When inspiration and creativity seem like close friends who have moved far away, my world can get a little gray. I’ve learned, however, I will eventually find my way out of the Chinese box through art in one of its many forms. After five episodes of David Gelb’s captivating series, “Chef’s Table,” I can feel my close friends returning. Gelb profiles some of the most renowned chefs in the world who share wonderful life lessons garnered on their journeys to becoming who they are–not necessarily new lessons–but refreshing reminders with a twist from world-class chefs. You do not have to be a foodie to appreciate what’s being served here.
Niki Nakayama is a master at modern kaiseki, a Japanese multicourse meal rooted in ancient eastern philosophies of being in harmony with nature. Nakayama fought long-held gender biases in her country and her field to reach her level of success. Not comfortable making loud, bold statements in her life, she values those expressions in her cooking–breaking rules, aggressive flavor combinations, carving her own path. She learned the importance of trusting herself, knowing when to let go in order to regain the spark of passion in her work.
All of the chefs have experienced failure. There is a common understanding that growth does not take place on a secure path, hence there is a willingness to take risks and to reinvent and change course in order to succeed. Dedication, perseverance and being true to oneself are common themes among these master chefs who create dishes that not only look like works of art but carry appellations like the Industrious Beet, and King George Whiting in Paperbark, and Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart.
Respect for ingredients is both mandatory and part of the joy of the art. Dan Barber of Blue Hill, a restaurant in New York, has devoted himself to sustainable cooking, working with growers to provide the most flavorful ingredients, while tending to care of the planet.
Teamwork is another echo in these profiles. To a one, these culinary geniuses value her or his team and the symphony of collaboration in the making of something amazing.
Stating the obvious, creativity is more than a required riff among these chefs. It is the essence of everything they are doing. They draw inspiration from other art. There is talk of cooking being soulful, as well as rooted in childhood experiences and memories, evoking scent, flavor and comfort from those years. The chefs strive to create unforgettable, unparalleled experiences for their guests, conjuring magic in explosions of joy and flavor.
As the imagination runs wild and the mouth waters seeing these chefs’ delectable dishes, the spirit is quenched and awoken by their passion. I am reminded anew that creativity is where life meets the divine and where we live in the moment. Inspiration is sparked by curiosity, our experiences and the amazing creation all around us, including that which feeds us, literally and figuratively. The supply is limitless. So go ahead and gorge; it’s also calorie-free.