The Chef’s Little Black Book

Today I am starting a new series – an idea I have for a book that has been sitting in a stage of partial completion for a while. If it will ever make it to print, I don’t know, but at least writing it this way I can get it all in one place and share for now as it comes together.

It starts something like this……….

Every great cook I have worked with has had his or her “little black book”, a collection of recipes and menu ideas gleaned from years of working alongside others who share the passion for food and cooking. In most cases it’s a shorthand list of formulas, great menu items, and notes to self about one’s experience spending thousands of hours behind a stove. This collection goes to form the chefs we become, and the broader one’s repertoire, the more source for inspiration there exists. I have held firmly to my belief that everyone in the kitchen makes a contribution to the knowledge base of the profession, and that collective brainpower has led me to years of inspired cooking in small restaurant kitchens and at home.

This experience and knowledge once closely scrutinized, comes down to several basic principles and approaches to food, ingredients, and technique. It is that combination that gives us the variety, as every recipe I have ever seen, know, or developed has been an extrapolation of a simple idea based on one of the fundamentals.

It is my goal in this series to share my personal collection of the basics, as well as an insight into how to take a relatively small set of ideas and turn them into an endless array of recipes, menu ideas, and memorable meals. What I want to get away from is the concept that cooking is about just following recipes. Cooking food is like playing music, my other great love. You can follow the score, but at the end of it all there are only 12 notes. Every great piece, song, or melody is derived from the ability of the composer to combine those 12 notes with an understanding of common combinations and fundamentals that work, sprinkled with a good dose of imagination and experimentation.

To transcend from merely following recipes to experiencing food in such a way that you can imagine an outcome, select the ingredients and put them together with a fairly close interpretation of what you set out to is truly a magical experience that those of us who have cooked professionally for many years probably take for granted, but one I want to share with you over the next little while.

So here it begins, my “little black book”

January 2013

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