Curiosity, They say it killed the cat, but to be honest it saved the Chef so it was a worthy sacrifice!
Creative cuisine is made up of about 50% Curiosity, 30% problem solving and only about 20% skill. Your probably thinking “so if it’s only 20% skill why can’t we all open a restaurant and become the best in the world?”. it’s very simple: Curiosity and an open mind! Even in this day and age where we like to think we are all open minded and modern people, there are still countless amounts of people who face challenges when doing something new. The barriers I have spoken of before but the main ones are as follows: Cultural, Religious, Tradition, Societal, Etc. Having lived in 5 countries I am very aware that these barriers take a long time to come down, but if you keep in mind these are only mental barriers than the whole process is faster. When I move to a new country I must keep in mind that what I have been doing will need to be adjusted to the local taste, this generally takes about 6 months of fine tuning .
Now back to the topic, CURIOSITY! Creative cuisine means to “Create”, which sounds obvious…………….. But to some it is not, creation does not mean opening a book and replicating nor does it mean eating in a restaurant and copying, this is called interpretation. Creative cuisine needs to start from a thought, this is called the “What”. The thought will come to every Chef differently, I have heard some very strange places where inspiration will come to Chefs (some I can’t even mention here), but for me it will come when I am inspired by a food product almost as soon as I look at it or taste it in it’s raw form. I sometimes get images of food in the last moments of my sleep just before I wake up which I write down (but these generally do not work). You can imagine the possibilities are endless, for all the techniques which have been discovered in Classic cuisine and in Creative, plus all the techniques which you have been creating and also thinking about, you then need to narrow it down to what will suit this product the best. Once you have come up with the idea in your mind then you need to get to work on the problem solving. This covers everything from the sourcing of the products, handling of the products, what will accompany it, how will you prepare it, how will you store it, what is the best temperature, which plate to serve it on, Etc, Etc. This is just the tip of the iceberg! I spend a lot of time trying to convince Chefs to open up there mind to the possibility of Creating and expressing them self through food, the feeling you get when you perfect a new dish is something you cannot get from taking someone else’s dish and calling it your own.
Why did I write such a story? 2 Days ago I was washing some cabbage leaves and I was mesmerized by the water beading on the leaf as it looked like jewels dancing around (a little romantic I know). The beads of water were repelled so much by the leaf that they were perfect round balls and moved at lightning speed. So I started thinking if I could utilize this in perhaps a soup bowl, this way when the waiter pours the soup it will move naturally in the bowl plus the sides will remain clean when the soup is finished. So up until this point I still did not know why the water did this, so I contacted Peter Barham who is a Professor of Physics (and one of the creators of the Molecular Gastronomy concept) whom I know. He explained that the leaf and water have 2 different energies and basically repel each other, plus we have now discussed different ways to replicate this in a soup.
I guess what I am trying to say, pay attention to the little things that are naturally occuring in food. One of my Chefs once said to me “Good cooking is small points done to perfection”, How true this is!