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Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Culinary Creative Process

Coming up with new and inspiring dishes is a complex creative process and it’s different for everyone.

I usually start off by choosing an initial ingredient to build the rest of the dish around. I try to use seasonal produce or and keep up with our suppliers new products or interesting cuts of meat. It’s great to have a new ingredient to work with and of course it’s always good to be taken outside your comfort zone every now and then to keep you on your toes! Chatting with suppliers often helps you remember some of the great ideas that you may have neglected or forgotten.

Once we have pinned down this key ingredient, we build on this with other flavours, bearing in mind textures, balance, contrasting notes and so on. This experimentation process helps the team and I to formulate an idea, develop it and solve how we can include all these harmonic elements into one dish. It's an evolving process of trialling different approaches until we come up with a recipe that we are all happy with.

One of our most recent creations was a chocolate, avocado, lime and chilli dessert. I guess you could say the initial inspiration for this was the fact that we acquired a chocolate spray gun! I wanted to create a dish concealed in a shell of chocolate. It’s very satisfying to crack open a chocolate shell to reveal all the hidden layers encased inside. The surprising layers make it so much more interesting to eat, due to the differences in flavour and texture.

I also wanted to experiment with a chocolate/olive oil/salt dish. We built on this by adding the acidity of lime plus the refreshing-ness of avocado – perfect for cleansing and added interest. From here we went in the direction of mexican guacamole flavours, adding a little chilli, raw cocoa and coriander.

Sometimes this tasting process can veer off in a new direction, reminding you of a taste you’ve had before or what you think it would go with, even sparking a forgotten idea or creating a new one. But in the interest of getting my way, I still ensured that we finished it off with some Marlborough sea salt and Central Otago olive oil!

I don’t consciously follow food trends, nor do I subscribe to any ‘foodie’ magazines or celebrity chefs. I try to just be myself and have inspiration come organically through a culmination of the influences I am surrounded by, rather than having to seek out.

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