Hello, every­one. I was born in Delhi in a rather large house by the riv­er. And as soon as I was born, the first thing that hap­pened to me after I came out of the womb was that my grand­moth­er came in, she dipped her lit­tle fin­ger in hon­ey, and wrote on my tongue om,” which means I am.” And in that one moment, with my very first taste, my life was affirmed. Who I was was affirmed. And the com­bi­na­tion of writ­ing and food. I was imme­di­ate­ly con­nect­ed to the com­mu­ni­ty I come from, which is an ancient com­mu­ni­ty of scribes who also hap­pen to be known as great lovers of eat­ing and drink­ing. And in fact, my com­mu­ni­ty is often called shara­bi kebabis.” Sharab stand­ing for liquor, wine; and kebab for kebabs, which stand for all of good food. So we were, shara­bi kebabis but also scribes, and in that one moment every­thing was con­firmed and I was con­nect­ed to my ances­tors at the same time.

So, what hap­pens in India is that we all, all of us, come from such com­mu­ni­ties. They’re dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. Thousands of them exist all over India. They have their own defined reli­gion or sub‐religion. They have that tra­di­tion­al foods. They have their own palette of tastes. Each one has a dif­fer­ent palette of tastes. And a cul­ture and cus­toms that con­stant­ly tell them who they are and what group of Indians they belong to.

Now, I come from the North of India, which is a wheat‐eating area. But if you go to Bengal—West Bengal is a state now—and they have a diet main­ly of rice and fish. They live by the sea, they have a long coast­line, and there is a huge Ganges riv­er delta which is one of the largest deltas in the word, where a lot of the fish comes from and a lot of rice also grows in that area. So that is what they eat, and strange­ly enough they will not eat fish from the sea. They will just not go out into the sea. I don’t know why that cus­tom arose. Maybe they were afraid of the sea. And also with­in Indian cus­tom, there’s a fear that you will lose caste if you cross the seas. I don’t know why they didn’t go. Other peo­ple in India do. But Bengalis will not eat sea fish. They will only eat fish from their par­tic­u­lar delta.

So, in their com­mu­ni­ties, they have anoth­er custom—not the cus­tom I have in my com­mu­ni­ty. When a child is about six months old, the priest comes in. There’s a lit­tle cer­e­mo­ny. And they put a rice pud­ding sweet­ened with hon­ey in a lit­tle bowl. And in that same tray that holds the bowl, there is a fish head. And this is placed in the child’s lap—the child, some­body holds it, of course. The child is fed a spoon­ful of this par­tic­u­lar rice pud­ding. And the child looks at the fish, the fish looks back at him, and some­thing is con­firmed between them. That the child, as he grows up will eat the fish, and will eat rice, and that is the food that he or she is going to remem­ber for the rest of their lives, and that will be their food.

And Bengalis have anoth­er thing which I find very inter­est­ing. One of their favorite fish is a fish called hilsa, which is rather like the shad in a America; it has a lot of bones. Now, the Bengalis don’t sit around with tweez­ers, pick­ing out the bones. They don’t do that. They keep eat­ing the hilsa, and they have a way of col­lect­ing the bones in one cheek. And some­how the tongue keeps push­ing the bones to inside that par­tic­u­lar cheek, and like tobac­co it sort of grows and it sits there. And when the meal is done they take the whole wad out and dis­card it. So, that is a cus­tom that comes from their way of being and eat­ing.

Now, it has always been a very curi­ous thing for me, why do peo­ple eat what they eat? What makes one group of peo­ple eat some­thing that anoth­er group will not touch at all? And I find this very very inter­est­ing, because it is not some­thing that you can pin­point. You can’t under­stand it. And if you for exam­ple look at the Japanese, which I find very inter­est­ing. Once when I was in Japan, I decid­ed to fol­low a group of chil­dren. They were teenagers. They were going into a movie. And I know what Americans would buy when they’re going to a movie. I know what Indians would buy when they go into a movie. But what were these Japanese teenagers going to buy when they went into a movie?

They went in and they bought pack­ets of dried squid. And this is what they chewed upon for the time they were watch­ing the movie. And of course, they have devel­oped a taste for it. They will eat dried fish and rice for break­fast. I’ve known school­child­ren in Japan eat whale for lunch in schools. And they will have fish that is raw in the form of sashi­mi and sushi for din­ner. And they have soy sauces, but they also have fish sauces. So, they grow up with fish of var­i­ous kinds, and what we may not eat, they will rel­ish.

