I had the opportunity to attend a cooking demo/lecture last night at Now Were Cooking, a lovely cooking school very close to our Evanston shop location. It was a rare appearance out of the Alinea kitchen for hard working Sorcerer/Chef Grant Achatz. It was a very thought provoking presentation, I think you could call it both Food for Thought and, on Grant's part, Thought for Food.
Chef Achatz talked about some of his philosophies of the sense of smell, the memories it triggers, and how he sought to activate these through unexpected aroma and taste experiences. We have personally given this a great deal of thought, we are just not talented enough in the kitchen to turn this into something edibly delicious. If you have a really sick friend in the hospital, for example, bringing a jar of pumpkin pie spice, will almost always trigger happy childhood memories and a smile.
Grant talked about one of the stages of gastronomic experimentation at Trio. They dipped a flavor infused shrimp (I apologize for simplifying this many layered process) in an creative tempura batter, then skewered them on vanilla beans before frying. We remembered this well, as they drove us crazy because a few times a month they wanted to come in later that day and pick up 300 vanilla beans of this EXACT width and this EXACT length! When you are in the middle of customers, grinding 100 pounds of cinnamon and/or mixing a 20 pound batch of curry, to drop everything to sort vanilla beans is not part of the day you had planned. I consider this thank you on your book inscription worth every minute of tedious bean selection. It has been our privilege to have had even the small amount of contact we have had with chefs of Grant's caliber. You inspire us on to keep on the lookout for rare finds. You help us stay passionate.