I'm sitting here staring at the menu.  For the past 20 minutes.  There has been this ugly struggle going on in my brain lately.  Maybe you can tell me how this happens:  You have all of the most beautiful ingredients on the planet in your walk-in.  There is a limitless well of technique and talented cooks to draw on, and your chef has so much trust in you that he almost never questions your menu items.  And you have exactly zero ideas of what to do with the duck dish tommorrow.

Inspiration.  Where does it come from?  Where does it hide?  You know it the moment you feel it:  during a great meal, browsing a cookbook, or just walking around your city.   There is a burst of energy, a momentary loss of breath, followed by a tingling feeling in your brain.  Your pupils dialate, and all you know is that you need to store this moment away, and later translate it into something amazing.

When inspiration is eluding you, it's akin to depression.  You feel thin, gaunt, lost.  Looking at food, all you can see is stolen ideas, and repetition.  Your ideas--so mundane and sophmoric.  At best, you could cater the green room on a t.v. talk show.  But why?  You can cook.  The menu, up until tonight has been a hit.  Do you feel like all you're doing is repeating?  Are you stuck in the culinary equivalent of Groundhog Day?

Inspiration is not linear.  There is no map to find it by.  That book that lit your fire a year ago might seem completely foreign to you now.  But the constant pursuit of inspiration is what's going to make you better.  You have to search it out.  Push all the time.  Read.  Listen.  Ask questions.  For me, lately inspiration has come from the people in my life.  Surround yourself with honest, interesting, creative people.  Open yourself up to them.  Show them everything.  Stop being afraid of yourself.

Every cook has that fire burning in them--and you can really tell when it's burning brightly.  If you're not inspired, it's your duty to seek out whatever it is that gets you going.  Re-visit.  Talk.  Laugh.  Read.  Listen.  Love.  Fight.  Debate.  Get angry.  Feel elation.  Let pain in.  Just don't deny any moment that might move you forward.  At the end of the day, inspiration might be what ends up getting you through.

  • really, I wish Violet and Ben could be on our podcast every week
  • I like when people I respect talk me out of things
  • Chasing people with a cart at Ferry Plaza is pretty funny
  • Why not use a thesaurus?
  • Corey is now on twitter.  @coreynead
  • If you had to choose between eating at Schwa, Alinea, or Avenues, where would you go?

quotes and conversations

"Hey Rich, I touched the sausage all day.  Heh."
-Ponder, who was trying to tell me that he got into his backup of sausage.

"Camaal just called me a flower."

Me:  You could say that Mongoose salutes big cocks.
Goose:  You could say that.

Me:  That's the second Wondertwins reference today, and that's two too many.
Ponder:  I like the Wondertwins.

Goose:  Did you say trifecta graph?
Me:  Yes, i'm blowing your mind on a daily basis now.
Goose:  That's not the only thing you're blowing.

"I miss Merrell."

Me:  Gerardo, I want you to get a coffee mug and put a scoop of tokaji and strawberry in it.
Gerardo:  Just that?  No coffee?

from top:  a whole night, peas, artichokes, leg of lamb, choices, broken freezer, steak, dinner, no lactose, small dice, i hate sundays, merrell's fry pocket, gibraltars, eddie and ryan


Greg said...

Alinea... With out a doughty. I have never been but that would be my pick. Anything your going to see at avenues has been done at alinea. Schwa is a choice after you have been to alinea.

FGF said...

It's good timing having Corey join Twitter after recently finding out Christopher Walken's Twitter account was a fake. A great fake, though.

Paul L. said...

If money is no object then definitely Alinea. That meal was one of the best...truly amazing in tastes, attention to detail, and technique. The sous chef is also on Twitter, you should check him out. Schwa is like a loud dinner party. No stemware, you bring your own wine, but the food is just amazing. Alinea is quiet, serene...almost zen-like. Schwa is completely opposite. Completely. If you have extra time in Chicago, you should also check out Publican or Graham Elliots place.


Matt said...

out of curiosity what did you sub in for the brulee without dairy and how did it turn out?

don't touch my knife said...

Alinea, far more calm which allows the diner to analyze the food better in my view. though i'd rather go have a nice pot au feu than liquefied, alginated, de-atomized grape or what ever hes doing now. I think it has its place, it definetly does. I'd just rather gaze upon his food than eat it.
Food should be just as appetizing as it is asthetic. that said, i'd hit up el bulli before any of them.

Not The Rockefellers said...

Thanks for this.
And a side of kick in the ass.