And again, in Japan— I was won­der­ing, they don’t have milk, so where is the creami­ness in their food? But there is creami­ness. And I remem­ber I was stay­ing in a three hun­dred year‐old inn in Kyoto. It was the Tawaraya Inn. And they gave me some­thing to eat which I’d nev­er eat­en before in that form in my life, and I thought it was absolute­ly deli­cious. And this was yuba, which is the skin off the top of soy milk as it is boil­ing. And they take the skin off, and it was served to me in the inn. And I said, What is this thing? I have to find out what it is.” So they said one of the old­est yuba‐making estab­lish­ments is just less than a mile away, and why don’t you go? We will arrange for you to go and see it being made.

So I said I want­ed to do that. Now, it hap­pened to be a sun­ny but snowy day, a beau­ti­ful snowy day and big flakes of snow were just sort of drift­ing to the ground. It was a gor­geous kind of day. And I walked from the Tawaraya Inn to this place. It was as I said quite a bit of dis­tance. And right in the mid­dle of town, in the mid­dle of mod­ern build­ings, there was this old­er barn, three hun­dred year‐old barn. And I went inside, knocked on the door, a man in very tra­di­tion­al Japanese clothes opened it, and I went in. And it was warm inside and there was a hearth and there was a caul­dron boil­ing. It was filled with soy milk. And this gen­tle­man called me. And then he stirred the pot and let a film form on top of the soy milk. And then with long tweez­ers he lift­ed up this lit­tle sheet that had formed, and put it in the bowl. And then he put a few drops of the most gor­geous soy sauce, a drop of sesame oil, and a few thin thin slices of spring onion, scal­lions. And he said, Taste.” And it was gor­geous. It was creamy, and yet it had a lit­tle bit of tex­ture. It was a lit­tle resis­tant. And it tast­ed of Japan. And it was won­der­ful.

So, these are things that you dis­cov­er as you go around the world, that these are cuisines and peo­ple are eat­ing things that you don’t even know any­thing about. And I had the same feel­ing when I went once to… I was in Singapore. And I was with a Chinese fam­i­ly, and a young moth­er was mak­ing a soft‐boiled egg for her lit­tle two year‐old tod­dler. So she opened the egg and put it in a bowl, and then she did the same thing. She put a lit­tle soy sauce, a lit­tle sesame oil, few scal­lions. And she gave it to the child. And I thought oh, this child, this will be the taste of home for him. This will be the mother’s taste for him. This is some­thing that he’ll always remem­ber and will form the pat­tern of tast­ing in his mouth for­ev­er. So, all these things go back to some­thing that your mouth is trained to eat in a cer­tain way.

I also remem­ber at one time I was in Padang, which is in Sumatra, Indonesia. It’s the Westernmost big island in Indonesia. And in Padang, they’re Muslims main­ly. And they are pret­ty self‐sufficient, the way they grew up in their fam­i­ly. So for their din­ner, for exam­ple, they have a fish pond where they have fish so they can get a fish. They have chick­en. They can chop the heads off, say­ing, Bismillah,” because can’t do it with­out say­ing that, and then eat the chick­en. And all the spices that they eat are gen­er­al­ly fresh. And they will get them from the gar­den. So, from the gar­den they were get­ting gin­ger, they were get­ting galan­gal, they were get­ting red chiles, and they were get­ting fresh turmer­ic.

But then, they used some­thing that I had nev­er used before, and that was the turmer­ic leaf. And they took the turmer­ic leaf, which grows very easily—it’s on top of the plant—and they either ground it in the spice mix­ture, or they just put a part of the leaf in the rice. So the rice—it’s a very aro­mat­ic leaf, and it fla­vored the rice in the most mar­velous, earthy, turmeric‐y kind of way. And if any of you are inter­est­ed in try­ing this, which I sug­gest you do, you can buy fresh turmer­ic, the root (it’s a rhi­zome, actu­al­ly) in any Indian mar­ket. And you plant it in soil. And you water it just a lit­tle. And after a while, the leaves will sprout up.

Now, I live in Upstate New York. I have a house where I do all this grow­ing. And I put it out in the sum­mer and I bring it in in the win­ter. But it grows year after year, and it’s the most won­der­ful leaf to know some­thing about. But it is a taste that I asso­ciate with Padang in Sumatra. It’s one par­tic­u­lar taste, in one par­tic­u­lar town, in one par­tic­u­lar coun­try. And these things devel­op on their own in lit­tle pock­ets, and it hap­pens through­out the world in some form or the oth­er.

