There is a story in Oliver Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars, a book about true-life neurological disorders, called “The Case of the Color-blind Painter.” It describes how an artist suffered a car accident and consequently became color-blind, as if “viewing a black and white television screen.” He found foods disgusting due to their grayish, dead appearance and had to close his eyes to eat.” He turned to black and white foods such as white rice and black olives because they appeared normal.
Food is a multisensory experience. The first thing most people say when they sit down to eat is “That looks great.” People “eat” with their eyes first.. But what if it’s not so simple? Food manufacturers commonly add food coloring to foods that look “grayish and dead.”
Processed and pasteurized foods, drinks, and snacks usually suffer the same treatment: a dye job to make them look more appealing and appetizing. The only thing you can count on to be exactly what it looks like is fresh raw foods, because Mother Nature lets her gray hair show; she’s not covering it up.
But how stunning is her visual palette? When I create recipes, I let Mother Nature be my guide. I look for rich contrasts of color and texture to fine-tune a recipe. It’s no coincidence that foods that are rich in color are the healthiest foods on earth. Eating directly from the color wheel inspires culinary creativity and serves our health.
So nowadays, my job as a chef is both simpler and more fun. I no longer slave away in the kitchen, and the simplicity of my food is a testament to that. I won’t compete by making fancy foams and following the latest food trends. I still consider myself a food nerd, but more often than not, I am impatient with all the bells and whistles in traditional cooking. Other chefs are pushing themselves to the limit by adding bacon, butter, creams, sauces, and a million garnishes to dishes in order to achieve the maximum palatal experience and to up the wow factor. I find this to be almost like cheating; what doesn’t taste better with bacon? It takes more imagination and creativity to take a star ingredient and create a one-man show without a supporting cast. That’s why I find myself cooking less but assembling more. The guiding principle that we “eat with our eyes first” motivates me to pay attention to the details. Here is to the road less traveled!