Inspiration rarely occurs in a vacuum, and luckily, in the world of a chef there is simply no need for it to. Our best friends, our sympathizers, the people we get drunk and laugh with: they are also very often our heroes and our greatest sources of inspiration. They are our fellow chefs. When you're looking to learn from another chef, sometimes you seek an approach or a thought process that's different from your own, if not completely opposite. Because it is so important for us to continue to grow and learn, my restaurant, Empellón Cocina, halts its daily operations four times a year to collaborate on a tasting menu with a chef we admire. A guest chef dinner has a big impact, particularly on the kitchen, that is meaningful and positive. It's a disservice to us and our guests not to push ourselves to do it.
In order to take a break from a life of responsible restaurant ownership, I created a quarterly pop-up dinner called The Push Project. The purpose of the dinner series is simple and selfish. We invite someone we admire into our kitchen in order to mix things up a bit and absorb the thoughts of a brilliant cook. For my third installment of The Push Project, taking place at Empellón Cocina this Friday the 28th, I've invited Chef Chris Cosentino to be my partner in crime.
On May 14th, 2012, I blasted a random tweet out into the world asking if anyone knew where I could score some pipichia. For those of you who do not know, pipichia is a pungent Mexican herb that's rather obscure in my neck of the woods (Manhattan).
Four days later I had some in my hands. It came from the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market in San Francisco and it was carried by Chef Chris Cosentino.
Chris Cosentino is an extremely busy guy. He runs two businesses (Incanto and Boccalone in SF), he's a husband and a father and he manages to get himself on TV often.
I bring all of that up not only because these accomplishments are amazing, but even more so because he is the type of person who will take what little time he has (or does not have) to help out a fellow chef that he hasn't even met yet.
From another chef's perspective this is exactly the type of person you want cooking for you. Generosity makes food taste better.
All I could do to thank Chris for the herbs was cook him a meal. Afterwards, we had a drink and had the chance to discuss things that we have in common, like growing up in New England, and oddly, cooking Mexican cuisine.
Just over a year after we met, Chris is doing me another favor and cooking with me for Push Project Part III. Over the last few weeks, we've been dreaming up a menu that marries these commonalities between us. The result: dishes like sweetbreads with Rhode Island clam chowder or "best parts of the duck" posole with duck tongue chicharrones. Needless to say, I'm very excited for Friday.
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