Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Culinary Creativity

What is the wellspring of inspiration, the source of creativity?

As a writer, I have some understanding of the creative process. But creativity is not for writers alone as it exists in all professions. Each person derives inspiration from a variety of sources as well as undertaking their own unique processes. Their backgrounds and experience often affect these matters. If we better understand someone's creative process, I think that can make us more appreciative of the work of such individuals.

Chefs can be very creative individuals, concocting new recipes and dishes. But, there are restaurants where the menu never seems to change. A chef at such a place will make the same dishes, day in and day out, and the act of cooking becomes repetitive and routine. But I believe that the truly passionate chefs will not be not satisfied working in such restaurants. They will want to be inventive, to expand their own culinary horizons. They will constantly be seeking to better themselves, to improve their dishes. They will relish the challenge and their patrons will benefit. Their menus will constantly change, with new dishes continually being added.

I greatly appreciate and admire the culinary creativity of such chefs and desire to gain a better understanding of their creative process. I want to delve into their methods of crafting new dishes and to seek out their inspirations. I hope to gain even more admiration for their profession through analyzing their creative process.

I have begun such a endeavor, to enhance my comprehension of such matters and will share my findings with my readers. Initially, I selected three chefs to interview, chefs who I personally felt were especially creative. These chefs are different in many ways, so I also felt that I might get a better overall perspective on culinary creativity. Or I might discover that most chefs follow the same creative path. I did not know where my questions might lead but I was excited to follow their path.

Here are the basic questions I asked them, noting that the chefs did not have to answer any specific question if they did not want to do so, and that they were free to expand into related areas that I might not have asked about. I also followed up with them on an expanded answer I wanted.
  • How important is culinary creativity to you? Why is it important?
  • What are your most significant inspirations for your culinary creativity? What makes those matters so inspiring?
  • Where do you get your ideas for new recipes/dishes?
  • What is your process of creating a new recipe or dish?
  • Do other members of your staff assist with creating ideas for new recipes/dishes?
  • How do you test new recipes/dishes?
  • What is the most difficult part of culinary creativity?
  • Do you ever experience “writer’s block,” an inability to be creative, and if so, how do you deal with it?
  • Relate an unusual or interesting anecdote about the creation of one of your dishes.
During the next couple weeks, I will highlight each of these chefs and their inspirational answers. I hope you find their answers to be both interesting and informative. Please be advised that the chef's posts may be lengthy, and some may be broken down into two parts, yet the length is necessary to best understand their culinary creativity.

If these interviews are well received, I will continue this series and interview additional chefs. If you enjoy this series, or even if your don't, please post your comments here. With your feedback, I can hopefully make this project even better.

I should also give much thanks to the chefs who agreed to participate in this endeavor!

Chef Interviews:
Chef Peter Ungár: Part 1 & Part 2 of his Answers
Chef Matthew Barros: Part 1 & Part 2 of his Answers
Chef Vittorio Ettore: Answers
Chef Marisa Iocco: Answers
Chef Jacky Robert: Answers
Chef Shingara "Peppino" Singh: Answers
Chef Rebecca Newell: Part 1 & Part 2 of her Answers
Chef Evan Percoco: Answers
Chef Jacob Zachow: Answers
Chef Denise Baron: Answers
Chef Scott Hebert: Answers
Chef Anthony Caturano: Answers
Chef Susheela Raghavan: Answers
Chef Chris Chung: Answers
Chef Franck Iglesias: Answers
Chef Keith Pooler: Answers
Chef Matt Louis: Answers
Chef Steve Zimei: Answers
Chef Brian Poe: Answers

(Updated as of 10/5/18)

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