Food Curated has been running an occasional feature called “Why We Cook” in which food writers and restaurant chefs share their motivations for enduring the heat of the kitchen. It is an interesting question. Cooking can be hard, challenging, time-consuming, and is seldom lucrative. Yet most professional cooks decide early in life to wed themselves to their stoves for hours a day.
Jennie Perillo, author of Homemade With Love, cooks because: “I come to the kitchen to be fully present in the moment, to not let the past or future bother me, but to have space to just be me. I guess you could say, I cook to help let go.”
Chef, recipe developer and food photographer Amie Valpone cooks to overcome health challenges. “I cook for my body because its the only thing that makes me feel good”.
A gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar free diet imposes lots of restrictions that Amy overcomes through sheer creativity and optimism. And she develops recipes to help others who are challenged by food restrictions.
“I’m not a doctor but when it comes to food and you have an ailment I’m there and I will make it so much fun.”
Chef Sung Park, owner of Bistro Petit in Brooklyn, cooks original Korean/French cuisine. He sums up the reason he cooks in one word: “Creation”.
Dissatisfied with his parents approach to restaurant cuisine—a fixed menu 365 days per year—he says:
“I want to do something new all the time. I never want to be famous. I never want to be rich. I want to be an interesting life”
The common theme in all these stories is that creativity and self-expression are the primary motivations for cooking. Food has become fodder for the imagination, the means through which an original vision can be articulated in much the way music was for the 60’s generation and painting or literature was for the pre-WWII generations.
Cooking has come of age as a new art form. It is the quintessential post- postmodern art—without irony, helpful to others, anchored in the self, frankly pursuing beauty.
What about home cooks? Are they driven by the same impulse to be creative and original?