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S6 E6 – How do chefs find their food inspiration?

This week the podcast focuses on food inspiration and more importantly, how chefs source it for their own creations and cuisine. How do we tell what’s original and what’s copied? How do you keep things fresh?

Best soundbite: “He’s a chef! A chef with a semi (?!)” – Mike Huttlestone

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18 Comments

  1. Luik

    Fascinating look into the engine of Sorted.
    I actually just this week listened to a Sporkful podcast episode about celery (might be behind a paywall by now). Apparently it used to be massively popular in the early 20th century, and was in 3rd place in the number of recipes it was featured in. People had celery vases to show off the fancy celery they had and at one point it was more expensive than caviar. Although apparently celery has a lot of varieties, that are not being produced in the industrial scale (it’s a fuss to grow it) and the variety that was popular had a white stalk. Enthusiasts in the US are developing some heirloom varieties so celery might make a comeback in a few years. I kind of like it anyway.

    As for food inspirations other than shilling for Big Celery, some of my favourite discoveries have come from just using leftovers I have in the fridge and pantry, and being too lazy to go to the store, sort of imagining what they’d taste like in my head and then just putting stuff together such as spicy instant noodles with fried mushrooms, raw carrots and klementines ( I’m more of an eater than a foodie).

  2. nroundtr

    I loved this podcast! Where you get your inspiration for recipes, videos, places to visit, etc. – all these I find fascinating. I get my inspiration a lot like James suggested toward the end. I scroll social, I read tons of different recipes from the web or cookbooks and pick one I think will be a good starting point then I’ll make it by the recipe. Next time I cook it, I’ll add twists, remove elements, add elements, to make it my own. It’s almost therapeutic – and when I get a recipe /just right/, bliss!

  3. badinflspeaks

    I love playing with new recipes (regular cooking is just so damn daily) and get my inspiration from all sorts of places. Sorted is of course one of them. Buzzfeed (kinda sadly) is another. I like reading cookbooks even if I have no intention of making anything from them. I collect old church and Junior League cookbooks from library book sales.

    For Mom’s birthday one year, I created a cookbook from the recipes she had collected and revised over the years. Eventually I’d like to update them all to gluten free and reorganize it. I’ve also got an old lockbox with my maternal grandmother’s recipes I keep meaning to scan and test out.

    Other inspiration comes from social media and eating out. It’s fun to try to replicate restaurant recipes. I still think my version of Panera’s Turkey Chili is better than theirs. Watching TV and random conversations with family will prompt ideas to try. (Those conversations usually start out as “I wonder if we did this…”)

    When it comes to testing recipes from other sources, I generally stick to script for the first try and then will edit depending on how it turned out and family tastes.

  4. Dimi

    Oh! And I forgot to mention the recipe testing I’ve been doing for Sorted! It has definitely been great for “forcing” me to cook a lot more dishes I don’t normally make and use techniques I don’t usually use which has given me more confidence in the kitchen.

    *Not actually forcing at all, but knowing I have to make a certain amount of recipes in a week rather than putting off trying new things

    • theanita1

      speaking of which – I have a bag of prunes left over from one of the recipes and I don’t know what to do with them… James, ideas?

  5. Dimi

    It’s funny, I consider myself a fairly creative person, and I love food and cooking, but I find the kitchen to be the place I am the least creative! I guess it was a lack of knowledge for a long time, and now more a lack of confidence. I’m trying to be a little bit more experimental with the things I cook, but am always perpetually worried I’m going to ruin something.
    As far as where I get my inspiration, it’s a combination: watching cooking shows is a big one (when I have time), Instagram is sort of one, although I more find it visually gratifying and inspiring (as a photographer that doesn’t take great food photos I am always looking to learn to be better at that) and cookbooks. I love cookbooks, especially ones that are both visually gratifying but also tell a story rather than straight up recipes. Bucket List has def been my favourite Sorted book so far.
    For my birthday the other week my boyfriend got me a book called “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” which I have been flicking through. It’s a great mix of theory, information with recipes thrown in and some beautiful graphics. What I really wanted was the “Modernist Cuisine” Encyclopedia, but it’s way out of my price range right now.

    I think I am most experimental with savoury dishes I cook for just me and my partner, if I’m cooking for other people I am far more likely to cook something straight from a recipe or something I’ve made heaps of times before. But when I do want to try something new I usually google it and read a bunch of recipes and look for common elements as well as familiarity, then pick bits from multiple recipes to put it together (much like James suggested)

    I can not wait for Hero Veg! Knowing the love and dedication that goes into your books from the ideas, to the recipes, to the artwork, only makes them even better.

  6. Sorted

    Something to think about too on this topic, if we can leave it here as a crazy idea…. food and music? A few of you have mentioned inspiration sometimes comes from mood. A lot of the time mood can be affected or enhanced with music. So could music inspire a plate of food? Hmmmmm….

    • Anita

      Yes yes yes! Good ole Italian tunes definitely work in my kitchen.

    • Dimi

      I don’t know if it directly inspires my cooking, but I do love having music on while I cook. I think I take my time more and enjoy it more when there’s music, usually the only reason there won’t be music is if I’m cooking something quick and easy I’ve done many times and know it won’t take long. So maybe it does help me feel more relaxed and creative unconsciously?

