Enjoying the Dialogue of Food at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

By Neal McSpadden

Chef Norman Van Aken and Chef Justin Van Aken

One of my favorite things about the 2012 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is that local and world-renowned chefs give presentations in which you get to learn a little bit about the true art of cooking. Sure, there are recipes that you can recreate at home. There are even techniques to be learned. But there is nothing quite like those “Ah-ha!” moments that you get when you are listening to a true master of his craft.

I had one such moment when attending a session given by Chef Noman Van Aken. Chef Van Aken runs the Tuyo Restaurant at the top of the Miami Culinary Institute, where students and those interested in food can learn in a real world setting. Chef Van Aken was going over his recipe for fish with a mojo sauce (which is delicious by the way), when he said that a dish is always a dialogue between flavors like two children on a teeter-totter. One balances the other. This dialogue could occur between a fat and an oil like in an aioli. It could be between acidity and sweetness. It could be between acidity and bitterness.

In my “Ah-ha!” moment, I realized that this interplay between two different sensations that we get from food is more than just a recipe to be followed. It’s a way to create new dishes and new experiences. These kinds of principles behind the cooking are how great chefs create their art. By learning and then following these principles at home, maybe we can create a little bit of art for our families too.

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