Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Beginning of the End of the Beginning & “Cookbook Mixtapes”

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It has been a few weeks since I’ve had a chance to write much of anything, but I promise that it has not been due to lack of effort.  Since the start of the new project, The Summit, I’ve been inundated with meetings and logistics that go with our preparations for opening within the expected timelines.  And, because I was still completing my final few weeks at my day job, the workload for both positions soaked up any free time I normally have to write.

Today, however, reads June 1st on the calendar, which happens to coincide with the first official day that I can dedicate my primary and undivided focus to my new position – which of course, involves detailing it on this blog.  As things currently stand, we are in the middle of tuning the build-out, reviewing vendors and taking all steps involved with the permitting process. 

I’d say logistics takes up most of the work hours because truthfully, planning and execution is paramount.  Of course, I’m not necessarily speaking from a position of experience with the process of building a new space, but thankfully I have had an career’s worth of experience with nothing but project management, planning and implementation.  Throw in a degree in engineering and a contractor for a dad – and I’d say I’m not feeling too lost or overwhelmed… yet.

Despite the tangible workload and tasks required to get things running, one of the aspects of this project – which I have been desperately trying to squeezing in time for – is the creative process.  With each weekly turn of the calendar and shift in the thermometer, produce steadily creeps into its most robust season; with it, creative inspiration and instinct should make the same gradual and continuously changes – a philosophy that harkens back to the most basic of cooking principles. 

As almost every good chef has preached, cooking seasonally is necessary and relatively commonplace in San Francisco.  Adhering to these principles is a must, but the word “principle” only denotes itself as a guideline and guarantees no sense of style or tone.  To this, many chefs turn to inspiration or experience that speaks to a more personal sense of passion or desire.  For me, these inspirations or experiences are the loudest when I am discovering something amazing for the first time: a resonating moment.  To that effect, I feel the conglomeration of these unique experiences eventually become the foundation for what we may deem as our individual style. 

Oddly enough, over the last couple of years, the best way I’ve felt to tap into this inner sanctum was through what I like calling a “cookbook mixtape.”  It is literally what it sounds like.  I look at my collection or I pace around a bookstore and I visualize an image of how I want to creatively express or approach something.  Don’t lie to me, I know most of you did this in high school with a tape deck or a bunch of CD’s.  Once I had an idea, I would pull out those specific set of books and skim through the recipes, techniques, and interpretations that each one provided.  Most importantly, the primary point is to understand the basic governing philosophy behind the food and NOT to follow the recipes.  I’ve found that despite how ridiculously different some books/cuisines may be, there is an internally linear relationship that you will see between them – kind of like putting D’Angelo and Feist on back to back tracks.  My current mixtape can be seen in the above picture. 

It might sound weird, but it’s okay if no one else gets it.  Just as long as you do.