Now, India as you know is known for its spices. We are magi­cians. We real­ly are magi­cians in the way we use spices. And that’s because we’ve been doing it for a few thou­sand years, so we know a lit­tle bit about it. And all Indians share this kind of knowl­edge. And it’s a painter­ly knowl­edge. When you think about it, it’s like a palette. And you have all these fifty, six­ty spices that are in your cup­board. The way you use them, just as a painter knows that you can take yel­low and you can take blue, and you can make green.

So, in India we know our spices, and we know that each spice has its own taste. But, if you com­bine, you get a dif­fer­ent fla­vor, which is the sum of its parts. So you can com­bine two, three, four, twen­ty, thir­ty spices, and they will all the time have a dif­fer­ent taste, a dif­fer­ent aro­ma, depend­ing on how you treat them. Because each spice can be treat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly, as well. If you take a cumin seeds, which a lot of coun­tries use— So, if you use it plain, it’s like…you know, one gray­ish col­or. But if you roast the spices and grind them, ooh! It turns bright pink. It’s anoth­er col­or. And then if you pop it into hot oil, it turns a third col­or. So you’re get­ting three kind of tastes out of one sin­gle spice.

Then you take mus­tard seeds. I call mus­tard seeds the Jekyll and Hyde of spices, because when they are just crushed, they are pun­gent and they’re bit­ter. But if you pop them in hot oil, they turn nut­ty and they turn sweet. So the spices them­selves have dif­fer­ent fla­vors that can be brought out of them. And in dif­fer­ent parts of India, in dif­fer­ent regions of India, they use dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of spices. And I can actu­al­ly tell, if I walk into any Indian kitchen and close my eyes, most of us can tell where that kitchen is. For exam­ple, if I go in and I smell roast­ed pep­per­corns, roast­ed corian­der, roast­ed fenu­greek seeds, and maybe I smell a lit­tle coconut oil, and maybe I smell some fish, I know I’m in Kerala, on the Western coast of India. So, dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions, it’s a dif­fer­ent taste palette for every part of India. And it is essen­tial to know the dif­fer­ence, because that’s how we dif­fer­en­ti­ate between the foods of dif­fer­ent states.

Now, chefs in the Western part of this world train either with oth­er chefs or they go to acad­e­mies of var­i­ous sorts to learn how to cook. But there’s one part of India where they go to the tem­ple to learn how to cook. And this is in South India. It’s a spe­cial tem­ple called the Udupi Temple. It’s in the state of Karnataka. When you go to the tem­ple, of course you can go to pray, but you can go to work there and learn to be either a priest or a chef.

And it’s a very inter­est­ing set­up. I once went there myself, and what hap­pens is that there are peo­ple who come to eat there. And they come by the hun­dreds and thou­sands every day to eat. So there are big din­ing halls where they come and sit down. And the room is cleared and banana leaves are strewn in rows on the floor. And peo­ple come and squat—not squat, they sit cross‐legged behind each banana leaf. And then the servers come and they serve sim­ple foods like split peas and veg­eta­bles and rice, and the peo­ple eat. And then they fin­ish, and they leave.

So, I was stand­ing there watch­ing all this hap­pen, and every­body said, Get out of the way! Get out of the way!” and I said, What’s going on?” And I heard this thun­der­ing noise, and a group of cows, like a herd of cows, came gal­lop­ing in and they came gal­lop­ing towards me. They climbed the steps of the tem­ple. And they went in, they ate up all the banana leaves, they licked the ground, and then they thun­dered out. And then they washed the floor, and then they were ready for the next group to come in and start eat­ing.

So, there are par­tic­u­lar cus­toms in dif­fer­ent parts of India, and then they’re fol­lowed. Now, these par­tic­u­lar peo­ple come and learn how to cook here. The kitchens have caul­drons that like this high. [rais­es hand over her head] They have a steplad­der that they go onto, and they have a pad­dle with which they stir these pots. And when one set of a food is made, they pour it into a big wood­en boat from which it is going to be served. It’s cooked in such quan­ti­ties.

