In an eclectic city with unyielding palate for food, a diverse group of chefs and mixologists converse about culinary and beverage innovations. Prior to the StarChefs Rising Star Awards in New Orleans, Symrise hosted a chefs round table. Among the participants were Chef Phillip Lopez of Root and Root², Chef Alex Harrell of Angeline, and Chef Tobias Womack of Red's Chinese. Also, Master Mixologists Jesse Carr from La Petite Grocery and Balise and Alan Walter from Loa at International House joined in the discussion.
Emmanuel Laroche, the Vice President of Marketing and Consumer Insights for Symrise, lead the roundtable by asking what inspires these chefs to create new and innovative dishes. Each culinary artist appears to have their own technique. Chef Harrell began with how one ingredient strikes an idea and how the excitement of a fruit or vegetable leads to him asking, "How does this fit into my restaurant and my menu?". Chef Tobias jokingly mentioned how "humor and accidents lead to creativity." He then described an incident where bacon accidentally fell into a classic Chinese congee and eventually, it became the mainstay B.L.T. Congee at Red's Chinese.
For mixologist Jesse Carr views each cocktail as not merely beverage, but as a story with each ingredient. Alan Walter, on the other hand, develops a crush for ingredients and builds upon his love for that ingredient to create his spirits. Local Louisiana strawberries are his crush at the moment.
The chefs go on to explain how ingredients drive the creation of a dish. Chef Alex explained "that the ingredient is a map that leads you to your finished product. Depending on the season, acidity, and ripeness of the produce, you alter the way of cooking creating the dish." All chefs agreed that there is not a strict recipe for a dish and the key is to taste the dish and its components while it is developing.
Some of the world's most creative geniuses such as Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, and Stephen King have their own methods of processing before creating their masterpieces. Picasso likes to work backwards. Einstein would tend to "mash up" ideas and combine them until they create new patterns. King would have a word quota per day. What process do these chefs and mixologists relate to? Chef Alex prefers to "touch and taste things then test it out until it works."
Chef Tobias owes a lot of his successful dishes to "accidents that somehow turn out to be something everyone loves". Carr's method is to let go of any judgements or stereotypes of ingredients that are not considered standard or mundane. Lots of times he has found that the least suspected ingredients result in the cocktails and beverages. "You limit yourself when you judge an ingredient" explains Carr. He then described an instance where he decided to create a drink with ingredients that no one had ever considered putting into a cocktail and it became a hit! This is another example that even mistakes can often lead to success and innovation in the culinary world.
Check back soon for Part 2 of Innovation and Inspiration from New Orleans