The Simple Kitchen
How I discovered that food is more and less than you think
Until a few years ago, food was a means to an end for me. Coming from a sports background, I operated in a scarcity mindset, hunting down nutrients like a raptor in a field of chickens. Food filled an emotional need, supplied a dopamine hit, or solved an athletic problem. Food was functional.
Throughout my time in university, I began to develop an interest in the culinary arts that ventured beyond sustenance. I studied anthropology which stimulated and broadened my perspective. I began to see the complex relationships between everything we produce, buy, and use. Food was global trade and cultural distinction. It was environmental degradation, scientific innovation, and Heston Blumenthal lab experiments. It was irreducibly complex and viewing the tangled yet precise genius’ of Netflix’s Chef’s Table only cemented this belief. Food was a Pandora’s box mastered by few… and it sure was fascinating.
However, as anyone who has ever watched a food film will tell you; endless complexity is not the end of the story. It is not the cortisol marinated soufflé that sings the most powerfully human aspect of food. The greatest chefs in the world; the likes of David Chang and Ferran Adrià all tell a now familiar tale. One of absurd specialisation, huge NASA-like kitchens, boundless budgets, and megalomaniac management. The pressure from all of this, like sourcing the overseas ingredients themselves, is of course unsustainable. By running through the fire, these chefs all reach the same conclusion—it’s about the food.
Whilst I am clearly not a professional chef, I feel strongly that complicated food is not a panacea for life experience or a be all and end all. It is simplicity that really matters. To elegantly tease out natural ingredients to their full potential. To uncover the textures, flavours, and aesthetics that can be produced from a simple onion. To master the naked flame and season appropriately. To visit the source, whether it be your birthplace or treasured family recipe. Extravagant food does not necessarily mean heightened experience, but good food with good friends almost always does.
It need not be complicated.
“When dining at three-star Michelin restaurants in Europe you expect the perfect linens, the perfect ice cubes, the perfect everything. What if you could have that same meal in your backyard? There is no pressure to analyse or interpret, you just experience it. What a pleasure.”