One of the most impor­tant spices that are used in this par­tic­u­lar place is asafoeti­da. Now, I don’t know how many of you have heard of asafoeti­da. It is a resin that comes from a tree. My hus­band plays the vio­lin, so the rosin he uses on his bow is rather like asafoeti­da. It looks like asafoeti­da. But asafoeti­da has a very very strong smell. It’s been called devil’s dung.” It’s a diges­tive. The main pur­pose for our using it is that it is a diges­tive, and it’s meant to cure even hors­es of gas. So we use a tiny, tiny amount of it in our food. And in fact if you go to this Udupi Temple, you will be able to buy the lit­tle ves­sel where you crush the asafoeti­da and where you can store the asafoeti­da. And this is of course used, as I said, as a diges­tive. It’s a very impor­tant diges­tive.

And of course this brings me to the whole Indian pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with food as med­i­cine. Now, I don’t know about the rest of the world, though I have heard— Once I was in France and a French doc­tor in the Toulouse area told me that for bed­wet­ting, the best cure is fried mice, and that is the tra­di­tion­al cure. They gave the chil­dren fried mice and sup­pos­ed­ly they stopped in fear of the mice; they stopped bed­wet­ting.

And in India, every sin­gle per­son has a knowl­edge of food as med­i­cine. And it isn’t as if they go to col­lege to learn any­thing about it. It is just some­thing that comes down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion; it’s just passed down. And it’s not con­sid­ered at all rude in India to ask ques­tions about bod­i­ly func­tions. People will like, Hello, how are you? How’s your con­sti­pa­tion today? Are your stools still peb­bly?” So, these kinds of ques­tions are rou­tine­ly asked in a very hap­py kind of way, just to see how somebody’s feel­ing.

Now, in our par­tic­u­lar house­hold, we were a large fam­i­ly, about thir­ty peo­ple in a big extend­ed fam­i­ly that lived togeth­er. My grand­fa­ther sat at the head of the table, then my grand­moth­er. And my grand­moth­er always knew what was wrong with any one of us. And she always had a cure for it. And I may have read dozens of books on Ayurveda, but she had not read a sin­gle book. What she knew came from her moth­er. And that was absolute, and what is more it worked. Every sin­gle time, it worked.

So, if you had a loose stom­ach, then your reg­i­men was rice and yogurt. Rice and yogurt. And you kept eat­ing that till you were cured, and it didn’t take long. It took a day and you were fine after that. And if you were at all queasy, then it was a gin­ger tea. You were get­ting gin­ger tea. For high blood pres­sure, there was always gar­lic. And then there was asafoeti­da— Any time you cooked beans of any sort, asafoeti­da was def­i­nite­ly put into it. As a mouth fresh­en­er, it was always roast­ed fen­nel was passed on the table to fresh­en the mouth, as was car­damom. As well cloves. These were all con­sid­ered greats mouth fresh­en­ers.

And of course then there was turmer­ic, which is both an anti­sep­tic for inside the body and out­side the body. It’s a very very impor­tant sea­son­ing in India. We don’t use turmer­ic because we like our foods to be yel­low, we use it because of its great anti­sep­tic qual­i­ties and its great abil­i­ty to cure inflam­ma­tion.

And I’ll have to tell you my sto­ry about turmer­ic. We have four sis­ters. And three of us, when we were in our sort of ear­ly teens, we decid­ed to have our ears pierced. And my father said, You’re not going to these vil­lage peo­ple who just push an ear­ring through…” And it was a won­der­ful way; the vil­lage women did it best. But my father would have none of it. He said, You are going to the fam­i­ly doc­tor.” Now, the fam­i­ly doc­tor knew noth­ing about pierc­ing ears, but that’s where we went because that’s who my father sort of trust­ed more. And the fam­i­ly doc­tor took a nee­dle, went through with a big fat thread which he pulled, and we were all yelling and scream­ing. Anyway, our ears were pierced, and then the fol­low­ing day we all had infect­ed ears.

So then that’s when my grand­moth­er came into the pic­ture. She said, Don’t wor­ry, these doc­tors know noth­ing.” And then she came in and she had clar­i­fied but­ter which she heat­ed with a lit­tle turmer­ic. And with a swab she daubed that on our ears, and we were cured. So if my father had just let us be, it would have been fine. But of course the yel­low of the turmer­ic, we went to school for the next week with yel­low ears. But we were cured, cer­tain­ly, of the infec­tion.

