As I was listening to Chef Amadeus spring from one idea to the next, a powerful image popped into my head, which I had seen in the Harvard University Food For Thought course 2013, during Chef Grant Achatz’s spotlight.
It was an idea spider graph, essentially. No, I bet that’s not the real name. I actually have no idea what it’s called.
Anyway, in his presentation video, Chef Grant (with his R&D team) drew a key ingredient in the middle of a page. Then he would draw lines radiating from that key ingredient of potential pairing ingredients and flavor profiles. Then from those second ingredients, he would brainstorm other components that would balance. Then a tertiary list of pairings for those components. And so forth until the page is full. Then he would look at those ingredients and evaluate how those would pair with the original, key ingredient. Sometimes a unique pairing was identified, and a brilliant dish would begin to develop.
Let’s give it a try. Now, I wrote this in one stream of thought, so you’re really following along the brainstorming I did.
Take the ideas listed yesterday that Chef Amadeus and I discussed. He had led off with a “simple” scallop dish on a plate. Write that in the middle of your page.
Now, what pairs with scallops, and what do you often see?
Draw a line and write that word and continue drawing radially around the scallop word. A few items came to me: bacon, chorizo, cream, white wine, tomato sauce, butter.
Now draw a line from bacon. What pairs with bacon? Apples, Applewood, lettuce & tomatoes, eggs, kale, smoke, pineapples.
Draw a line from pineapples. What else goes with pineapples? Coconuts, slushies, salsa, grilling, candied pineapple/dried pineapple.
Okay, now look back at your center ingredient and your tertiary or even quaternary ingredients, if you went one more level past pineapple. Can your tertiary or quaternary ingredient(s) pair with the center ingredient? Yup, most definitely. Pineapple salsa on a sear-grilled scallop is definitely a real dish. The acid and heat from the salsa would cut through the creamy, buttery scallop beautifully.
And there you have it: idea spider graph.
Next week–How Chef Amadeus uses the “What if” question in the kitchen.