As a chef I am always looking for new inspiration to create dishes. When I look at designing a menu or creating a recipe I have to look at my day-to-day travels for inspiration.
When someone says create a dish on the spot I tend to get stumped and have a hard time. The same goes when it comes to when I study about food and what certain things are and where they have come from.
When I teach my culinary classes I try to show young chefs that you can never stop learning and never stop honing your skills.
Being a chef is a life long journey and the second you think you know it all is when the next guy will pass you.
People who have never worked in a restaurant or professional kitchen don’t really understand the daily grind most of us chefs go through to get the food to the table your table.
As I look into becoming a healthier chef and try to study certain areas of the culinary world, I often find myself coming across the word artisan a lot.
I see on labels and menus everywhere I go and I never really looked into what exactly artisan was.
The more I studied it the more I gained more appreciation for it. The term artisan refers to food that is produced by non-industrialized methods.
Often these methods are passed down through generations to allow processes such as curing and fermentation to develop slowly and naturally. Something that is handmade by a skilled craftsmen or artisan is using ingredients that are unprocessed and turning them into something with their hands that we can enjoy such as a bread or cheese.
They should have mastered the craft of their particular production and have a historical, experiential, intuitive and scientific understanding of what makes the process that they are engaged in successful.
There seems to be gaps in our generations that have forgotten the important things in life such as handing down great methods or recipes.
There are more people in the fast food line then in the grocery store line with ingredients to make a good dish of their own.
As we do something over and over we tend to get better at them and this is what makes artisan food so beautiful.
There are no machines mass producing our dishes with plans to make large amounts of money. It is the simple beauty of going back to the old ways and doing something over and over until you have it down to perfection. Now this as a chef I have a great amount of appreciation and respect for.
The makers of artisinal food know every little detail of where all of their ingredients come from.
Sausage makers tend to have close relationships with the farmers who raise the animals that go into their creation and cheese makers know everything about the dairy farm in which they get their milk.
These are the simple and beautiful things as a chef I absolutely love and give me tons of inspiration.
When was the last time you stood in your grocery store or specialty food store and really thought of how something is made? What is in it and where it came from?
Here is a challenge for everyone this week. I encourage you to create an entire meal from artisan products that you can find in your area.
Go to your local markets, grocery stores, and specialty food stores and try to come up with something.
-Chef Jamie Hertz