In my early training with an older generation of Japanese sushi chef the method and structure was very clear. Firstly every day the same routine, it is very clearly this way and no questioning or investigational activity rather it is based on traditional methods dating back 100ds of years and it is subject to the training “masters” transmissions from that chef to the chef you are training with and his preferences and you follow this way exactly. In most cases the chefs have a family tradition were the father and grandfather before have a linage which is very unique and valuable. In Japan specially kyoto this is very important and therefor highly valued and very rarely a first generation chef can reach the highest status in that community however of course now it is more common then before. I would say from my experience it is very stress free and very risk free and clear and also necessary. I feel far less stress and confusion in this traditional set up. Everyday I know exactly what I need to do. I only concentrate and hone in all my absolute attention in perfecting everyday my work. As you know it is more common in Japan that a person or restaurant will specialise for example just on tofu or just on tempura. This is the perfection investigation specifically on just this one thing. It is the perfection one is looking for rather then many new endless possibilities as in creating new techniques and dishes and presenting new ideas every season. This is however part of Japanese traditions but in a very subtle and more feminine gentle way. Nobody is trying to recreate the wheel as such it could be said it is more about creating a charm of nostalgic / historic / cultural references dedicated to the special produce and season and time of the year for example. This is just in a nutshell of course nowadays more references can filter into this as in french techniques and some new ideas from the nonconformist world however it is very clear that the essence of Nihon Ryori is never infiltrated to such a degree that is becomes something else. Some 3 Michelin chefs in Kyoto remark the feeling that Japanese cuisine in itself is so interesting and unique in method, technique and presentation that it does not need to change. I agree the spectrum vocabulary existing in Japanese cuisine are fully fascinating and really do not and should not change. That comment needs a whole separate blog but I hope you can understand the best intention of this comment. Back to what I was saying that usually the head chef creates new directions and again you follow exactly. In Ryugin it is only a small close circle 1 or 2 other chefs that will consult with Yamamoto san. It is one of the best kitchen set ups I ever have experienced. It is very clear and safe and efficient. The discipline in at the highest high level and the kitchen is the safest place to be as a chef. It is like a military operation in the best possible way. Everyone is ready no discussions no uncertainty no chatting no need to talk just do and ready a alertness of everyone highly superb consciousness as a team and everyone follows the comando and discipline and the technique of the chef and it works! Everyone knows exactly how to conduct oneself in the kitchen so socially and mentally the kitchen is a really clear place. Of course the observation of every process in a japanese kitchen are highly sensitive, articulated and precise. One is trained exactly what to look for to the degree of even the humidity in the air and seasonal conditions etc example rice when it was harvested how it was stored looking at the grain to see how dry it is therefor calculating precisely the amount of soaking time and water to be added before cooking and water purity ph levels etc. However it is not going to open new investigations to such a level as in nonconformist cuisine for example, which sources without any prejudice everywhere and anywhere. So the discovery is completely non conformed by tradition, origin or technique known or unknown etc. I am not stating one or the other is better or more perfect I am just trying to explore different ways of investigation and possible methods to achieve something. To achieve something you have a question and direction or a central point. If you don’t you need to create this. Seems obvious however I see many times people head chefs including that don’t have any organisation to there investigation or creativity therefor in the worst case repeat and really cant go far with anything. Kind of disappointing and very non specific unclear results. However a “no method” can be a very interesting method to, however you need to be a very refined and have high level of intuitiveness as Javier Oleros from Culler de Pau for example ( centre of picture). He is instinctive and intuitive and in the moment really one of my favourite chefs to work with. The service is completely intense and everyone is ready to just be in the here and now and follow the intuitive spontaneous energy of Javier. Very exiting but if you are not skilled at this it would be a disaster. He of course has his concept and frame but in the service anything can change in the moment so you have to be on high alert and the movement is like a fierce creative dance as 4 chefs all plate together supplying the different elements needed. I would not mind to make a investigation on the principle of no method however it might require in itself also a method paradoxically enough.
EXPANDING VISIONS AND CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE
There are many different kind of intelligence’s, emotional, intuitive, creative etc etc all in nature I believe all intelligence is creative and part of the creative process. Vision is also very fascinating I always like the saying that thinking is more interesting then knowing but not a s fascinating as seeing. Seeing is in the moment something fundamentally reveals a truthfulness a beauty a understanding etc to you in a way that is not that obvious. A new angle. I must mention that the first time I ever heard of anyone speak of organising ones creativity was in the late 1990’s when I was given a book by El bulli. The book of course was fascinating but I was more interested in this map that comes with the book. I discarded the book and kept looking at this map and this really opened my can of worms and my life changed from that point quite drastically. I went to art school and not even there did anyone tell me so clearly about the constructorisation of a creative process so concisely as Ferran did! Ferran without doubt contributed the biggest research and offerings to all of us in regards of creative processes and investigations. He now is for example shares the sketches, models, and innovative designs that fuelled his dish creations in the Drawring Center New york earlier this year.
This principle of sharing creates a chef consciousness around the globe that really revolutionises the minds in the kitchen globally and the interaction and activity from this is really wonderful! Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity is a paradigm shifting exhibition that changes the way we look at the conception of the intricate recipes served at elBulli by displaying Adrià’s drawings and visual creative process as art. “It will give people a different vision of creativity in the kitchen,” Adrià explained. “People don’t just imagine what’s behind all the work that we do.”
