TALES OF A CHEF
'Blood, sweat, tears and an unwavering desire to run his artistic fingerprint across menus and dishes.'
I am someone who found cooking to be more of a daily chore than an entertaining experience. But as a psychologist, I have become familiar with the therapeutic effects of cooking and the relation between behavior and food patterns. Last Thursday, my knowledge and appreciation for the culinary arts was vastly heightened by a dear old friend who happens to be an amazing chef.
My friend has dedicated his life to the craft of cooking and throughout the years has explored different foods around the world. He described his experience with sea urchins in Japan and how their spiky shells conceal a true taste of the sea. This was the secret ingredient in the Sushi he prepared, which was his chef-d'œuvre. I mentioned how the fish I try preparing at home seems tough to bite into and he immediately exclaimed, “Over cooked and over done my friend”. He jested that my particularities with food hasn’t changed and explained how over cooking does not mean “well done” and “safe”, which was my theory when it came to seafood. Overcooking, he explained, causes the flesh to become firm and then shrink, and the moisture when pushed out by evaporation, leaves the fish dry and chewy. He also told me not to add too much salt to the fish. “Sometimes all the fish you prepare really needs is a squeeze of fresh lime to taste out of this world”, he exclaimed.
It started with a simple Facebook notification about him moving into the city. The news about a dear old friend, who I was not in contact with, prompted me to immediately message him and invite him home for a couple of drinks. He graciously accepted, came over and from the moment I hugged him at the door, it was as though after all these years nothing much had changed. The psychologist in me acknowledged this as a sign for the great evening that lay ahead. As we discussed each other’s professional trajectories, he described how much he appreciates the unique mix of people that his love for food has brought together throughout his life. Variety is definitely the spice of his life both inside and outside the kitchen.
We both agreed that in the kitchen and in life, you can’t rush things and it takes time and patience to “cook” things properly. Service is also a big part of it and another thing both our professions have in common. In the kitchen, he really likes trying to serve his team and build them up, working with everybody, trying to improve their skills and giving them some confidence. Outside the kitchen, he hopes to see people eat and be satisfied. This is how I feel about the people who come to me for sessions to improve their lives.
The stories kept flowing and the drinks from Shaze’s decanters kept the spirit of the evening alive. Treating various personality types over the years, I imagine cooking is a type of therapy to my friend. He is satisfying his creative urges, and doing something that's technically a necessary part of the day, all done with a comforting sense of being in control.