A musician talks to renowned chefs about work, inspiration, and tastes.
Instrumentalist, DJ, and music journalist Thompson, aka Questlove (Mo Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove, 2013), indulges his love of food in this exuberant, eclectic volume of conversations with chefs that reveals as much about the author’s passionate engagement with music as the chefs do about their art. Talking about recipes with Nathan Myhrvold, who runs Modernist Cuisine, “a massive food-related publishing and research project,” the two men agree that instructions, “whether they are sheet music or recipes, don’t always pan out.” Dominique Crenn, of Atelier Crenn, calls cookbooks “quite one-dimensional.” They interest her only when she can “feel the people that are behind them.” Experience and inspiration matter, as does training: Ludo Lefebvre, whose flagship restaurant, Trois Mec, is a modest place in a Los Angeles strip mall, talks about his long apprenticeship before he was ready to come up with his own ideas. Just as the author tells students that the path to becoming a professional musician involves “years of continuous practice,” Lefebvre spent years perfecting his techniques. “Now people say they are chefs at twenty,” he remarks incredulously. Donald Link, of the New Orleans restaurant Cochon, finds his dishes simplifying as he gets older. The elaborate constructions of some young chefs, Link says, seem “too ego-driven. These days, if I cook fish, I want to taste the fish.” “Early on you want to prove yourself,” says Daniel Humm of New York’s Eleven Madison Park. “You want to show five techniques in one dish.” Dave Beran, of the innovative Next in Chicago, which changes its identity every three months, likens creating a menu to putting together an album: “you can think of it as a collection of greatest hits or a series of dishes that tell a story.” Abundant illustrations include a deer being butchered, a theme menu, and elegant raw okra.
An enjoyable, frequently surprising exploration of creativity.