And at reli­gious fes­ti­vals in India, when mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple go to reli­gious fes­ti­vals and invari­ably get all kinds of dis­eases, they get bit­ten by mos­qui­toes. So, you will see peo­ple if you go to one of these big fes­ti­vals in India, you’ll see them walk­ing around with yel­low faces, yel­low hands. They’ve got turmer­ic rubbed all over their bod­ies. And if they get the slight­est bit of infec­tion the turmer­ic just takes care of it, and then they are cured.

So, as I was going around India sort of col­lect­ing infor­ma­tion on recipes and things like that, I once stopped off in a city called Lucknow, which is Northern India. And it was win­ter, I had a very very bad cold and a cough and I was feel­ing absolute­ly mis­er­able. And I land­ed up at one of my aunt’s hous­es for break­fast, and she said, Would you like some tea?”

And I said, Yes, yes, please. I’ll have some tea but with­out any milk or sug­ar.”

And she was star­tled by that. And then she said, Would you like some toast?”

I said, Yes, I would love some toast, but with­out any but­ter.”

So she said, You’re not look­ing after your­self. You’re going to get sick­er and sick­er and sick­er. And you’re not eat­ing the right thing, but you wait. Sit here and I will help you.”

And she went into the kitchen and she made an infu­sion, a tea, which had black pep­per; it had fen­nel seeds; it had holy basil, which we call tul­si, in it; it had gin­ger in it. And she brought the tea to me, and I drank it, and with­in twenty‐four hours I was cured.

At anoth­er place on the same trip, I was going around, and I was in Varanasi, or Benares, the holy city on the Ganges River. And I was with a fam­i­ly whose occu­pa­tion as a fam­i­ly group was money­lend­ing, mon­ey in some form or the oth­er. They’re known as banias in their par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ty in India. And they are very care­ful with their food. Their food is cooked by a cook who has to be bathed and cleaned in the morn­ing. Then he cooks his food. And he doesn’t put it in serv­ing dish­es after that. In order for the food to remain pure, it has to go direct­ly onto the plate of the per­son who’s eat­ing. And these we call thalis, they’re big round plates with lit­tle bowls in it. And the food goes direct­ly into them so it stays pure. From the cook to the eater, there’s noth­ing in between.

So I had this won­der­ful meal with them. And after the meal, this lady of the house began telling me, she says, Do you know a prepa­ra­tion for a woman who has just giv­en birth? We have this won­der­ful smoke that we use for these women. They sit astride a hol­low chair, and we burn this smoke. And it just goes up the body and com­plete­ly heals the body after child­birth. Do you have the recipe for that?”

I said, No, I don’t. And I would love to have the recipe.”

She said, I don’t know the recipe, but I will go and ask my mother‐in‐law, who knows the recipe. And there were sort of cur­tains drawn in the next room. She went through the cur­tains, closed them up again and dis­ap­peared for awhile. And then after a long time, she came back with this long roll which came from an adding machine on which this recipe was writ­ten. There were fifty ingre­di­ents, one after the oth­er. And I thought my good­ness, how do you make this with so many ingre­di­ents? It must be dif­fi­cult. But I thought I would try, because it was a won­der­ful recipe, and I thought this kind of won­der­ful, smoky, spicy smoke would be some­thing that we should all learn some­thing about.

So as I was think­ing this, this fin­ger came out of the cur­tain (which is obvi­ous­ly the fin­ger of the mother‐in‐law) and start­ed wag­ging at me and say­ing, If you leave even one ingre­di­ent out, you will die.” So, all our fam­i­lies have this kind of gift to offer you, spe­cial recipes for all kinds of occa­sions.

Now, rice plays a very very impor­tant part in Indian food. There are many peo­ple in India who are just rice eaters. They will not eat too much wheat. They can’t live with­out rice. We know that rice orig­i­nat­ed in India thou­sands of years ago, well before the birth of Christ. Maybe 10,000 BC, we’re not sure. At the same time, it could have orig­i­nat­ed in the Mekong Delta. But cer­tain­ly rice was there and record­ed in Indian his­to­ry. We know that five hun­dred years before the birth of Christ, Lord Buddha had a pud­ding made of rice and man­goes and hon­ey. And we know that when he was dying, in this last days, and he was fast­ing, he was eat­ing just a few grains of rice a day.

One of Alexander’s com­pan­ions— Alexander came to India about two hun­dred years after Buddha’s time, in 300 BC, around that time. And they found rice grow­ing. They mar­veled at this grain grow­ing in water and plant­ed in rows. They had not seen any­thing like that. They also saw sug­ar­cane for the first time. They had nev­er seen sug­ar­cane. And they described it as hon­ey made with­out the work of bees. And they were com­plete­ly enchant­ed with all that.

