Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feeling Welcome

Symbol of Hospitality

I met up with Heather Atwood of the Gloucester Times and her friend to attend the Chef Grant Achatz lecture at Harvard.  While waiting in line, we chatted about our mutual interests in food and blogging.  We also got caught up on each other's culinary history.  After a short period, we were talking as if we'd known each other for some time.  I think the one thing that rung true to her was my passion for food and OCQ.  She is genuinely interested in what people have to say about the subject at hand, which makes her good at her craft.  I'm pleased to say that she's my friend and our supporter. 

Her friend intrigued me with her love of entertaining, culinary education and worldly experiences.  She talked about how she cooked for chefs and kept it focused on the ingredients that came straight out of her garden.  Her black raspberries were of farmer's market quality and her Asian pears had won ribbons at a well known county fair.  She even got the opportunity to compliment Chef Achatz with, "You are Harry Potter."  She elegantly used a point that the chef made and created kudos.  I'd equate her to a modern day Julia Child and it was a pleasure.

As an aside, we showed up to stand in line without having had anything to eat for some time.  The irony!  We were all hungry and Heather decided to talk about these oatmeal cookies made with steel cut oats.  Her description of the chewy texture was almost enough to make us get out of line and head to the closest pastry shop for a sweet fix.  However, we were true to the task and made it through the lecture with fresh cut grass aroma and 'dry' caramel as our consolation.  Satisfying is an entirely different way.

Once we were seated, we agreed on which questions were the most thoughtful.  Heather and I each got our chance at the end. 

I asked, "In all your experimentation, what was your most successful accident used for service?"

Chef Achatz was confused by my question.  He did not like the idea that a concept would be developed from an accident.  He responded with the basic outline of the R&D process:  an idea comes up, work is delegated out, it goes through a testing phase and it's edited countless times until the dish is ready for service.  "We don't like mistakes."  I guess fortunate accidents don't happen at Alinea.  A little skeptical, but who am I to say?  However, it gives us a lead in for The Plan.

Check out Heather's post at Food for Thought for her complimentary experience.

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