To understand our interconnectivity in the world we must understand our natural environment.
Chefs are always looking for inspiration in the kitchen, and nature is an important source of it. Being outdoors and foraging for natural ingredients inspires a connection to nature, which in turn sparks curiosity and exploration. It nurtures a sense of playfulness and reminds us of how we used to explore and play as children. It encourages a holistic approach to thework of cooking, linking ideas directly to the environment and building a sense of place. When chefs become the collectors of their own ingredients in a wild landscape, they have more freedom to express their individuality and a greater sense of responsibility for protecting the environment. It grounds them in who they are, what they value and the stories they are trying to tell through culinary creations.
Edible plants are what nature has always provided us as a form of substance. Although in our society plants are grown through conventional agricultural systems, many rural societies still look to ‘wild’ ecosystems to provide a wealth of edible plants.
Foraging connects us back to our land-based identity and reminds us that we are in fact part of nature. The ability to use these ingredients in haute cuisine allows chefs to showcase more of our ‘sense of place’ and remind us that food is a gift of nature.
Chefs who connect with the natural environment are inherently connected to their region, and can better express its culture. They are also better able to take advantage of ingredients when there are at their best, valuing taste over cost and convenience. Challenged by seasonality and un-predictability, chefs learn to become more creative and flexible thinkers as they are forced to plan their menus according to what the forest and shore and waters are providing in that moment. In Cook it Raw we challenge chefs with unique and extreme environments that allow them to work with nature and identify a sense of place.
We must look to the past as a tool for how we move forward in the future.
Tradition is often interpreted as a static entity, a heavy burden of dogma that limits advancement. But it is not just repetition, a motionless body of knowledge passed down through centuries and generations. Tradition is a living being, a process in fieri: it is always in process, accumulating experiences, weaving a colorful cultural fabric. We believe in this evolving vision of tradition as the cornerstone to creativity. By understanding and mastering how things were done in the past, it is possible to re-invent them – moving forward while looking back.
Tradition in the kitchen is the repeated preparation of a specific food, following a constructed path of habits, ingredients and techniques, even when their purpose is not always clear. Imagine a home kitchen. Now, imagine a woman who cuts off an inch of the roast at both ends before putting it into the oven. “Mom, why do you do that?,” her daughter asks. “I don’t know, “ comes the response. “Grandma always did it that way”. This is the first time all three generations of women are in the kitchen together. The grandmother laughs. “I did it because my pot was too small. I had to stuff the roast in”.
Tradition is a precious ingredient for chefs. When embedded in a dish, it creates a deep story-telling experience. When chefs follow tradition, when they go down that precise path of rituals and gestures – whether it be choosing a specific ingredient or cooking a piece of meat in a certain way—they are sharing a story, exploring a time, a place, a region. They may produce the ingredient or create the technique, but the reinvent its use..
Our goal is to strengthen the relationship between artisans, farmers, chefs and restaurateurs, in order to actively preserve traditions and honour a sense of regionality and culutre. We are determined to establish a working community, building together an avant-garde vision of tradition in the kitchen, while maintaining our core values: integrity, respect for the earth and those who work it.
The community is our starting point. There is a graceful, hidden choreography within: craftspeople with exceptional and unique skills work in harmony with their terroir, using their creativity, and drawing on their passion and emotions to express themselves. The fields and farms are our muse, the craftspeople are our artists and the dining experience is our chef-d’ouevre. We see the final product -the plate in front of you- as an artistic expression of time-honoured traditions elevated by technical skill. And in doing so, we honour the contributions of everyone involved in its production. By celebrating the traditions in our industry, by recognizing and acknowledging the technical skills of our artisans, we showcase the innovation and brilliance that exists at all levels of cuisine. We believe in a productive dialogue between tradition and innovation, using the past to open the door to to startlingly new culinary experiences.
One needs to feel inspired to be creative, but more imortantly people need the opportunity to create to be inspired.
Creativity is a hungry, restless beast. It rambles in the forest craving fresh knowledge, waiting to be fed and quenched.Cook it Raw gatherings satisfy this hunger, pushing chefs out of their comfort zones and into the dark woods where ideas are born.
Break from your daily routine and follow your compulsions: that’s what separates human from machine intelligence. Creativity is the impetus behind any innovation from science to art, unconventional thinking is the ultimate fuel of progress. And this is true in the kitchen, as well.
The potential for creativity in food is boundless. As with music, a limited number of notes can be combined in an infinite number of ways to create a piece of art. Flavors, textures, technique, traditions, new ideas all work to achieve balance on the plate, But this creativity is not fortuitous; it requires deep knowledge of raw materials, years of practice and lots of hard work. Behind any perfect dish lie hours at the kitchen counter, hours spent thinking, testing, trying, failing. Teamwork and brainstorming are essential in this processany chef worth his salt fosters his/her members’ ideas. Witness Noma’s Saturday Night Projects, where René Redzepi gives his cooks space to cultivate the sparks that will lead to new dishes.
In cuisine, being creative also means devoting yourself to the pursuit of joy in others. Chefs cannot disregard this side of the coin; it is the pleasure that they bring to their diners that reveals who they truly are. If the chef’s creativity is driven only by egocentrism, he or she will not succeed – generosity and the desire to create memorable experiences are crucial elements The chef must always balance his/her point of view with the diners’ needs and tastes. How can avant-garde chefs deal with this creative tension? They must examine and re-examinetheir landscape and horizons, and, at the same time, encourage their guests to do the same. This is not easy; in addition to raw talent, the chef needs patience and faith in what he/she is doing. as it has been through history, the cream will always rise to the top, but that takes patience and faith in what one is doing.
Ambition and creativity are not solely the province of fine dining restaurants. Redefining luxury to include innovation and experience over fancy ingredients and expensive tablewear allows a new generation of chefs, with an excitingly lively and young perspective, to emerge. In this sense, the “modern” chef has been given a great opportunity: the chance to explore and re-invent the boundaries of cuisine.
By sharing ideas and resources, we strengthen our community and therefore ourselves.
Kitchens depend on collaboration. They are places where the knowledge of the crew is shared, where teams are forged, and where companionship is tested.
Yet they are also closed systems. Until recently, chefs would collaborate with their team, but not with other chefs. They were kings of their own castles, sharing little, and keeping their recipes—to say nothing of their ideas and knowledge—secret.
Thanks to the advent of chefs’ conferences, many have left the confines of their own kitchen to share their discoveries and innovations. Cook It Raw takes this phenomenon further, providing chefs with a platform where they felt safe to share their thoughts and inspire each other.
Ideas proliferate in this fertile environment. Sharing opens up a world of possibilities, for the chefs themselves, and, ultimately for their diners. But it also creates a sense of camaraderie, often lacking in the dog-eat-dog rivalries of contemporary gastronomy. In creating a forum for the exchange of thoughts and innovations, Cook It Raw has also created a community.