I have been looking at new cookbooks published recently and one I was looking out for this year happened to be Rene Redzepi’s book A Work In Progress (winner of a James Beard Award) that I heard about from him in Spring. I always love a chance to talk to him about the mundane and the special happenings in our industry both of the personal and public kind. This year we got to meet in three different continents and at different forums so each conversation was unique. I wrote a piece about him with excerpts from one of our conversations where the editor unfortunately missed the scoop about his book that was to be released six months later and edited it out. That is one of the reasons that I decided to have my own dialogue because unfamiliarity with the subject results in editing relevant information out of the text.
Unless you live in the world of food like me many chefs and food related news are not on your horizon. Redzepi’s recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel resulted in emails to me that OMG that was the guy you wrote about and they had finally connected the two. For the reading pleasure of those who missed the earlier article I am presenting the conversation in its original format:
Well, cooking has made me a happier person. through the years, I have been lucky to meet a bunch of very dedicated and inspiriting people that have helped me better understand every day how to ‘cook the world’ as it were and interpret the flavors within it.
You travel a lot to attend food events all over the world, do you pick up new products or cooking styles of food? How significant have these travels been in changing your style? (in food of course)
Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish writer, coined the famous phrase, ‘traveling is living’, which I concur with, but traveling is also exploring, opening your mind, seeing other cultures and techniques, other ways of looking at food, which is all an essential part of what we do here.
I have enjoyed tremendously Cook it Raw events, which is not so much a Symposium but a gathering of cooks. If I had to highlight a few from recent years, I would mention Terroir in Canada as a very pure, idealistic gathering of food-related people; and also Margaret River in Western Australia, where I was able to hang out with an old friend of mine, Sat Bains, who I worked with as a young cook and it was amazing to connect with him again.
Of course, we are always working to develop new and interesting angles. This year we will have more women speakers than previous times – something we have made a special effort to achieve. besides this, there will be many smaller improvements and new ideas that will make the gathering unique and fun, but no major changes are planned.
I have already seen quite a significant change from when i first started cooking twenty years ago. at the time, it was impossible to imagine a so-called fine-dining establishment without fine linens on the tables, waiters in suits, etc. These days, things have changed a lot and you see a generation of cooks being brought up with a very different view of what such restaurants would look like. i hope to see things become more genuine and honest with time.
Getting people to use their brains.
Most chefs in the world seem fascinated by Asia and South America at this time. Is that influence going to be seen in Nordic cuisine?
The influence is already in Nordic cuisine. for example, I have traveled to Japan three times now and staged in some famous restaurants there. my friend, Alex Atala, is a huge influence on us already – especially regarding our research into insects, which is a direct consequence of what happens there in South America. And the world shouldn’t forget about Mexico ….
How do you feel about other chefs blatantly copying your creations and presenting them on their menus with out giving you credit?
I don’t have a problem with this as I see creativity as really being a cooperation of existing ideas and being able to connect them to the present. influence and inspiration always comes from somewhere. i certainly have my heroes – Michel Bras, Marc Veyrat and so on.
You along with other young chefs share a lot of your research and creative endeavors with other chefs. Why is this important to you?
I believe that collaboration is the future. The better that we become at this, the better our cooking will be, the better our restaurants will be. Don’t have secrets, have collaborations!
Is there pressure to stay ahead creatively since your guests have very high expectations from you?
We put pressure on ourselves. I believe that creativity needs a generous dose of pressure in order to be nurtured. pressure is not a bad thing, it can be a good motivator.
Where in the world do you travel for leisure? Any place you want to go?
Mexico has become my adopted home. I love Mexico and the people there … and, of course, the food.
The food industry is hard on family life( I have lived it for over 25 years). What is your experience so far?
The food industry can be hard on families. I certainly don’t know of any cook who doesn’t have a failed relationship behind them because of the workload, but there is a balance that can be found and it is possible, but you need a lot of understanding from your family. You have to be there when the guests are, which is every evening.
You have people from all over the world doing stages and training in your operation. What is the advice you give them about this profession?
Find your inspiration – whether it is operating a taco stand or going for Michelin stars. Whatever it is, stick up for it. And don’t be ashamed even if it might seem banal. Fucking go all in after it.
Much more of the same, just a lot better.
What is different about your new book coming later this year?
Well, it is three books actually. However, the main book – the heart of it all – is a creative journal that i wrote. It’s around 62,000 words on our daily progress through our endeavors. I think it has become quite interesting and a solid read. Besides this, there is also a recipe book with 103 recipes that we made during that year, plus a small moleskin-sized book with captioned images from our staff. All these three books of different sizes and textures, will be bound together with a rubber band.