And so rice we know was always there. And it has always been a part of all our cer­e­monies in India. At a Hindu wed­ding, for exam­ple, the hus­band, the wife, the moth­er and father, every­body, and the priest, keep throw­ing rice into the fire. And the rea­son for doing it, of course, is because rice is a sym­bol of fer­til­i­ty. Why is it a sym­bol of fer­til­i­ty? I asked the priest that, and he explained it to me that rice is plant­ed in one place but it can’t bear fruit until it is trans­plant­ed in anoth­er place. So that is why a bride is rather like rice. In order to have chil­dren she will have to be trans­plant­ed some­where else. And that is why it is a sym­bol of fer­til­i­ty.

It’s also a sym­bol of pros­per­i­ty in India. And in Western India, in Maharashtra, when a bride comes into a house, they place near the doorstep a can­is­ter of rice piled high, and the bright gen­tly kicks it in. She kicks it into the house so it spills into the house. So the idea is that the bride is bring­ing pros­per­i­ty and wealth into the house.

In many coun­tries of Asia, peo­ple will go out for din­ner. But if they have not had rice in the meal, they will feel as if they’ve not eat­en. And I’ve seen that in many many coun­tries. In Japan I remem­ber spend­ing a lot of time with Japanese offi­cials of var­i­ous sorts. We were a BBC team; we were shoot­ing. And I remem­ber we were shoot­ing var­i­ous aspects of sake, the drink. And we were being wined and dined by some of these sake peo­ple. And the offi­cials took us out. They were most­ly men. And the men all ate and drank till mid­night. And I was told that when they went home they would have their din­ner. And I said, How can they have they’re din­ner? They’ve already eat­en.”

They said, No no no. Because their wives are wait­ing.” And their wives would have din­ner with them. And if they don’t eat the rice before, they will wait and when they go home they will have rice with their wife. Therefore they will have eat­en with their wives, and they can say with a straight face, I had din­ner at home with my wife.”

And I remem­ber the same thing hap­pen­ing in Singapore. There was a Singaporean gen­tle­man who owned a French restau­rant. And he invit­ed me for din­ner to show me what all Singapore has. So we had this won­der­ful French meal. Three cours­es. I was absolute­ly full. And at the end of that he said, So shall we go out now and have some Singaporean rice noo­dles?”

I said, Aren’t you full?”

He said, No no no. I’m full, but I’m not sat­is­fied.”

And that is a very impor­tant thing. So this brings me to the sub­ject of this sym­po­sium, what is cook­ing? We are all born into cer­tain cul­tures. And the cul­ture is like a moth­er. We run away, we exper­i­ment. We are mod­ern peo­ple, we try and find new things, we want to find the best lob­ster, the best cray­fish. We want to cook it in amaz­ing ways with some­thing we’ve just for­aged from the for­est.

But in the end, what are we look­ing for? We’re look­ing for sat­is­fac­tion. We’re look­ing for sat­is­fac­tion in some form. And I think that for each per­son that, depend­ing on their back­ground and incli­na­tions, is a very indi­vid­ual ket­tle of fish. Amongst our won­der­ful mod­ern chefs in America, I’ve watched a Korean‐American chef who will always have some kind of maybe kim­chi or some­thing in his food. It’s very mod­ern food. It’s very cre­ative food. But float­ing in there is the kim­chi that he can’t for­get. He can’t leave that behind.

I’ve seen a Chinese‐American mod­ern chef. And there, his fat­ty pork, the steamed buns. Somehow they don’t go away. They’re some­where in there, and they will always find sur­face in some way or the oth­er.

A French chef, his but­ter is very impor­tant. And in some way, the but­ter will always be there. And in an Indian chef, again an Indian mod­ern chef in America, his desserts will not be with­out the car­damom. Because that some­how is the moth­er.

However exper­i­men­tal and mod­ern they are, there’s always the lit­tle run­ning and touch­ing the moth­er to make sure. That is still alive and well in their hearts and in their minds. And they need to affirm their roots in some way.

And then there’s René. What do you say about René? He’s one of the most bril­liant chefs I’ve ever met. But at the same time, I would ven­ture to say that I think in his last life René was Japanese. Thank you.

Further Reference

Overview page for the MAD 4 / What is Cooking? event.


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