11.30.2008

Dish Composition...

After giving some positive thought about a question posed to me about my food, I asked myself "how do I go about composing and contemplating a dish"? Where does it start? When did it do so? Was it in the last few moments...or did it stem from many years of cooking in different kitchens under different chef's and sous chef's? Was it based upon a single ingredient or a whole concoction, whether a full dish or entire meal? Was it a recipe you just read or a distant memory from your childhood? Is there really one main correct answer? I feel it really to be all of the above. For me, it starts in various ways, and is based on what is the objective of the outcome. The decision can become the outcome of a single menu item(think ala carte), or perhaps as a sum of it's parts of a whole tasting menu. I typically fast-forward my thinking to "mentally taste" the dish/menu through so I can visualize where it stands on it's own and with a group. If a cook hands me a bunch of chanterelles and say's "what can you do with these" or when I ask them to pull me together a list of different ingredients in which to propose a menu of the moment, I think about how the ingredient(s) can have the utmost impact on the menu or dish. Will they be combined with truffles, squash, duck confit and caramelized garlic to become an uber-tasty and savory component on the menu, or do I feature them by themselves simply roasted or sauteed and served in their own spotlight? Who knows! It depends. Who is coming to dinner? Is it a group of business folks who are merely meeting around the table to discuss the losses of the day and the challenges of tomorrow? Or is it a couple who simply wants the best money can buy them for the ultimate in food sensuality and experience? One does not always satisfy the other. You must know your audience and their tolerance for the level of your creativeness. Sometimes I will take the said chanterelles and pair them with an ingredient(s) that will prove to become a more focal point on the menu or dish, in that let's say we have already set our sights on a nice loin of Elk or Lamb, nicely marinated and then seared and roasted to a slow perfection. You can almost taste it now. So, the chanterelles will make a fantastic counterpoint and accompaniment to the entire juxtaposition of the dish. In other words, it takes a bit of a back-seat. No worries, as it will surely be good. It will taste great and add much depth and flavor to the elk or lamb. Other times, as I am conceiving a menu, an ingredient or two(or more) will stand out as being those that I really want to feature as a whole, and I will seek to create a dish that will satisfy my own personal hunger in cooking and serve as a platform for style and signature, and by no means at any sacrifice of taste. Taste has to come first! So you see, it is very multi-dimensional and complex in the terms of the process, and yet quite simple. There are so many elements to the equation, and at the same time, could be very fundamental. At the end of the day, or night, and after all the dishes have been cooked and served, you need to know and be certain that the folks enjoyed the creations. And it is my personal belief, that one must satisfy oneself first and foremost, for if not, you are cooking without heart, and nobody wins in that case. Of course, we all are here to make the guests happy, but it must be mutual. It is basically a double-edged sword, in that... an unhappy guest= a broke and unemployed chef, and an unhappy chef= an unhappy kitchen, unhappy food and thus, unhappy guests. Search your inner-self to find that happy medium so that everybody wins. How to compose a dish I ponder...seek inspiration from the season, the guests, the ingredients, the mood, the rest of the menu, the rest of the ingredients in the refrigerator or walk-in and start cooking! Try different combinations as the more you do, the more one learns about flavor marriages and what does not go together. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, as that is how one will learn. Have fun.

3 Comments:

Blogger Edan said...

I was checking out chefshop.com and look who popped at under the chef's pantry section.

And now you're a blogger! I can't keep up with it all ;-)

Great blog, AWESOME photos of the food at the club. You're still producing great good and that makes me proud--knowing that the lessons I learned while at the club are still being passed on to others.

Have a very Merry Christmas and best wishes to the New Year!

Warm regards,
Edan Bar-Lev

9:33:00 AM  
Blogger cuisinier said...

Yo Edan...great to hear from you! Thank you for the compliments. Hope you and yours have a great holiday as well. Stay in touch... cuisinier

9:31:00 PM  
Blogger cuisinier said...

hey...check out my other site as well...thedigitalkitchen.blogspot.com
This is more of a photo gallery of the moment, yet does nto contain all the text, philosophy, dialogue, emotion, and insight as this one does.

9:34:00 PM  

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