Eight Days (2 August 2018)

- Jock Zonfrillo was awarded the Basque Culinary Prize last week for his work with the Orana Foundation. We talked about these excellent awards in the last 8Days – they’re all about chefs doing good in the world. He was in very fine company, judged by very fine company, and it is an incredibly fine achievement! "... it’s become a passion and an obsession and something I care very deeply about," says Jock. "Through the world of gastronomy I’m able to make a difference. Awards like these and a little bit of recognition go a long way to cement that what I am doing is right, it’s positive and we are making a change." There’s now an extra cheeky 100,000 euro to help make that change too.

- For other people who did good, have a look at the Rootstock retrospective on GT. Or read this article in the NYTimes on small grocers (successfully) competing with the big kids – minimal packaging, training programs, even staffless organic stores. Could this be the future?
- In very sad news, the LA Times critic, Jonathan Gold, died late last month. Gold was the first restaurant critic to win a Pulitzer, he was a giant among food writers. A prodigious thinker, he used his words not just for the food, but to articulate the tapestry of LA's society; for Gold it was about context, where food fits and how it's moving the culture forward.
He wrote beautifully, with his focus largely on the ethnic, low-key restaurants of LA, from taco trucks to Thai restaurants. His writing was considered and well-researched. The impact of a good writer to plot the culinary lay of the land (I'm thinking Brillat-Savarin or Elizabeth David) is hugely valuable and should be revered and Gold was one of the very best. I have plumbed the 8Days of weeks gone by to find some memories:
In Sydney, I heard him talk about the weight of responsibility of (potentially) putting 40 or 50 people out of a job for aesthetic issues or issues of personal taste. He noted that while you have to be able to stab friends in the back to be a good critic, it's dreadfully unfair to review a restaurant in its first few weeks. His rule is never before 2 or 3 months, while also visiting up to 4 times. (8Days – 29 October 2015)
His annual 101 Best Restaurants for the LA Times reflected the above. “An ideal candidate has delicious food – that’s a given – but also a sense of purpose, a place within its community, and the ability to drive the conversation forward, not just in Los Angeles but around the world. Its chefs should honor diversity, but not at the expense of focus; health, but not at the expense of flavor; and sustainability, but not at the expense of complexity. It should feel like L.A.” (8Days – 6 May 2017)
You may also want to re-read his review of noma Mexico because it, too, was excellent. “Redzepi’s many-coursed dinners have the same kind of narrative arcs you might expect in a well-structured novel, themes that barely register as a flicker at the beginning of a meal coming to roaring denouements toward the end, simple things like the taste of an apple or the curve of a tiny shrimp bending within their context to serve story more than they might any culinary effect …" He concluded: “Beauty and conflict are often intertwined.” A lovely image and a lovely review. (8Days - 17 May 2017)
There are some very good articles herehere and here, looking at his immense contribution to writing, food culture and LA.
Postcards from my Kennards storage unit:

"No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me."

À la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust
This whole moving thing is funny. As I packed up my home of seven years, I was generally working with the idea that if it makes me happy it stays, a concept borne from some self-help 'guru' who loves minimalism. However, the further I fell into the collection - the birthday cards, metro tickets, menus, museum stubs, love letters, photos - the further I pushed out the goal posts.

The diaries (so many diaries!!) proved particularly problematic, with pages full of lessons from my past, the words a tangle of wonder and excitement at new discoveries. In many cases I was able to trace the origin of a concept that has become second nature: ideas from the guest chefs I hosted at Quarter 21 Cooking School (how Jared doesn’t use metal on metal in his kitchen because cooking is about engaging all the senses, including the sounds you make in the kitchen; or Shaun Presland on spending time to wash the rice and let it relax after you remove it from the plastic “imagine its former life swaying in the paddy.”); to snapshots from time at LifeStyle Food, where every desk had a tv and I spent my days trawling through the video archives collating random ideas (that bees have a separate honey stomach; Sicilians add dark chocolate to their caponata; a quarter of an apple’s volume is air; and many, many quotes from Rick Stein - “a man could starve in a room full of artichokes").

Of course, there were notes from restaurant meals around the world: Extebarri, noma, Septime, my first urchin, my first anchoïade, my very first meal in France at 13. There was the moment I realised where the desire to write about food came from - the regular Sunday lunches my parents hosted at home - while sharing a winter picnic on a beach in the south of France with a chef named David. 
I also found a lot of things that were important, but weren't necessarily happy. Bad meals, bad men, bad moments. While I was wishing them away at the time, I'm glad they were still there to read now. Steiner said "Feelings are for the soul what food is for the body." Feelings. Not happiness. 
Needless to say, I abandoned minimalism and the storage container is packed to the rafters. The diaries won over the couch.