If you enjoy the wholesome act of cooking, the gluttony that goes with eating or simply the beauty that the earth and the sea provide, then you will appreciate artists like Kari Gale who illustrate with fine watercolour and pencil. Her drawings have a distinctively natural raw style and prove the perfect contrast to the finely-filtered images that fill our collective visual memory.
Ice-cream is an evergreen, an all year rounder, but even in the heat of Spanish summer, it sometimes fails to take the edge off; melting as quickly as it’s scooped and doesn’t guarantee that ‘brain freeze‘ every gourmet seeks via icy treats. This is not the case with sorbet, which offers a white-hot icy coldness that can counter the midday sun. There are no tricks – it’s water, sugar, flavour and a freezer, and this clarity is exactly what I’m looking for in the middle of summer. Ice-cream is made to be licked and slurped – and can even be comforting in the depths of winter, while sorbet is seasonal and limited to the peak of summer when carved curls of sweet ice push you closer and closer towards that painfully good ‘brain freeze’.
As I sit here slowly melting in the Barcelona sun, sucking on mojito-flavoured ice-cubes and dangling my feet in the lukewarm Mediterranean, I’m dreaming up a few new flavours for my icy crush.
Honey and Thyme
Maps set out the historical context and lay out a path to arrive at a beautiful future (we can’t afford to imagine the future any other way). I’ve been lucky enough to make multiple creative connections over the years and have worked for a couple of futurists in my life, each with their own vision of how things might be. My first boss had a business card that actually read “Futurist” and as the economist of the company, I crunched the numbers of the past, which served to inform the future. The second boss didn’t label himself as such, but as a demographer he reached beyond the facts to present his own versions of how the future might present.
Atlas has a grand vision of democratising the future. Because no matter what democracy serves up, we have to keep believing that it is the only way to evolve as a united species.
Atlas is what Vice would be like if it had a soul, so truthful it hurts, but also visionary with a dark optimism. Shining the spotlight on projects that range from ageing to augmented reality, fungi to finance, and blockchain to bees. And, of special interest, they think about the future of food and who’s creating it.
To be a Chef
To be a chef is to cook. To chop, cut, slice, dice, whisk, whip, fry, flip, grate, grind, bake, baste, plate and finally to pleasure the diner. But in today’s world where everyone has avocado toast for breakfast and expects Maldon to pre-flake their salt, what’s on the plate is just the beginning. While you can rely on the cook for what’s on the plate, the independent chef is what makes food truly existential.
A chef must do more than cook. A chef must conceive, communicate and execute the entire experience and briefly transport the diner into their own magical world where flavours mix with memories and emotions. Because eating is a basic human need, but eating out under the spell of the chef is an escape that allows us to forget about setting the table, an indulgence that permits us to dress up and get messy, a luxury we can consume.
The chef is the ultimate artist, playing on all the senses including the most personal one, taste. But demanding any artist, particularly a chef, to reproduce their creativity over and over again is a recipe for consistently good food and efficient service, but not for the culinary escape we sometimes seek.
In today’s democratized world, where a camera makes you a photographer and a keyboard makes you a writer, those armed with a sharp knife who know exactly what a pinch of salt looks like are well on the way to calling themselves a chef, but the road to become an independent chef might begin in the kitchen but leads to new and unknown destinations.
An Essential Recipe for Seafood Lovers
For anyone that loves seafood, this recipe is makes so many delicious dishes possible and mastering it is as easy as making stone soup. So how do you make Spanish Seafood Fumet, the ultimate seafood stock?
Spanish Fumet, is an antidote for our times. For most of the world, fish stock comes in cubes and cartons, but in Spain, fumet comes from the heads and tails of the sea. Watching my adopted godmother Maria-Angeles prepare her fumet remains a culinary highlight that flashes back every time I feel like lazily turning to the packaged version. First, she warmed olive oil in a cast iron pot then added onions, leeks, carrots and bay leaves until starting to soften, then all manner of sea creatures were thrown in – prawn heads, baby crabs, monk fish tails, empty mussel shells and, perhaps most impressive, lobster claws, which every gourmet has hiding in the back of their fridge. With a flourish, she pitched in the final seasoning (lemon, white peppercorns and parsley), before covering with water and wine and bringing the pot to a simmer. When strained two hours later, the liquid could have easily passed as a soup, but instead formed the base of an arroz de sepia (squid rice) that left each grain bursting with the flavour of the ocean.
Being a true creative is about connecting the right dots together; the best ideas always seem so obvious in hindsight.
I had the honour of speaking at the ACD*E Creativity Festival in Barcelona last October. A festival that proved to be the perfect place to mix ideas and absorb fresh inspiration as we explored how to be more creative and make more connections. I shared the stage with Iepe Rubingh. At the same time arrogantly charismatic yet also humble and wise, Iepe is a passionate storyteller, innovator, thinker and fighter. Being on the creative side of things as an artist almost all his life, he understood the power of connections when he founded Chess Boxing Global, a company that is creating a professional league for chess boxing.
I’m always looking for new flavour combinations and experimenting with weird and wonderful ingredients in search of the next flavour mashup. Every chef should engage in experimentation in the kitchen following their own intuition as well as testing how other chefs engage with new flavor combinations. The Bible (New Testament) has is a nice collection of interesting and sometimes inspiring stories, but my real guide in life these days is a small unassuming book called the The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit.
If you were ever wondering what to pair almonds with, what goes with cauliflower, or how to make smoked salmon stand for more than just an accompaniment to cream cheese and dill, then this is your Bible. Weird and wonderful combinations and my go-to reference when vermouth doesn’t provide the necessary inspiration. Cinnamon and cocoa seems like an obvious combination but is strangely not common. It’s exotic and intoxicating and is perfect in a crisp icy sorbet.
To discover the ultimate chocolate experience, one first has to accept that chocolate transcends the world of food. None of the normal rules and norms apply. Chocolate should be neither chewed nor chomped. Neither gnawed nor gulped. And definitely not munched or masticated.
It must be savoured, relished and adored. It must be loved.
Stuffed Piquillo Peppers are a classic Spanish tapa that deserves a story. Piquillo, deriving from the Spanish for ‘little beak’ are another classic tapa, but it wasn’t in a bar where I discovered these little red beaks. Road trips are best when planning is kept to a minimum and it was on one of these I found myself on hurtling through Catalonia towards the French border.
As hunger pangs intensified and the peanuts began to run low, we decided on an unplanned desperate picnic using the three aisles of the service station as the basis for the resulting feast. Prowling the aisles, I found a tin of piquillo peppers, manchego cheese, a miniature box of basil, a wedge of quince paste, a yellow plastic tub of allioli and a small jar of tuna escabeche. What transpired in the next 10 minutes was a picnic that when eaten on a random concrete bench looking out towards the postcard-like snow-capped Alps became etched in my memory.
Before we were aware there was such a thing as ‘chef trends’, the search for the ultimate food experience looked something like this:
– A table for two
– A bottle of something
– A few plates to share
– One dessert, two spoons and coffee
– The cheque, our coats and a hasty photo for posterity
But is there something more ultimate? The restaurant is a predictable pleasure. But a pleasure that becomes more prosaic as the experience repeats itself again and again around the world. It doesn’t matter who I’m with, where I am or what the occasion – I know what’s on the menu.