California Chef Cooks Carrots With Coffee, Hippie Delight
Daniel Patterson is as self-effacing as some of his television counterparts are loud and self-promoting.
His restaurant, Coi, in San Francisco, holds two Michelin stars and ranks No. 58 in the Top 100 list published with World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards.
Now, the quiet man is turning up the volume. Patterson is promoting “Coi: Stories and Recipes,” in which he discusses his philosophy of food and cooking and the genesis and story of his dishes. There are recipes too, though not simple ones.
“Cooking is the most primal way that human beings interact with each other,” Patterson says in an interview during a visit to Bloomberg, London. “It’s how we connect to our families, our friends, our communities. It’s very important to me that that emotional connection be in the food.
“We try to combine a sense of familiarity with something new. So if we have a dish with tomato and basil, we can’t just serve a piece of tomato with basil on it and a little bit of olive oil, because that’s not what people come into our restaurant for. That’s something they’ve seen a million times.
“We have to keep the essential pleasure and show it in a way that’s different. So we have an inverted tart with cherry tomato and basil. There’s an almost traditional tomato pesto but it’s pureed, set with gelatine and forced through a siphon so the flavor’s very pure and light. You wouldn’t find it in home cooking. Then there’s a black olive crisp on top. It’s intense.”
Other dishes include carrots roasted in coffee beans, with mandarin juice and mint; a fromage-blanc tart with fennel and wheatgrass; and California Bowl, a play on hippie food of brown rice -- turned into a crisp -- with sprouts and avocado.
Patterson, 45, prepared lunch at the Ledbury, London, earlier this month for some of Europe’s leading chefs, including Rene Redzepi of Noma, Pierre Koffmann (Koffmann’s), Sat Bains (Restaurant Sat Bains) and Brett Graham of the Ledbury. How would he feel about cooking somewhere other than California?
“If I lived somewhere else, I would have this same basic philosophy but the ingredients would push me into a totally different direction,” he says. “If I was here, in London, I’d cook with probably a little bit more meat, a little bit more dairy and definitely more flavors of the ocean because there’s such incredible seafood in the area.
“Then I think, what vegetables are in the area and how can I create the relationships to actually find them? What do I do in the middle of the winter when there’s nothing coming out of the ground because everything’s frozen over? So I’d have to change the dishes and the style a lot.
“In a general sense as a cook, I want to make delicious food that makes people happy. Cooking for someone, feeding someone, is the most emotionally charged thing that we can do.”
He pauses and smiles, “Well, second.”
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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