Read an Excerpt
As a professional I'm always challenged by the disparity between what I want to cook and what my customers want to eat. However, I learned long ago from some of my great mentors that if you cook from the heart, you're cooking with passion ... and everyone will enjoy the meal.
Funny how when you're asked to write a cookbook, for most chefs, it's about writing a book for yourself, a chance to really showcase your culinary accomplishments.
But after diving into the creation of this book, rolling up my sleeves and cooking in my home, there was the realization that cookbooks have to be easily understood to be an easy and useful tool for your kitchen.
We struggle as chefs and authors to categorize or subdivide our thoughts in the way that we cook. Many won't admit that we eat through our emotions. Hence my idea to divide this book to reflect my approach to cooking as influenced by external factors: When I'm Cool, When I'm Cold, When I'm Warm, When I'm Hot.
So, Deconstructing the Dish is how I look at ingredients for my main meal. It's how I cook for myself.
A cookbook should not be a word-for-word regurgitation of a chef's dish but rather a mad scientist's periodic table with a formula to create, and guidance on what ingredients and combinations are successful.
I hope that many years from now this book, tattered and dogeared, is an essential tool in your kitchen, containing all your personal notes, reminders, additions and changes ... it's your cookbook now. Use it to its fullest potential. It's okay to change a recipe and make it yours. Don't be afraid to make your own notes on the pages. Find what works for you,and mark it down for all time.
Only then will I truly feel accomplished; that I've passed something forward. Experience passion for food. Embrace the challenge of creation.Introduction
My aim when cooking is not only to see the big picture, but also to focus on the most minute detail of a dish. I'm told by friends, staff and fellow chefs that the way I talk, my enthusiasm for new ideas in the kitchen, the way I use my hands (who knew?!) when explaining the flavor all give a true tactile response to a listener even before the dish is presented to them. Those who have been at one of my restaurants and have seen the creative chaos for themselves (and, I have to confess, heard the occasional swearing!) tell me they have experienced true passion for food. I try to define cuisine so that it has a sensory translation-I want dishes to have a taste and a smell as they are described.
I love to observe the way things are put together in all aspects of life. For me things are products of smaller things: a good painting is a collection of well-placed pigments, a car is just a list of parts ingeniously crafted to work together. And so a dish is more than just a grouping of food for me; it is a series of elements, of taste, color, texture and aroma.
By looking at each dish as a sum of its parts, I have tried to simplify the complex and make sense of the many layers that make up a single dish. The challenge is to break things down to their smallest units to be able to restructure or understand them as a whole through their individuality. This allows me to produce very simple-to-follow ideas and descriptions, even when concluding very complex finales.
Deconstructing the Dish starts at the finish line. I dissect and explain each dish as comprised of building blocks, each hidden within the finished dish. Exploring the building blocks of fine dishes will give the reader an understanding of how to approach dishes by starting from the center (the principle) and working out to the garnish, the vegetable, the sauce, etc. This basic new understanding will empower the reader to use all, or some, of the parts in a modular way, combining building blocks from one dish with building blocks from another, adding their own parts to an already existing equation. Learning about the elements of a dish and how to place them together, combined with a whole bunch of wonderful elemental recipes, will inspire the reader to create dishes of their very own.
I do not intend Deconstructing the Dish to be a conventional recipe book by which people may memorize or copy recipe after recipe; it is instead intended to be a source of inspiration, providing a mythology on how to attach the creation of a plate. Simply, Deconstructing the Dish provides people with some of the pieces required to get the motor of imagination running. Then, cook with passion!