The Source

Within the culinary world, we feel a series of creative ripples. Depending on your place in this world, you feel them at various times, with various impacting strengths. You may taste something in a European restaurant, that eventually is seen in Seattle, which may make it’s way into a cooking magazine 5 years later, and finally is taught in a culinary school 10 years later. The more you expose yourself, the more you find yourself in the know, the earlier you can be made aware of these advancements in cuisine. But some how, some way, true creativity spreads to everyone.

Imagine dropping a stone in the middle of a lake. The ripples begin to spread, large at first, diminishing in power the further they travel from the source.

Now imagine this stone is a creative dessert, and it drops somewhere in Spain. In order for me or you, all the way across the globe in a city like Seattle, to feel the ripple effect of a dessert created in Spain, the strength and ingenuity of the dessert has to be strong enough that it can spread over vast distances and remain pertinent over long stretches of time.

In Seattle, all my inspiration has been drawn from these ripples. Deconstructing an American standard like s’mores? This ripple began in Yountville 10 years ago, and is still considered creative on Seattle menus. Presenting a flavor in an airy foam? This stone dropped in Spain about 10 years ago. Creating a sauce through reduction rather than thickening with a roux? This inovation came of the the Nouvelle movement in France during the 80′s. A technique so powerful, reductions have passed from being creative and innovative and become a standard technique and we may not realize this was ground breaking just a few short decades ago.

It’s rare that a chef can posses such a creative genius that the ripples made by their personal cuisine are felt across the globe, spanning the years it takes for them to reach all corners. It’s even rarer for a cook to stand at the source and witness these creative stones being dropped.

This is my daily experience along side Alex Stupak and Wylie Dufresne, watching them shape these stones, preparing to drop them on the culinary world. They are creating technique and method, not just interesting plates, that already those close to this source have begun to mimic.

If we see one or two chefs in our career that can make creative ripples that span the world and a decade, we are very lucky. The rest of us are simply applying our own spin on others creations, changing the flavors, the presentation, and the application. Our skill comes in recreating these dishes in a manner that is delicious and perfectly executed, and perhaps twisted just enough to show a little creativity of our own. I will take with me technique and method that has only been available through Alex’s creation for days, weeks, and months. This is my fortunate stance being so close to the source. I can’t hope to create with this magnitude, ever. That’s not my role in this culinary world. I can’t even hope to be a disciple , learning from this creator for years on end. All I can hope for is to take with me the good word, and apply what I learn to my own aesthetic, one that has been built riding the waves of other creative geniuses.

What am I taking with me, you may ask? To start, flavor combinations I wouldn’t have dreamed of like raspberry and caraway; Yuzu, pistachio, and spruce; chocolate and avocado. The plating styles, clean, minimalistic and breathtaking will certainly effect my own plating. And techniques will begin to show up in my dishes, techniques for liquid filled frozen capsules, fluid gels, ice creams with a pleasant “chew”, flexible chocolate, ultra soft sponge cake, and the sandiest crumb crust I have ever tasted. I’m not stealing recipes, and I am not going to try to recreate the desserts I have seen. I would never want to make someone else’s expression. Rather I hope to take with me a brief understanding of how to create in a similar manner, and a deeper knowledge of how my ingredients work.

2 Responses to “The Source”

  1. Hungry says:

    Is it still Sam Mason’s pastry kitchen? Is there a noticeable legacy of his time there? Just wondered what it likes to work in a kitchen where someone really high profile has left – which isn’t to say Alex/Alinea isn’t high profile – but I think for a lot of people WD~50 is always Sam Mason.

  2. dana says:

    It’s Alex’s pastry kitchen. I wouldn’t know any intimate details, or gossipy schmuck, I was only there for two weeks. But Alex is so amazingly gifted, that if anyone is clinging to the idea that WD-50 can only belong to someone who left it behind, than they are cheating themselves out of admiring two amazing pastry chefs.

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