What is Patrick O'Connell's food philosophy?
I like the term deceptive simplicity. Deceptive simplicity has a lot to do with consciousness. We’re going through a period in cuisine now which is quite the opposite of deceptive simplicity. It’s like, how many trendy things can you possibly get on the plate at one time? And the more esoteric, the better. On a typical day a young boy in my kitchen will say, “Chef, chef, chef.” I encourage them to try new dishes all the time. And he’ll put something in front of me and I will say, “Wow it’s dazzling, it has so many ingredients.” [But you’ll have a] taste of [it], and it’s not too good. Sometimes I am taken to sitting them down and putting a blindfold on them and saying, “Just please forget about what it looks like and I am going to put a little of this in your mouth and ask you, would you like a little more, and you’ll probably say no.” It’s all of these various components but none of them can hold their own. I usually say, “Let’s take everything off the plate and just begin with the fish — if it’s a fish or the piece of veal — and get that right first.” Then they realize that’s no easy task in and of itself.
I also use musical analogies. Who is the lead singer? Who is the dish pretending to be? Think of it in different terms, rather than, wow isn’t this a lot of fireworks. When we back down to one ingredient, cooking the fish correctly, they suddenly realize that this could take a month or two or longer and all you have still is a crisp fish, but when that’s great you can work from there.