Friday, November 19, 2010

Chef's Block

I've got chef's block.  I'm not referring to the 500 lb block of wood in the center of my kitchen; I'm referring to the chef analog to writer's block.  I can't think of anything to cook.  It should be so easy to combat:

Step 1: Chef develops a craving.
Step 2: Chef becomes hungry.
Step 3: Chef goes to kitchen and cooks up whatever chef was craving.

The only problem is that this chef hasn't had a craving over a month.  I have literally been eating whatever comes my way, without ever having a desire to eat anything else.  While in India, every meal was Indian food.  Sure, there were choices between one masala and the next, lentils or chickpeas, paneer or potatoes, but there was no way to satisfy a craving for, say, a hamburger.

Upon returning from India, I, like everyone else, expected that I would have missed hanging out in the kitchen and I'd be totally inspired to cook.  But no.  Every day at lunch, I've had either leftovers from dinner the night before or a Jimmy John's sandwich (Vito with hot peppers -- because that's what my secretary knows I always get there so that's what he's been bringing me as I slave away at my desk).  Dinner the night before has been leftover chicken curry that Mr. Rose requested for dinner on Sunday night.  We ate it for 3 days.  There are no more leftovers and I wonder if it's healthy to consume three Vitos with hot peppers in a week.  What if this continues and I consume three Vitos with hot peppers per week for the next three weeks?  Is that healthy?

Health consequences aside, I wonder if I'll ever get my chef mojo back.  What happened to the daily lunch daydreaming that would start at approximately 10:15 a.m.?  What happened to the daily dinner daydreaming that would start approximately 30 seconds after I swallowed my last bite of lunch?  I recall that being fun, albeit a little obsessive-compulsive.  Unfortunately, you can't make up an obsession where there is none.  And I appear to have misplaced mine.

Well, the chicken curry I made last Sunday was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.  And getting back in the kitchen did feel natural -- like I'd never been gone.  I presume I can still make anything upon request.  But I'm lacking the inspiration to create.  Someone.  Please send help.


  1. OK, here's a tip...

    Whenever I need to get excited about cooking, I do a restaurant recreation. But something special. Like that best ever New Orleans restaurant meal I shared, or my one trip to Paris, or that wonderful Pub food we had when we got caught in the rain in London.

    Everyone has a special restaurant memory. Try to recreate it in your own kitchen. If you are sharing, bring photos, mementos, etc.

  2. I'm in a different spot since I do magazine recipes. But, for instance, at this moment, Fine Cooking is sitting open on my desk, right in front of the monitor. It's open to page 76, the Classic Tarte Tatin. I'm making that today. Seeing it constantly (since my desk is where I spend the most time) helps build the anticipation and excitement, as well as mental preparation.

    Pull out recipes you want to make, adapt, whatever. Put them where you can study them and see them constantly. Mojo will return.

  3. Ya gotta go exotic. That always gets me out of a rut. And of course exotic doesn't have to mean fancy.

    I'd suggest something like the chicken rendang the gf made me for dinner last night. Aside from being insanely spicy and delicious, it instantly got me excited to cook this weekend (I also have had major chef's block) and hop on some SE Asian blogs to try out some authentic Indonesian and Malaysian recipes after my visit to the SE Asian market on Saturday.

  4. I'm in the same rut, I have been too busy to get excited about dinner, so I am looking forward to going to the San Diego Bay Food & Wine Festival this weekend, I am sure to get inspired there!

  5. I'm going to suggest the opposite of most comments. Devil's advocate much? :) I think you should continue eating Jimmy John sandwiches until you're so sick of them, you want to make something fabulous. I speak from experience because I eat those disgusting ramen blocks at least three times a week and I can't wait to cook real food on the weekend :)

  6. Thanks guys. It looks like I'm going to try an amalgam of all your methods this weekend. Having lived the Lawyer Loves Lunch lifestyle this first week back, I am in the mood for something other than the Vito with hot peppers (tasty as it is). I've decided to go to my spice shop to replenish my stash, go back to India (in my mind), with the help of a few Saveur and other cookbook recipes, and make an Indian dinner tonight. I will eat so much daal and curry and naan and kufti that I will look forward to something else next week. Stay tuned for results on this method.
    @Darryl: Have fun at the Asian market!
    @Tiffany: Have fun at Food&Wine Fest!

  7. I usually watch food network or any cooking program to get some inspiration... or better yet..have you watch Julie and Julia! Isn't that movie make you wanna cook and be in the kitchen whole day :)


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