Monday, August 27, 2007
Cooking is more than just a job to me. Cooking is life. I wake up thinking about it and I fall asleep dreaming about it. There is something transcendent about making food. A feeling that can not be described except as being 'other'. I believe a cook is born not made. One cannot simply decide to become a chef. That drive, that call, if I may, is what leads a person into the kitchen. Someone who is meant to be a cook will be a cook no matter how late in life they may finally take that step. No other occupation or profession will bring that person peace. For a true cook, the kitchen is the only place on earth where solace can be found. The only place where meaning is discovered. There are chefs out there who have no reason being cooks. They look at food, the kitchen, their pots and pans, the daily routine as simply a means to an end. They cook not because they must but because that is what they do to pay the bills. It is these people I pity most. They do what they have to and call it good. They spend time behind the stoves because that's what the boss pays them to do. Instead of being caught up into some mystery, they punch in and out and feel no passion at all. Cooking is life. There is no other way to say it. Even the home cook can understand the joy that comes from creating a meal for someone else. Even the home cook can transcend their day to day life and be caught up in the mystery that comes from transforming a bag full of ingredients into a meal that is shared between family and friends. That is what true cooking is. It is the transforming of the ordinary, be it fennel, cherries, flour, snapper, fillet or mac-n-cheese, into something that is shared between people who have common bonds. Just because a dinner might cost $100 per person does not mean it is true. A meal is only a meal when two elements are present: 1) It must be prepared with love and passion, 2) It must be shared between friends. Leave one or both elements out and one is simply having dinner, simply fueling ones body. I have had meals prepared by friends who have no technical skills what so ever, but I have loved what they made more than many of the fine dinners I have had in top restaurants. Why? Because they poured their soul into the food I was eating and I very much enjoy their company. As Escoffier once said, "one cannot have a bad meal with friends".