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Posts Tagged ‘chefs’

Epicurean Materialism

October 15, 2014 | by

spinozabook

Photo: Clemcal, via Flickr

Be not astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many.
―Baruch Spinoza

A little after nine, on the western outskirts of Berlin, we tried to find a bite. The first restaurant was filled with merry revelers and contained a video of a brightly burning log, but we were informed that a party was in progress, which went some way toward explaining the five dirndls, two pairs of lederhosen, and single loden jacket on the premises. That left us with a single option: the train-station restaurant.

The train-station restaurant appeared to be closed but was in fact merely deserted. A visibly drunk waiter gave us our choice of any table in the two massive dining rooms. Both were funereal, brightly lit by a series of 1980s chandeliers and enlivened by sepulchral muzak. The menu was strange and dubiously cross-cultural; we ordered dumplings. The drunk waiter conferred with a man in chef’s whites in the corner while they stared at us.

Some minutes later, the chef himself approached our table. They were out of everything but turkey dumplings, he said. Would we like turkey dumplings? The answer was obviously no, but we smiled and said, Of course, and sure enough, the turkey dumplings appeared. Aware of potential scrutiny, we feigned great enthusiasm. The drunk waiter, who had started hiccuping cartoonishly, wove by a couple of times. To our immense relief, a small group of Japanese tourists wandered in and sat on the other side of the dining room.

It was at about this time that the chef reappeared at our table. He was carrying a plastic bag and smiling mysteriously. From the bag, he removed a book. He put it down on the table with an air of revelation. We looked at it. It was a German copy of Spinoza’s Ethics. Read More »

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Good Taste

April 7, 2014 | by

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Chef Frédéric Piepenburg, of Murray Hill’s Chez le Chef. Photo via MeSoHungry/MightySweet.com

Over the weekend, Kitchen Arts and Letters, the wonderful culinary bookshop on New York’s Upper East Side, held a sale. I scampered over and, among other treasures, came away with something called The Eccentric Cookbook, by one Richard, Earl of Bradford. The 1985 cover showcases the author sporting one of those aprons made to look like a lady’s body—or, in this case, her brassiere and garter belt.

As promised, the cookbook is idiosyncratic. It is a strange combination of anecdotes and recipes, and the eccentrics profiled within run the gamut from historic figures, to folkloric oddities, to vaguely wacky people in the author’s social circle. The recipes that follow these either do, or don’t, have anything to do with said eccentrics. Read More »

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Sketches from the elBulli Kitchen

February 25, 2014 | by

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Detail from Ferran Adrià, Plating Diagram, c. 2000-2004; Colored pen on graph paper; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Ferran Adrià, Theory of Culinary Evolution, 2013; crayon, paint stick, and colored pencil; sixty drawings, each 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Albert Adrià, Ferran Adrià, and Oriol Castro, from Notebooks Related to Creativity, 1987-2011; Ink on paper; Courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Detail from Ferran Adrià, Plating Diagram, c. 2000-2004; Colored pen on graph paper; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Ferran Adrià, Theory of Culinary Evolution, 2013; crayon, paint stick, and colored pencil; sixty drawings, each 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Ferran Adrià, Creative Pyramid, 2013; ink on paper, dimensions variable; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Ferran Adrià, Theory of Culinary Evolution, 2013; crayon, paint stick, and colored pencil; sixty drawings, each 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Ferran Adrià, Plating Diagram, c. 2000-2004; Colored pen on graph paper; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Marta Mendez, Pictograms, 2001/2013; Archival pigment print on Hannemuhle paper; fifteen prints, each 12 x 12 inches; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Ferran Adrià, Plating Diagram, c. 2000-2004; Colored pen on graph paper; courtesy of elBullifoundation

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Marta Mendez, Pictograms, 2001/2013; Archival pigment print on Hannemuhle paper; fifteen prints, each 12 x 12 inches; courtesy of elBullifoundation

Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity, on view at the Drawing Center in New York through this week, seeks to claim the status of artist for one of the most innovative chefs working today. Adrià gained fame at the now-shuttered Spanish restaurant elBulli, where he sustained a three-star Michelin rating for fourteen years and garnered comparisons to another famous Catalan, Salvador Dali. To call a chef an artist can smack of hyperbole, but the new vanguard in contemporary cuisine, led in no small part by Adrià, is defying previous definitions of gastronomy. But despite the surge in technique—and for that matter, cost—food’s ephemeral, basic-need status inclines art purists to consider it a flash in the pan. Notes on Creativity resolves these tensions with sketches and notes that indicate the complex, restless work of Adrià’s kitchen, to say nothing of his mind.

The objects on display—ledgers, notebooks, scrap paper—illuminate the extent to which cooking is a creative process, as impassioned and compulsory as any. While he ran elBulli, Adrià kept detailed records, filling stray pieces of paper with plating ideas, loose concepts, and flavor profiles. In these ephemera we see the evolution of Adrià’s style over decades, and his determination to articulate his designs. The sketches are a window into the expanse of Adrià’s imagination, in particular the plasticity of his process. As it turns out, he is just as likely to start with a visual impression of a dish, figuring out the flavor components later, as he is to begin with an ingredient—an approach that seems like the culinary equivalent of Ginger Rogers doing Fred Astaire’s moves backward and in heels. Read More »

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