Perhaps a little late, but I would like to start my first blog of 2017 by wishing you all a happy new year! I hope 2017 will be your best year yet! May all your wishes come through. Personally, I had an awesome 2016. I went on amazing adventures, met and befriended fantastic people and spent more time at home than previous years. I’m curious what 2017 has in store for me! So far things are looking great and I feel happier than ever. I enjoy being a chef and absolute love traveling and food. Things couldn´t be better for me right now.
We chefs have an exciting job. Besides being responsible for food preparation, food safety and accounting, we’re often looked upon as artists. I’m not sure if I consider myself an artist, but I really enjoy the creative side of cooking. In order to create beautiful dishes I need inspiration, my trade depends on it. Inspiration is a weird concept. Every great artist in history had some source of inspiration: Religion, mind altering substances, art, life changing events, mental illness or having a muse. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something quite as extreme as these examples. But I firmly believe that in order to lead a fulfilling life, you have to figure out what inspires you most and create the time to indulge yourself in it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was lying awake at 3 o’clock in the morning when a thought entered my mind. I had an early flight and just a few hours left to sleep, still I couldn’t shake this thought. I was in the process of obtaining a new job. So many recruiters and employers asked me what my specialty is. I realized that this isn’t the question you should ask a chef when he is applying for a job. Chefs are specialized in running kitchens. We cook food, manage stuff, do accounts, keep the hygiene up, have a sense of humor and work fucking hard. That’s our specialty! It’s true that my pasta is probably not as good or traditional as an Italian nonna’s pasta. But can she manage a kitchen team, control food hygiene, provision high quantities of produce and come up with new dishes?
Off course you can specialize in a direction or a cuisine, but that’s not what most yachts are after. So instead of asking about our specialty, the better question a recruiter can ask is “where do you get your inspiration from?”. Any self-respecting chef can follow a recipe and cook a dish by instructions. We are trained in the culinary arts. But to become an artist you need to find your source of inspiration.
A yacht chef needs to be creative and be able to think on their feet. You need to adapt to setbacks. When your provisioning company messes up or the local fishmonger is out of seabass, you have to work with what you got. An owner can demand sushi for lunch and a full buffet for diner. They often change their minds and you need to be ready to cater to their wishes. We need to have a wide knowledge of global cuisine but also the passion and drive to think of new dishes. I try to serve my employers never the same dish twice, only if they requested them specifically. This is my strong suit, my trade and why I earn my money.
I’m able to do all those things because I get inspired easily. Reading about the work of other chefs, a dish or ingredient I´ve seen on television or a meal I ate somewhere.
What really gets me going though is traveling. Just being in a different country. Surrounded by beautiful and new cultures, eating amazing and weird (street)foods and visiting foreign markets. Just browsing around, smelling the spices, exotic fruits and vegetables. Seeing and tasting strange seafood’s and other products I’ve never seen before. Nature is beautiful, she gives us such wonderful products. It is up to us chefs, to respect nature and give the products the love and treatment they deserve and help them become amazing dishes. This is what cheffing is all about!
Currently I’m in Peru, an amazing and inspiring country. The food culture is huge, it’s a culinary powerhouse in the making. Peruvian food is becoming more and more popular the last few years. Still the big breakthrough in mainstream public hasn’t happened yet. I believe that it will come soon! Read my next blog about the Peruvian culinary scene and let me know where you find your inspiration in the comments!