Rob Feenie On Building A Menu
I'm continually trying to expand my horizons. Traveling around - seeing what other people are doing, learning why they are doing it and finding new products - really inspires me with the new ideas for surprising and satisfying the palate.
The best dishes have a sense of spontaneity. When I come up with a new dish, I don't like to think about it too much, otherwise it becomes contrived. I just try with each ingredient to bring out the clear, natural flavor rather than masking it with a lot of other tastes. A good piece of meat or fish doesn't need much done to it - it's the garnishes, sauces and accompaniments that add the play of sour-salty-sweet, hot-cold, liquid-solid or crunchy-creamy. If someone says "I can taste everything on my plate," I am happy. Then, for contrast, I occasionally like to throw in a mystery flavor to make people think.
Photograph by John Sherlock
In building a menu, I follow a basic arc from light to heavier, but within that structure are infinite possibilities.
My first rule is, if it's in season use it. If it's a particularly inspiring ingredient, I may use it a couple of times in different contexts so that the repetition itself becomes an extra element of the meal. But I don't repeat treatments. Each dish in the menu has to come from a new angle and use the building blocks in a distinct way so that the meal leads the dinner on an exploration that stimulates a particular combination of the senses with each course.
I want each meal to be an adventure. I want it to be an art.
Building A Menu is an excerpt from Rob's cookbook Lumiere