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|
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.
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.”