Friday, October 9, 2009

Culinary Creativity: Chef Rebecca Newell-Part 2

(Check out my Introduction to the Creative Culinary series.)
(Read Part 1 of my Interview with Chef Rebecca Newell)

What is your process of creating a new recipe or dish?
I like to make the dishes a few times in advance, whether it be at home or at work, and of course, my boss is my guinea pig! He loves to eat and I try to keep the dishes in the theme of Beehive. He is always eating at different restaurants and brings ideas back that he wants to try out at Beehive. Because we're such a large restaurant some dishes are not reasonable to do at high volume but other dishes I take a look at them, see where they would pick up on the line, how it would be prepped and make sure it's not too much work. A lot of times, I research dishes for a long time, such as a Moroccan couscous my boss really wanted to put on the menu. I often find cooking techniques on Youtube believe it or not to research dishes that I have no idea how to do. Like a traditional Moroccan CousCous or a Uruguayan Lamb Dish.

Do other members of your staff assist with creating ideas for new recipes/dishes?
I bounce ideas off my sous chefs a lot, like where to pick up certain dishes to spread out the entree pick ups so that one station isn't slammed and the rest of the line is just standing around. Sometime we do over 400 covers at Beehive so it's got to be an even distribution on the line. For instance, if I fire 6 or 8 tickets at a time, grill may pick up 8 to 10 entrees and saute doing the same instead of one person doing all the work.

How do you test new recipes/dishes?
I always try my dishes out on several people, sometimes the staff at Beehive because I trust them, they love to eat. My mom is also a big taste tester. And my boyfriend. I guess I have a big group of food critics at my disposal all the time.

What is the most difficult part of culinary creativity?
I know that answer without even pausing. You need to be able to accept criticism with stride and listen and read blogs, people's criticisms, the waitstaff and the numbers. Even if you love the dish as a chef, if it's not selling, you have to yank it off the menu.

Do you ever experience "writer's block", an inability to be creative, and if so, how do you deal with it?
Yes and yes.. I do get stumped with dishes sometimes. How many permutations can you do with salmon? It's crazy! And beef and pork and chicken. But you need to keep exploring cookbooks, see other restaurant's menus online and eat out constantly. Which means a lot of time in the gym. YUCK.

Relate an unusual or interesting anecdote about the creation of one of your dishes?
You know, I love chicken or veal saltiboca. Recently we went to a wedding and my aunt hosted the rehearsal dinner and one of the choices was chicken stuffed with ham and served over lots of yummy buttered noodles. I loved it and when I got back to Boston, I created a lasagna that was layered with prosciutto and thinly pounded chicken, sage, lots of ricotta, chicken stock and wine. So good. Dishes are inspired constantly by chef's personal whims and moods. I love doing my grandmother's dishes, my mom's dishes, my aunt's dishes...whoever I'm missing that day.

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