Sunday, September 30, 2007

My first post/ disappointment

As my first post I feel that I must talk about my ideas about one of my core questions which arose after a meal I had last week.

On Friday night I finally got to go to the restaurant Pizzaiolo in Oakland. This restaurant opened a little bit more than a year ago, and upon its debut it received great reviews. Friends and family all went and came back raving about their meal. Needless to say it became a restaurant high on my list of "must try's." For some reason however it wasn't until just the other night that I finally got to try it. I had been looking forward to dinner all day. When I finally arrived I was starving. For the first course I tried the pizza, their specialty, and was not let down. Their Neapolitan style pancetta, cherry tomato and Calabrian pepper pizza was delicious. This was pizza! As I finished this I was only more excited for the rest of my meal.

This is where the disappointment came in. Though the rest of the meal was good, my complaint is that I felt that the dishes were almost too simple. Sometimes simplicity is key. There are restaurants that are so good at making something simple that it tastes as if it were exotic and rare. Then there are restaurants that I go to where I have a good meal, but afterwards I catch myself thinking, "Wow, I could have made that by myself at home!" This is where I feel like the question about what makes us decide between cooking professionally and cooking for pleasure comes into play. I thought that the spaghetti and clams, the rapini, and the canneloni at Pizzaiolo were all good, yet because I was raised in a family with many Italians I have learned to make these dishes myself. Not only that, but I consider them simple recipes! When I go to a restaurant and pay for someone else to cook for me, I want to be surprised by how wonderful something tastes. When I leave thinking that I could've done it myself, it makes me feel like the meal wasn't worth it.

So here is the question... what is the deciding factor between profession and pleasure? Is it simply whether or not one wants to? Is it purely skill in the kitchen that allows someone to do it for a living? Or is it something more? Must a chef have to possess some extra flair, something special, if they want to cook in a restaurant? What does this mean for me? Do I have something special? Are you born with it, or can you develop it?

At this point in my journey I believe that a combination of these things is necessary to be a chef. Passion, skill, and a little something extra are all necessary to cook. How much of each is what I am trying to find out. I feel like the most important of these three things is passion. Without it there is no reason to be interested in cooking in the first place. It's not as if cooking is the easiest thing in the world to do, and doing it professionally is much harder. If passion, a love for food, and preparing food for others is not present then there is no point. Besides that I think that the something special is simply a sense for what tastes good. Risk taking is always good when it comes to cooking, but it doesn't always mean things are going to taste good. It takes creativity, and sometimes even daring, to make wonderful food in the kitchen. Some chefs have it, some don't.

I'm not sure where my ideas will take me, but over the next couple of months I will follow my own sense of creativity in the hopes of finding the answer to the question, where do I fit in to all this?