Friday, October 15, 2010

Ferragamo or Laurent Perrier? A Chef Chooses

I must admit, it's a glorious feeling reading an interview with one of the greatest living chefs and finding out how wonderfully down to earth he is, and dare I say, just like you.

Ferran Adria is one such chef.  He recently gave a talk in New York City as part of a promotion of a new biography that both canonizes him and demystifies him at once, even if in the process a little man-crush gives way from author Colman Andrews, formerly of Saveur magazine, my most cherished food porn rag.

Chef Didier Oudill
In my years of working under chefs of a certain stature, when a down-time arrives and you have time to watch the rare and beautiful beast in his own habitat, you learn as much about his methods as you do the man behind the cuisine .  One such chef, Didier Oudill, was my chef during an externship at the Hotel Cafe de Paris in Biarritz, France.  He was disturbingly introverted and often gave to fits of pacing the kitchen while staring at the floor with knitted brow, as if solving an intricate theorem.  So, the other cooks and I would titter when he took a call in his office from one of his many friends around the globe, as he shouted in exuberance to hear their voice, while somehow seeming to make up for the distance with his elevated tone.  "Hah-looooooooooooo!"

And, it was that dichotomy that was both unplanned and revealing.  An "aha!" moment, but certainly not at the time.  I imagine I've had more than a few cooks think I was a patient off his meds in the past when doing the very same thing- trying to solve a problem completely unrelated to all that was in play at that moment, but no less important. 

When Chef Oudill would let his dog, Lipp, roam freely through the kitchens, it instantly humanized this mystery man.  When his kids visited and stepped inside the sacred laboratory (and he didn't freak), you knew there was a real man inside.  And, when, upon heading home I presented him with a "thank you" gift of a unique Laguiole knife whose soul purpose is for slicing lobes of foie gras, he seemed genuinely grateful and elated.  Not every stagiare is so fortunate to have a picture completed; no, some spend the rest of their career in kitchens trying to put an early experience with a "culinary madman" into perspective.

Or, you could come out of a high-profile interview like Adria did this week and appear downright playful, humble and inspirational in the process.  Andrews commented that Chef "dresses simply" because he'd rather spend his money on fine champagne than shoes because he'll remember the bubbly.  (If I had this guy's bank roll, I think I'd find room for both- just sayin'.)  But, perhaps the comment that resonated with me so much was one that captures my whole philosophy on food:  it's “very complicated and complex. I don’t know anything about food...maybe, a bit more than most.”
Then, offering an example, "it would take a lifetime to know about tomatoes. It’s not a joke. Multiply that by all the ingredients you can.  If you don’t have a humble attitude about food, then you’ll be dead.”

Thank you to Patricia Talorico for reporting this exciting and unique talk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder what happened to Elton?
you bring tears to my eyes Chef!


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