they had planned, they would sell their car and take the trip. They would worry about the car later and go gain the experience instead. He thought it was not only important for his own growth, but it was important to know what his customers were experiencing also. You can better reach your dining public if you understand their past experiences and their mind set at your table. Plus, it was probably really fun to eat in all those places!!!

I have seen the direct influence of one chef to another a few times. There is one dish in the El Bulli book whose title credits Michel Bras. At Lampreia the chef serves the Palio Egg with credit to The Palio, a restaurant he worked in while young.

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