    • Annie1962

      I watched the movie ‘Chef’ several times and each time I wanted to get up and make the food featured in it.. When Chef Carl stays up all night in the restaurant and creates those new dishes with the song ‘I like it like that’ playing in the background..
      The excitement of the music in the movie made me want to cook and dance simultaneously.. The soundtrack to me expresses the LIFE and JOY of cooking Latino food.

      Perhaps a normals can do a battle creating a dish they choose from a famous movie and playing the style of the song from their movie (well can’t be the original song due to copyright) …. or just a dish each from the ‘Chef’ movie . Nah I can see Baz dressed up like a little rat – using your chef’s hat from last book review vid – cooking something from Ratatouille LOL

    • theanita1

      whenever I’m cooking I look for a playlist on spotify to match event- so like “baking tunes” or “meal prep” – or I go for “songs you can sing along to”. if it’s something super complicated then just “coffee house jazz” (i.e. there’s always music at my house)

  7. Geod

    Until recently I had never tackled a stir-fry – now I’ve done three in 6 weeks including Sorted’s “Orange Chicken” last Sunday…turned out pretty good. I get my inspiration from things like Sorted and Foodwishes and a collection of cookbooks. Here in Australia we are spoiled for choice when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables so I’m always looking for new ways to dress up the Sunday lunch.

  8. Anita

    Picking James’ brain really piqued my interest in Hero Veg! 😉 Also, I can relate to the parsnip custard fail. Well, a parsnip dessert at least makes sense, but making vanilla-flavored (sweet) cream using rutabagas… I don’t know what I was thinking… 😀
    My inspiration is almost entirely online. I’m also visually inspired, similarly to what James said. When I see something, I try to imagine what it tastes like and then try to make what I imagine, regardless of what the recipe’s creator wants it to taste like. I’m used to tweaking the recipes due to food restrictions, anyway. For example, I love the chicken pie I remixed using the recipes from your video from a few months ago, I made it with cauliflower cream and a plantain-based pastry. It’s a labor-intensive one but I’ve already made it twice, and that’s a good sign 🙂
    In addition to online experiences, I also let the produce aisle speak to me while shopping. Fresh veg can be so inspiring. Damn, I do need Hero Veg 😀
    At other times, it’s just some good smell on the street, some childhood memory, or uninvited ideas from a dark corner of my brain, seemingly out of nowhere 😀
    I love experimenting and learning from it when I have a little more time, but it’d also be lovely if I could do it the other way around so I’m playing with the thought of enrolling in some culinary course, when I have some time on my hands, to buy some structured knowledge (or maybe it’s just the back-to-school nostalgia that I find appealing). I don’t know if it’s a good idea, though… Does someone have any experience to share? Maybe… a geeky Sorted Course to get our culinary knowledge sorted? 😀

    • Sorted

      We good friends with the people at Workshop app which we find amazing for picking up a new cooking skill on weekends when there’s a few hours spare. It’s all online so no need to travel anywhere. Ends up being a bit of both that way- learning and experimenting all in one!

  9. Lmrocha726

    When I cook, I typically know what I’m in the mood for and look up a ton of recipes for inspiration, and sort of pick what I like and dislike about them (or what works with what I happen to have in the pantry) and piece together my own version. 99% of the time, I don’t follow any one recipe exactly as it is, and I’ve rarely been disappointed with my Frankenstein end-result. It’s likely that what I created isn’t as tasty and well thought-out as any single one of the recipes might have been, though.

    I only follow recipes precisely when I actually care about who created it. For instance, I’m a runner so when Shalane Flanagan created a cookbook geared for runners, I definitely cared about the ideas she was trying to put forward in the book and wanted to get it right. I also care about what you guys are trying to have come across, so I tend to follow your recipes exactly. In a way, I feel like by following recipes to the T and creating a dish as intended, it’s almost like I’m sharing an experience with whoever created it by tasting exactly what they worked to develop and tasted, themselves. Like sharing a meal, in a way…

    Anyhow, even more stoked about Hero Veg knowing it was James’s passion project! And it’s shipping just a day before my birthday, how thoughtful of you all! =)

  10. Annie1962

    I mainly get mine from youtube and yes a goodly amount being your channel.

    Most youtube food channels I follow will have a great explanation, plus a recipe I can print out.

    The next avenue is just doing a google search and then perusing through the many recipes I’d find available and picking the one that explains it best (with a great pic) and ingredients list that isn’t going to break my bank , are mostly already on hand with techniques I can do easily. (God bless ye Kitchen Aid and yes I know you have Kenwood- that’s good too)

    I do have cookbooks *yes I have the AM book of yours) and still love to collect them – But for some reason I like to keep them and still look online and on Youtube. Go figure. I guess it’s just the feel of a cookbook and being able to leaf through it.

    • Anita

      Oh, I love leafing through cookbooks even if I’m not looking for anything specific in them 🙂

      • Sorted

        Yesss also sometimes cookbooks have really interested added pages of info about the chef’s inspiration. Cookbooks that are more like story books are really good for browsing and learning.

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