Cold, grey, bleak mid-winter days bring opportunity to reconnect with that best of old friends, that is to say television, or pure guilt-free license to watch Netflix’s as is the reality nowadays. And thus this weekend welcomed the opportunity to visit Chef’s Table. Now entering its third season the format is beginning to look a little tired. However, this is not some kind of review. It’s more a point of reawakened inspiration brought to our attention by Peruvian Chef Virgilio Martinez and some potatoes.
At this point you might be thinking, and rightly so, potatoes, are not a subject commonly linked to design and branding. But in this case they exemplify something quite beautiful.
Chef Martinez is no ordinary chef, for him hand-picking vegetables from the best producers is not enough. His work endeavours to systematically explore and catalogue Peru, its potential ingredients and its forgotten cooking techniques, something he does with an unrivalled enthusiasm for botany, science and food.
On his altitudinal voyage through Peru, Martinez has come across an old Peruvian technique for cooking potatoes in the ground. Taking this technique he’s recreated it in his kitchen by hand-sculpting small, beautiful earthen kilns around potatoes to cook them. Granted it doesn’t sound much when put like this, but it is truly inspiring when you see it — this is a highly time consuming and ridiculously elaborate way to cook potatoes. At this point your mind is undoubtedly sliding towards the idea of an elaborate earthen kiln being served-up to diners on a decorative platter of fauna in an attempt to heighten their dining experience. Think again — the kiln doesn’t make it to the table, it’s beauty remains in the kitchen, opened by the very Chef’s that made it. Effectively reduced to nothing more than a process for cooking potatoes. A humble act that transforms the process into a genuinely beautiful and unique story.
And this is why the diners come, not for an extravagant visual feast, not even because the food tastes devine (at Central it’s often difficult or challenging) they come to be part of a genuinely unique story.
Pondering curiously towards our creative future this is what resonates, that in this potato act, the design and branding industry could be paralleled. That if most brands serve-up the same menu, it could be that the genuinely great find their own unique voice and story. Or those that take their pleasures seriously, as Charles Eames once said, truly set-off on a road to success.
Something like — it’s not necessarily that you offer potatoes, or that your potatoes taste the best. It’s that you’re genuinely passionate about your potatoes, and take their every detail seriously because that’s what you find fun.