I have always had an analytical mind so it should be no surprise that I have tried to summarize elements of the chef’s creative process into something quantitative and visual. I call this work in process, Translation. Translation is a series of ways a chef can change a dish, divided into categories. For example, the first category is substitution which is further sub-divided into ingredient, flavor and flavor profile sub groups. Ingredient substitution is often used when a key ingredient is not available, or if there is a dietary concern such as an allergy or perhaps a food preference. Flavor substitution is one of the most common tools in a creative cook’s arsenal. Changing a major flavor is often used to give a sauce a different direction. Next, we could turn things around and substitute a entirely new flavor profile. This works very well in fusion cooking where we change a traditional flavor profile and substitute a profile identified with another well-known cuisine.
Another category Translation is used to change a dish is texture. We can take a dish and use techniques to change the textural element, taking it in a completly different direction. A well known example is the kettle cooked potato chip, where the crunch of a chip is enhanced. Another example is the molten lava cake. Foams and gels are another sub-category where texture are used to modify food. Add a gelling agent to flavored liquid can create aspic or jello. We can create spheres surrounding a liquid center using sodium alginate. Another more familiar example is whipping air into egg whites producing a foam which can folded into other ingredients to create souffles or even an angel food cake.
One of the most interesting and sometimes confusing Translation categories is deconstruction which simply is a process where a dish is taken apart or dismantled into components and presented in a manner where the individual parts are eaten together to produce the original taste or experience. By breaking the dish into separate pieces, allows the chef to be able to modify each piece individually where it wasn't possible before. This opens up the individual facets of the dish to be interpreted by the chef.
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How does a good chef think? What is the creative process a
chef uses to come up with new and exciting dishes? What do I need to know to enable that creative process? These are the questions I want to explore in this series of articles. As a chef and an avid cookbook collector I am drawn towards
ideas and techniques of cooking rather than just a collection of recipes. I believe to grow as a chef, I need to continually learn and hone new techniques along with perfecting each technique I use every day. Whenever I go to a restaurant, whether fine dining, neighborhood pub, avant garde, or even fast food, I continually ask myself how can I do this better, what works and more important, what doesn’t? Feel free to send me comments, ask questions. Together, we can explore and make creative cuisine.
Spending almost thirty years in the computing field, I was able to travel experiencing a wide variety of tremendous cuisine. First I became a foodie, and when the opportunity arose, I was able to attend culinary school following my passion. I work as a part-time private chef and volunteer time at the community café in North Bend Oregon providing affordable meals in a restaurant setting to my community.