Cooking Lessons from an Artist

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A good meal is much more complex than deciding whether our omelette is perfect or too greasy, or whether we like our lamb shank braised or broiled. Cooking, as molecular gastronomy co-founder Hervé This and visionary chef Pierre Gagnaire invite us to discover, is an art form—and a creative chef is an artist. A ham sandwich is a ham sandwich, but it is not so far-fetched to compare Gagnaire’s dish of tamarillo-glazed pigeon, infused with praline paste, milk, cream, licorice, port, and butter, sprinkled with crystallized grapefruit and served on a bed of spinach with hints of apples and ham, to a symphony or delightfully composed painting. In Cooking: The Quintessential Art, This and Gagnaire bring the experience of food to life in a series of dialogues among a group of friends. The characters consider cooking’s connection to aesthetics, chemistry and mathematics, art and tradition, emotions, philosophy, and friendship, while enjoying conversations as intricate and surprising as their meals. At the end of each chapter, Gagnaire, who sees himself as a storyteller rather than an artist, discusses the evolution of his recipes and the stories behind them. His culinary experiments combine layers of unexpected flavors, building dishes as nuanced as epic poems, but far more mouthwatering.