I am not that articulated as Ferran however am greatly enthusiastic about creativity as I feel this is one of the true and natural aspects of the nature of life. I just want to share a simplest idea if you want to explore the creative dimensions and want to create a format to frame your objectives effectively. You will find the endless possibility of the gastronomic universe is truly vast and you now need to find a path. You can create this path as you like and here is one I just created for this blog to have a bit of fun and it is a easy way to play with this process. You need to create a creative investigation compass. The creation investigation compass is a very individual choice to help you find your way through the big or little a can of worms depending how deep you want to go on your investigations. Starting points can be a ingredient, emotions, culture, art, feelings, nostalgic references, dreams,childhood, intellectual, simple, funny,minimalism, a story, a country and word, no sense, architecture, flavour texture colour based I mean literally endless. I would choose a combination of things as a frame to create a bit of dimension to your investigation or you can keep it really zen and minimalist. Investigation is usually a endless fractal of possibilities and usually we have a business to run also and have to therefor organise a method a procedure as to how to set up such a investigation to fit into your daily obligations. Some chefs dedicate a few months of there service time to retreat into a investigation period for up to 6 moths. Now this is rare and is a full on dedication and operation of creative organisation. Not everyone has set themselves up that way. Others have a laboratory investigation team running alongside production and service team. Mainly independent chefs I call them gastronomic chefs dedicate there work to this so when creating there slice of cake tabella business formula, accommodates this creation process very specifically. Every chef has to create new menus so you can be as safe and superficial about it up to the point of revolutionising or philosophical and ethical as you wish. The true freedom of gastronomy is defiantly something that attracts a lot of free and beautiful people creating very beautiful things.
Personally I feel the true gastronomy is free and only belongs into the hands of the gastronomic people.
I made the mistake several times to try to work with non gastronomic people/ investors/ owners, trying to initiate this creative gastronomic world to them and often they associate this with a person that has no concept for business but this is not true. A creative investigator is so dedicated to this path he would never create a way of working that would allow him or her to go bust as the investigation would end right there. Creativity in itself is continual it recreates itself and is a ongoing energy therefor I dont agree with this misconception. Creative chefs set themselves up specifically so that they can sustain this journey and accomplish great things for the long run and this requires the entire set up to be designed specifically for this!!!!!! Deciding your slices of the cake or creating a creative operational structure: You create your cake tabella or structure and dedicate slice sizes according to what time and space you can dedicate to what in order to make your business or project workable. You need to do this very precisely and the entire operation is a part of this. I say it simply however it is like a ant hill they all know what to do when to make the operation work they all facilitate the ultimate result. This is something that requires also a creative and intelligent structure. It helps to work with forward thinking and innovative thinkers that are pure harted and enthusiastic as you are and experienced. Rome was not built in a day try your best and if it dont work right away never give up!! I worked with so many people always with the same intention of creating a beautiful creative gastronomic universe and many times it did not flurish. You must keep on and learn from the hard lessons of life. Always go back to the drawing board and recreate yourself. That is important. No matter how busy you are you need to set some time aside for your creative development process. You also need to get out somehow, travel or visit places, chef friends, farmers etc to see things other then your kitchen, if you stuck in the same kitchen day in day out it is hard to experience and inspire yourself with the flux of life. Today I am only looking at the slice of creative investigation irregardless of how big or small it may be. For me this investigation slice is very important but often can be like opening a can of worms as mentioned before: If you are truly nonconformist it really means the creative possibility is endless and therefore to create a creative procedure to organise the creative investigation is really helpful and effective. Don’t be scared or confused of the big can of worms- here is my simple improvised play on what to do with a can of worms that seems so big: 1, what is the “something” that we want to achieve, the starting point and set yourself the end goal. 2, how can this be achieved – the technique etc and this is the investigation journey. A very simple frame but it helps and works. Usually the starting point is your origin and started you on the journey and the endpoint will be probably different that you expected. The journey was the most important and is the result of your creative process. Really the starting point and the original end result was only to produce the journey and this is the most important thing and if done well it is enigmatic. The nice thing is you have a story to tell also as to how all this dish came about to your customers because you really had this journey. For me the story is the charm of the dish the point of relating your ideas to customers. This will help you create names and descriptions better also. You can create formulas of creation investigation according to anything really. Just in the vastness of thing it is good to organise your investigation otherwise it can get lost in translation. Another way is to to discover as you are in the here and now seeing in the moment new aspects. Example Ferran was cutting tomatoes everyday and away the seeds. Because he cut so many i suspect he really got in contact with them and started seeing them in a unique way in that moment and questions arose from this as in why do we through these away and investigated and then he created dishes with this and so on. There is a saying that there are many ways to skin a cat. There is no one way right way there is only the way, the journey and you need to create your freedom for this specific process otherwise this will not really work. I tried to work like this in cooperate companies and it is defiantly now much understood therefor now I made the decision to stop aiming at a investor to create my own restaurant but to concentrate on the gastronomic community as they fully understand this perfectly and the most important thing is to be amongst this important energy. I know this blog today is a bit long and free style but I hope it helps.