Zen cooking

Foodies have heard the zen philosophy that good food is simple.  As a cook you strive to learn and master skills that can elevate your consumers experience with every dish you create.   These skills and techniques become easier and in some cases more profound over time AS LONG AS the cook understands and respects the food.

Respecting food?!  This is not about playing Aretha in the background while being polite to your ingredients.  Not that wouldn’t hurt, it’s more about knowing your ingredient.  Knowing who it likes to play with, how it likes to be treated in different cooking methods, and most importantly, knowing how to get the exact taste and texture in the simplest manner possible.

Cooking is much like any other discipline that combines hand eye co-ordination with an art.  When you experience a master in their element, you can recognize the years of practice in every movement they make, every decision is done without effort, it just flows. Watching a chef who has such mastery, who is thinking three, four, ten steps ahead on what needs doing, yet has the presence in the now, is truly inspiring.  Experiencing a chef with such skills that understands ingredients is where true magic is born.

Dinner with friends the other night really brought this into perspective.  They are both chefs with a great respect for their ingredients.  A simple frisée salad is elevated by the use of wine vinegar from Banyuls and the salty edge is profound because of the quality blue cheese.  Seasonal ingredients like beets are respected for just being themselves and allowing the rich intense earthy sugar flavours to shine.  Everything just works and of course its assembled with ease and almost no thought.  Its that knowing that can take ingredients and make their combination look natural.  That’s all this was and yet it held more sophistication than most salads I’ve had in long time.

For that, I am grateful.

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