Brokedinner's crEATive exercises Part 1

Kareem Roberts

Kareem Roberts

Other 7th February 2018

Brokedinner's crEATive exercises Part 1

Creativity is not a gift, it is learned behaviour...or at least it is for me. Like most chefs I am left floored and speechless by some of the manifestations of my peers and even often by my juniors. I have seen chefs create ex nihlo and I ask myself HOW do they do it? Is their culinary alchemy bestowed by the ghosts of chefs past? Do they have some exceptional clairvoyance that eludes me? More importantly...can I learn to be as creative as my idols? Well... The answer is yes...but not so easily.

There are somethings you just cant learn. For example, I can learn to speak Russian with considerable practice but no matter how fluent I become I cant learn to be Russian. Creativity works much in the same way. There are certain things you can do to harness latemt abilities. I know it will sound counter logical to everything I just said but get this. We are ALL born creative, just some more than others. That doesn’t mean you cant practice. How do you practice something like that you might ask? Well....its all about exercise, but not in the way you imagine. I am going to walk you through a couple basic routines I often practice when I am trying to jog my brain away from the norm. With enough time and PRACTICE you too can learn how to be a warlock of new dishery...if that’s even a word as yet.

Brokedinner’s 3 tips to put the ‘eat' in crEATe

1. The neverending menu log

This one is simple but boy do you wind up in the weird side of dish composition. You remember that old game you played as kids where you pass a message from one person to another and see what the final message is? Well I do the same thing but with food. I start by coming up with an imaginary dish with at least 3 components and writing it down as it would appear on a menu. So for example lets say :

Braised lamb shank with fondant potatoes and mint jus

What I do next is create another dish using one of the ingredients in the last component as a part of the first component on my first dish. So my next dish would be something like...

Mint and hazelnut crusted celeriac ‘steak’ with buttered savoy cabbage and cherry tomato salsa roja

Cherry tomato and chorizio insalata with fennel salt

Then ...
Pork shoulder braised in fennel liquor with sweet potato remoulade and savoury orange biscotti

And so on.

The point of this exercise is that the dishes are not necessarily going to make sense or even be practical but if you keep this list going for long enough you will not only stretch your imagination longer than grisini but you might stumble on a component, combination, or entire dish you wouldn’t normally think up. This is truly a culinary long game

2. Lateral dish composition

There are some dishes that work no matter where and when you put them. This concept is similar to deconstruction but it is dissimilar in the fact that it is shifted as a dish fundamentally.

Here in the England Fish n' Chips with minted mushy peas is damn good because the flavours work. So how do I laterally shift that dish? Well... What if I substituted the fish for chicken because they are both white proteins? And maybe instead of deep frying at a high temperature I could possibly poach or confit the chicken right? And then there is the potato element so...maybe a potato chowder? And if I substitute mushy peas for broad beans I can still deep fry a broad bean and mint croquette for that texture. With one more lateral shift fish n chips has now become

Confit chicken gizzards with smoked potato chowder broad bean croquettes and mint cress

Repeat this process for as many classical dishes as you can imagine and you are almost on your way to something possibly epic

3. T.I.O.

Try It Out. This is THE most important practice for any creative individual. You really just have to try shit out and I cant go into enough detail about this one. Look. No matter what I tell you or what you read, eat, or see the only thing that matters to yo as a cook is what you do. Cook stuff. Cook any and everything you can afford and please, fuck it all the way up.

You know what the silver lining is to a failed dish? Its trying to figure out not only where you went wrong but how you could improve it or rectify it? The 2 most important parts of being creative are Thinking and Experimenting. It is THAT SIMPLE. There is little more, or little less and every ‘new’ dish conceived was the love child of these two often independent romantic processes. This is often the hardest part of creating because simply put sometimes we are just plain lazy and can't be bothered to even try.

The only thing that separates me from other cooks, if anything, is that I try. I cook when I don’t want to and sometimes the best dishes come out of that. The final suggestion I have for creating something is this. Use what you have. The dish pictured above sprung together because I had made some kimchi at home and all I had left was the kimchi juice. I always have something knocking around in my fridge and on this occasion I had a Spanish octopus tentacle, kimchi juice, and a cucumber. Some of the best things are born from nothing and limitation is frequently the fuel inspiration. I'm pretty sure bread was invented because someone tried to invent a sandwich but didn’t have anything to put inside of it but don’t quote me.