Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Culinary Creativity: Chef Shingara "Peppino" Singh

(Check out my Introduction to the Culinary Creativity series.)

Chef Shingara “Peppino” Singh, a native of India, moved to Germany at the age of 16 and lived with an Italian family who owned a renowned Italian restaurant named Leonardo Da Vinci. Chef Peppino discovered a passion for Italian cooking and began his education. At the age of 23, Chef Peppino moved to Boston, working at The House of Blues in Cambridge and La Campania in Waltham.

After ten years at La Campania, Chef Peppino with long time friend, Wioletta Zywina, a native of Poland with a savvy mind for the restaurant business, opened Da Vinci in Boston’s South End.

Now on to the Interview--

How important is culinary creativity to you? Why is it important?
It is very important to me, as it is our responsibility, as Chefs, to be true to the Italian cooking tradition.

What are your most significant inspirations for your culinary creativity? What makes those matters so inspiring?
My love for food and more importantly, my love for my guests. When my guests share their happiness with my food to me, it makes all of the hours we put into our business all worth it.

Where do you get your ideas for new recipes/dishes?
Honestly, unlike a lot of Chefs that watch the cooking shows and read the cooking books, I get my ideas from my past. I grew up in Germany with an Italian family and I still, to this day, remember all of the lessons I learned from Aldo (my mentor) and his wife.

What is your process of creating a new recipe or dish?
I create the idea in my head and then I begin working immediately in the kitchen, to perfect the recipe.

Do other members of your staff assist with creating ideas for new recipes/dishes?
Other members of my staff assist with the operations side of the kitchen, but at this moment, I am the only one creating the ideas for Da Vinci's menu.

How do you test new recipes/dishes?
I create the dish and bring my dishes to the staff and our guests to share their feedback. They all know I am openminded and just want the best possible food for my guests.

What is the most difficult part of culinary creativity?
Taking my ideas and putting them on the plate. This can sometimes be a frustrating process, as I do not give up until the plate is perfect.

Do you ever experience “writer’s block,” an inability to be creative, and if so, how do you deal with it?
Sometimes......I think everybody does at one time or another. The best way that I deal with it, is to keep my eyes and ears open, wherever I am. Be it in the supermarket, at home, or in the restaurant, it is important to always listen to others' thoughts and ideas.

Relate an unusual or interesting anecdote about the creation of one of your dishes.
I discovered one of my most popular bar mixes by mistake. One of the bags of pasta broke over my cooking area, and fusilli went pouring into hot oil. When we were finally able to salvage them, we discovered it made an amazingly tasty bar snack for our guests!

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