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I have been a huge fan of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg since culinary school. A lot of the chefs at school would recommend that you read Becoming a Chef, and once they realized you were serious about making this your career they recommended Culinary Artistry. Once I started my career, every single chef I worked for had Culinary artistry in their library. Later I fell in love with the Flavor bible so I was so excited when the opportunity presented itself to review their new book Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius—with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs.
Kitchen Creativity has managed to put into words the creative process and strategies that chefs use when taking a raw material and turning it into a creation that inspires, innovates, and transmits ideas, feelings, and memories. It contains the voices of over 1oo chefs sharing tidbits of their creative process from farm to plate, including vegan chefs Tal Ronnen and Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It is not a recipe book, instead this book wants to inspire you to access your own style and creativity, and to use it as a way to express who you are and share it with others through food.
Easier said than done, if you ask me! So how do you become a creative cook? You do so in three stages: mastery, alchemy, and creativity. Mastery is the stage to develop a skill base or knowledge, and to imitate the masters. Alchemy is when you take new experience and knowledge and apply it to the classics. The final step, creativity, is all about connecting the old and new ideas, and combining them into something completely new.
Without a doubt, my favorite part of the book is part II: A World of Infinite Culinary Possibilities a.k.a The Lists (A-Z). In this section you will find comprehensive list of ideas for inspiration including flavor combinations by season, recent innovations in the culinary world, and best practices or techniques. Below you will find an excerpt of this section titled: Treating Plants Like Meat
TREATING PLANTS LIKE MEAT
Bourguignon, e.g., beet, celery root
Burgers, e.g., portobellos, veggie
Carpaccio, e.g., beet, carrot, eggplant, king oyster mushroom, persimmon, root vegetables, winter squash, zucchini
Cheesesteaks, e.g., seitan (à la Philadelphia’s Blackbird Pizza’s version made with rosemary and garlic seared seitan, grilled onions and green peppers, and vegan whiz, served on an artisan hoagie roll)
Confit, e.g., bell pepper, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, onions, shallots, squash, tomatoes
Fondue, e.g., rutabaga (à la Rich Landau’s version at Philadelphia’s Vedge)
Meatballs, e.g., legumes, mushrooms
Porterhouse, e.g., cabbage (à la Marc Forgione’s version at NYC’s American Cut)
Roasting, e.g., beets (à la John Fraser’s version at NYC’s Narcissa)
Shawarma, e.g., seitan (marinated in black pepper + chili powder + coriander + cumin + garlic + marjoram + olive oil + onion + oregano + rosemary + thyme) or trumpet mushroom (à la Rich Landau’s version at Philadelphia’s V Street)
Smoking, e.g., cabbage, carrots (think lox), cheese (e.g., Gouda, mozzarella), corn, eggplant, nuts, olives, potatoes, tempeh, tofu, tomatoes
Steaks, e.g., beet, cabbage, cauliflower, winter squash
Tartare, e.g., beet, carrot
Torchon, e.g., mushroom (à la Eric Ziebold’s version at DC’s Kinship)
Wellington, e.g., carrot (à la John Fraser’s version at New York City’s Narcissa)
Wood-roasting, e.g., asparagus
Imagine: Chef Todd Gray of Equinox in Washington, D.C., started the Vegan Smackdown Challenge to create vegan versions of recipes from prominent chefs such as Jose Andres, Todd English, and Carla Hall. How would you go about creating a meatless, eggless, and dairy-free version of a classic dish?
Excerpted from Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius—with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs by Karen Page (Little, Brown, October 31, 2017).
I highly recommend this book for all serious cooks, chefs, and food bloggers. If there is a chef in your life they need this! If you are a food blogger this book will let you in on what goes on in the mind of a chef, which will help immensely with recipe creation; but most importantly, it will motivate you to make your best ideas a reality.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for reviewing purposes, but all opinions and thoughts are my own.