We finally got around to watching “Ratatouille,” last night. It’s a pretty neat film. There’s plenty there for kids, adults, anyone in between. There’s no singing, which is something that plagues (in my opinion) Disney films, but the music is well-suited for the movie. That said, Remy (the main character), is an inspiration to us all, really. What? You don’t think that a rat can inspire? You must be new to the whole Disney over-personification process. I kid, but…not really. The one thing that Disney always seems to be good at is taking the lowliest of woodland creatures (or brown rat) and turning them into heroic visions that we, ourselves could only aspire to be. This isn’t really that different.
The moral of the story is something that all foodies, not just critic “Mr. Ego,”cringe at hearing. It says, “Anyone can cook.” I thought, at first, “ooh…that’s not true, really.” The more I thought about it, though…the more it’s pretty spot on. Anyone can cook. It’s just that operative word that gets ignored a lot — whether everyone should cook. I didn’t take much away from the movie other than “anyone can cook” and “be true to yourself.” That’s enough, though, don’t you think?
I recommend the movie, by the by. Rent it or buy it, today. If you’re in the culinary field, then I would recommend buying it, not just for the movie, but moreso for the interview “Conversation with Brad Byrd and Thomas Keller.” The interview sections with Brad Byrd were inspiring, but the culinarians (can I use this, here?) just perked up with the mention of
Thomas Keller is a name synonymous with the pursuit of perfection in American Cuisine and, indeed, international cuisine. His drive, his creativity and energy have and continue to inspire cheflings around the country and, as mentioned, the world. He has given American cuisine French sensibilities while maintaining its Americanality. I know, I’m just making up a lot of words, here. Shakespeare would be proud, right? I would like to think Thomas would, too. Why? If the paradigm does not fit the situation, you can either change the situation or the paradigm…it’s all about which way you choose.
The interview with Thomas Keller was one of those inspiring little shorts where we get to see an artist in his element, creating, challenging our notions of “what is” in the world of food. It’s inspiring. It’s what I strive to do in my lowly chefling job at the Dayton Art Institutes’ “Cafe Monet.” I think it’s what all cooks should aspire to do. It’s the least we can do. The inspiration I got from just watching him wander around his kitchen, talk about what inspires him…I wanted to hop into my kitchen and start creating. If it hadn’t been 10:30PM, I might have. This brings us to
Me? No, you. You? No, me! If this hasn’t snapped the little synapse that kept your attention span on this blog, then read on. This is something I poured over in my mind as I was trying to get to sleep, last night. This may be an odd take on the whole “grasshopper” philosophy, but we are either the Rat or the Linguini. If you haven’t seen the movie, this makes no sense whatsoever. The bottom line is that we either have innate skills in the kitchen or we have to learn them, over time, to become great. Either way, there’s greatness to be had, we just have to discover it.
I started thinking about what it was Keller said about the plates we send out being extensions of ourselves and, well, that stuck with me a little. I strive, when I do my job, to do the best I can and give the people the best food I can within the framework or what’s being served. I’m not saying that we have on the menu isn’t sufficient — it’s probably the best museum menu I’ve encountered! I’m saying that even when I think I’m sending out the best plate I can, I’m probably not — I just haven’t opened my mind enough to show me the next level, the better that best way. What I’m trying to say is that we should all strive to be like Thomas Keller. I almost wrote strive to be Thomas Keller but thought, “Nah…there’s only one Thomas, and that’s how it should be.” No, we should strive to be like him.
How like him? Or, to be less gramatically opaque, “like him, how?” Well, to be honest, take on his views of perfection. We can all strive for perfection, but never accept that we have, in fact, achieved it. We need to view every dish we plate up as one going out to the local food critic, a fellow chef, your parents, whomever it takes to inspire you to make every dish your best, every plate your masterpiece. Once we do that, we’re being more true to ourselves and more pure in the love and creativity that is the culinary arts.
So, as I wait for my chef pants to dry — forgot to change over the laundry before going to bed, oops… — I find myself inspired, again, for another day that may or may not bring the joys of what we do to the fore. It may be dealing with the people that can’t be pleased no matter what. It might bring the folks that close their eyes and are brought to a better place by your food. Either way, my mission is the same, as is yours: give them the best food possible with the best presentation possible. If you’re satisfied with either, then it’s time to move on. That’s not to say you can’t get satisfaction from your job. No, what I mean is that if you’re doing your best and it’s working for you…it’s time to ratchet it up a notch. I don’t feel like I’m making sense. I’m just trying to express my drive for what I do and what I feel we should all have, drive-wise.
I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. In summary — Ratatouille is inspiring. Not just in the Dinsey feel good way, but in the cooking way. I recommend it. The interview with Keller and Byrd is inspiring. It’s worth the DVD just for that, even if it is only 14 minutes… Strive for perfection, but never accept that you’ve reached it. Cook well.
Songs while writing:
“No Angel” — Voivod, “KATORZ”
“Blind Leading the Blind” — Dance Hall Crashers, “The Old Record
“The Happy Meal-Worm” — Circus of Dead Squirrels, “The Pop Culture Massacre and the End of the World”
“All of Me” — Lemur Voice, “Divided”
“Eleanore Rigby (Beatles Cover)” — Ancestral, “The Ancient Curse”
“Am I Evil?” — Metallica, “Garage Days Revisited”
“If I Should Fall” — Folkearth, “Drakkars in the Mist”
“Staring at the Sun” — The Offspring, “Americana”
“Nobody’s Home” — Avril Lavigne, “Under My Skin”
“Shadow of the Moon” –Blackmore’s Night, “Shadow of the Moon”
“Outsider” — Green Day, “We’re a Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones”