“A jazz musician can improvise based on his knowledge of music. He understands how things go together. For a chef, once you have that basis, that’s when cuisine is truly exciting.”- Charlie Trotter
As I quietly fumbled on the keys, my fingers timidly stumbling down the lane musical of black and white, a girl who apparently knew her way down this road better than I, sat down beside me and showed me how simply the knowledge of a few notes can easily combine to the amazement of an audience; one chord quickly becomes a composition. My thoughts quickly barged through the swinging doors, headed in the direction of the kitchen as I realized, ”It’s just like cooking: knowing a few basic ingredients and their flavorful contributions, along with a few basic techniques, you can easily build a fascinating dish.” I watched as she magically played, the music merely an echo of the beat of her heart, but she was able to do so based on the knowledge in her head.
Jazz and food are two of my great enjoyments. I would like to think of my culinary career as an indication of my love for food winning over that of jazz, but I don’t believe I ever realized how much of an affinity the two hold for each other. My desire to quickly learn the basics of cooking and later apply my creative expression is what drew me to the Culinary Institute of America. If you know the “what”s and the “why”s of the kitchen’s tools, ingredients, and principles, you learn to work with what you have. If you run out of white wine when making consomme, knowing that it contributes primarily acidity to the recipe, you realize that you can substitute lemon juice if need be. You would realize the precautions necessary when attempting to make a vegetable consomme; its not impossible but you must comprehend the differences between a protein and a vegetable and the resulting qualities, ensuring that all elements are in place. A valuable lesson I’ve learned is that we should never look at lack as poverty, but we ought to look at it as an opportunity for creativity.
Whether it be food or music, or any art or craft for that matter, establish your foundation and build from there. As the young grasshopper must have patience with the trivial tasks of the master…“Wax on. Wax off.”...There’s freedom found in the fundamentals. If you start anywhere but the beginning- jumping to a recipe or a song- never visiting the basis, you remain bound by that limited knowledge, potentially collapsing when endeavoring to do anything greater, missing steps in the staircase. With a firm foundation, you can build in any direction you choose. Find the field of your passion, dig your roots deep, and grow. Bloom your flowers and bear your fruit, occasionally taking a bite. Music and food have their similarities and they have their difference. At the end of the day, one things for sure, though: you can’t substitute music for food.