Breakout ideas come from broken rules


A canopy of yellow tulips smiles at diners from above. Like Chihuly except real petals and not spun glass. We are awed because it defies convention. In this fantasy land, flowers lean over and inhale our perfume.

Madeliene's tulip canopy. Photo by Jennifer Myers

Madeliene’s tulip canopy. Photo by Jennifer Myers

We live by simple rules. They provide structure and quite the chaos. In language we call this grammar. An orderly sequencing of words in predictable patterns. Noun-verb-object. With flourishes of adjectives, adverbs and prepositional phrases to add context and color.

Our dining experience is yet one other language. Full of convention and rules. Salad first in this country. And last in another.

A poet’s sword cuts through convention. She jumbles up word order to make her point. To carry us through a portal to see something new.

Cleverness is a currency that spans all arts. All languages.

Consider the whimsy at Goodall’s kitchen. Bread is a chewy, crust driven side. An athlete who commands tactile interaction. It is the stuff to be pulled apart and shared. Virtually, the only only dish to be manhandled. Everything else requires utensils.

Goodall's - Pan Seared Halibut, Crispy Baby Artichokes, Lemon Olive Brioche, Pickled Spring Onions, Parsley Jus

Goodall’s – Pan Seared Halibut, Crispy Baby Artichokes, Lemon Olive Brioche, Pickled Spring Onions, Parsley Jus

And yet Chef Scott moved the punctuation to the middle of the sentence. He tore bread’s soft interior into pieces. Dunked them into a martian green sauce of parsley and studded the plate of halibut with these moon rocks. He ripped convention a new one.

Just as a language has an implicit grammar that native speakers know even if they can’t explain, a cuisine has an implicit structure, a set of rules about which foods go together, what constitutes a “grammatical” dish or meal in that cuisine. This implicit structure of cuisine consists of rules about how dishes are structured out of ingredients, meals are structured out of dishes, and entire cuisines out of particular flavor combinations and required cooking techniques. Each of these kinds of structuring helps explain the nature of cuisines and their similarities and difference.

Dan Jurafsky, The Language of Food, pg 178, 2014, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd.

The same genius could be said of our friend Scott Jacobs. When Scott dines, on occasion he finishes the culinary journey with a taste of meat.

Our world tells us to slide into home plate with a sweet custard. Or a dense cheesecake. A chocolate bomb. Yes, yes.

The departure from the table, a.k.a. dessert, must sound like a triangle’s tingle but have the lusty touch of a vixen. Sugar and spice and everything nice, but in fishnet stockings.

Zushi Puzzle - Kobe beef with sweet sauce and sea salt

Zushi Puzzle – Kobe beef with sweet sauce and sea salt

And yet carefully ordered, the final flourish might just be kobe beef sushi seared with a blowtorch. Then drizzled with sweet soy and sprinkled sea salt. It’s what Chef Roger Chong prepares. And it’s off the menu.

The point is that the masters of the table, know how to twist convention.  To marry chicken with waffles. To end with beginnings. To hurt so good.

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