Creative Juices

Recently my husband and I were watching a documentary on Ferran Adrià, the executive chef of the world renown restaurant in Spain that was once el Bulli.  I say once because it closed in 2011, serving it's last 30+ course, 5 hour dinner.  If you are not familiar with the restaurant or it's unbelievable chefs, the restaurant sat on the side of a cliff overlooking the sea in Cala Montjoi, Spain.  They were only open 6 months a year and did one seating a night for about 50 people.  Reservations opened once a year and hundreds of thousands embarked on the complicated system to try and get in.  Only 8000 made the cut.  There was no requesting a date, you came whenever they told you to come.  When people showed up without a reservation, they were given a tour of the kitchen, posed with the chefs for a photo op, and shown the door.  What is equally as remarkable is the process that they employed to create their menu.

Photo courtesy of VCrown, Lifestyle photographer

After the restaurant closed for the season, they moved all of their equipment and top staff to Barcelona to be in their lab kitchen.  What ensued was the most elaborate, scientific, and remarkable creative process that I have ever witnessed.   If you have a chance, please watch it.  You can find the trailer here and the film on Netflix.  It is no wonder that Ferran was named chef of the decade and won Best Restaurant in the World for five years and a Best Restaurant of the Decade in 2010.  What I was most impressed by was that his creativity was such a process.  It involved hours and hours of research, trying new things five different ways, failing four out of five times, documentation, revision, note taking, tastings, and collaboration that led to the masterpiece menu that he was able to generate season after season.  He also was a believer in experiencing food.  He sought to create magic and wonder in every menu.

Photo courtesy of

We also heard a lecture from Matthew Robbins about the same time.  He is one of my very favorite event designers and has worked with Martha Stewart and other top designers in the business.  He has a lovely book out called Inspired Weddings.  He came to speak as part of the Dinnerworks show here in which my husband  participated.  He was so gracious and kind and his process is simple, very organic and in such good taste.  I was left with that good creative juju buzz when I left him.  I was overwhelmed with a desire to CREATE.  These men and their art were blowing my mind and making my artistic heart ache with the need to make something from my own vision.  Of course I began event planning immediately.

My theater roots left me with the tools for a great design process, but I have never really employed it fully in my event planning.  I did to a certain extent, but skipped a whole lot of the beginning of the process that I recently revisited.  These days visual research is at our finger tips and I have been all over the Pinterest rabbit hole and the internet to find inspiration for what I want this dinner party to really be.  The process has been so fulfilling, a nice chance to use my research muscles again and get the creative juices flowing.

We have joined culinary forces with our favorite local sommelier and wine shop owner to host a "Flight" dinner together in September.  My mom and I had a great meal in Nashville at a restaurant called Flyte and had lovely course tastings.  Always my favorite way to dine, small bites of lots of different things send me into a state of sensory bliss.  I decided that experience needed to be recreated in my own kitchen so we have been menu/event planning and it has been divine.  The menu is pretty close to being set and I can't wait to cook and spend an entire day setting my table and the surprise of what kind of fabulous wine we are trying and laugh with friends all night!   

This entry began when I was really pumped and still in summer vacation mode.  Since then, I have returned to work and my house is in demolition.  This entry has been just in time to remind me that inspiration is indeed a process.  While I might not be feeling at all "light as air" or "good juju buzzed", there is a wealth of inspiration that can be perused and pinned and linked for later just to keep the juices flowing.  I want to be a lightning rod for inspiration at any time.  I want to be able to connect the dots in my mind from a lovely piece of embroidered silk to the tablescape of a friend's birthday party or look at a Hosta leaf and build a porch design around what feeling it evokes.  In order to do that, I have to keep researching and practicing and honing the skill that goes into making art, whether that is on a plate, in my yard, or wherever. The challenge, of course, is to find the time and discipline to do that.

The prolonged heat wave has finally broken and we are in the middle of some GLORIOUS summer weather.  I actually heard a commercial that used "end of the summer" and I had to do a double take.  The season has moved swift like a current.  More tomatoes are coming in and I am making the canning and freezing list now.  The yard is just perfect and I am trying in vain to keep up with the watering.  The upcoming weeks bring birthday celebrations, more bathroom renovation (will it never end?), some event planning for good measure, and decision making about presentation and food delivery to your mouth.  Stop by if you have a minute and help me snap beans to freeze.  I'll make you a cocktail and you can tell me about your creative endeavors for the upcoming fall season.  It is just around the corner.


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