On the Bulldog’s Tail
Today, I attended Mistura, Lima’s extraordinary annual national gastronomy fair. I had little idea of what I would find other than numerous food stands representing Lima’s many restaurants and niche eateries (huariques). I discovered that it was a lot more, with a large pavilion dedicated to fruits and herbal products, an industry pavilion where equipment and food brands coalesce, two separate areas for coffee and cocoa products, a stage with music and dance performances throughout the day and a central auditorium showcasing lessons and talks by international culinary greats. All accessible with one entry ticket.
To my luck, Ferran Adrià was again present to give an inspiring talk, now with almost a full week of enjoyment in Lima and an obvious enthusiasm for the culinary energy of this country. In case you haven’t heard, Peru is rapidly emerging as an international culinary power with an enormous internal curiosity and energy to rediscover this land’s diversity of food, in large part thanks to the efforts of Peruvian model chef Gastón Acurio, and stable economic growth. Speaking with friendly Spanish slyness, mentorship and fraternity, Adrià started by stating that he was making a grand exception to his decision to not give another single talk after closing his restaurant (until elBulli foundation opens in 2014) because of what he’s found in Peru and the extraordinary event that is Mistura. And then the smile spread to the room for the next hour and a half. I wanted to follow my last post with some concrete quotes from the man –
- You must be happy to give happiness.
- If you think well, you cook well. If you think well, you create well.
- Let us aspire to do more than just provide food!
- You will never do anything alone [in the kitchen].
- The future of cooking is culinary biodiversity, we have so many cuisines that still need to be reacquired.
- There must be a biologist in the room who knows the proper name of this shrimp. I am new to Peru, but I should know the names and nature of what I cook!
- A cook cannot start by stating “Woah, how weird” to new cuisines he discovers, a cuisine’s history dictates that it should be taken importantly.
- How can we keep aware of the latest in shrimp creativity?
- As a chef, you must be aware of the difference between “social sins” and “cooking sins” – if you deem that you need to use whole Mediterranean shrimp at 80 euros a kilo to produce the finest shrimp broth, you go for it.
- What was the invention of puff pastry 600 years ago if not pure culinary creativity!
- Did Mary Quant invent something new with the miniskirt in 1958? Have you not seen films on ancient Rome, what were they wearing? No, but Mary Quant conceptualized the miniskirt.
- What is creativity? To conceptualize something new.
- A chef changed my life at a talk once when he answered the question of what is creativity, with “To not copy”. This in an important ethical dimension of our creative endeavour.
- To create, it is important to not have barriers, the established principles of cooking can always be refuted.
- We can choose to reproduce what already exists, and there is certainly great merit in doing it with care and passion. When you truly want to create however, you aspire to have influence and leave a precedent.
What does “tradition” mean in gastronomy?
Adrià: A country’s feeling towards food. Tradition depends on where in time we choose to stop and define it.
Acurio: What a people feels in each historical moment.
A memorable moment of the event occurred when Adrià asked for two ceviches to be sent out to the demonstration table. He then asked Acurio to come and present them. He went straight to the second dish and said, “first of all, this is not ceviche because it’s made from black shellfish, overextraction and overconsumption are driving these clams extinct, it no longer has a place on the table”. The room erupted with applause. Radical choices and stances have their merit, take and support them!