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The trials of creating a new dish

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hello fellow chefs, I am writing this topic to assist in relieving my current headache which began in July: I am trying to create a new dish for my current employer. I just decided to take the next step in my career and accept a position as a sous chef (my first role with this title) in a Japanese restaurant. It's been interesting getting to know a new style of culinary art however coming from a western background (Italian/French) I'm having a hard time tapping the vein of Japanese creativity. There's currently no rush or pressure right now, in the interview I warned my employer that I have never created a new dish for a restaurant before and this will be my first asian restaurant job so don't expect gold overnight. I have been reading alot of tetsuya, hideo dekura to draw inspiration however the biggest obstacle is equipment, it's a very basic kitchen: oven, stove, deep fryer, rice cooker and that's it! So alot of really stylish dishes use a sous vid, or a dehydrater or a combi oven and a thermomix and so on to make prep smooth. I must do without these luxuries. I therefore source the internet for any help on creating a main or an appetiser.


Thanks for your time!


post #2 of 5

A question for you:  What type of Japanese restaurant is it?  High end?  Casual?  Is it traditional or is it more modern/fusiony?  What's the menu currently like?  In terms of Japanese food if you're talking about high end then you are striving to create cuisine that is simple, yet elegant.  Focus on a few ingredients in the Japanese canon, focus on a couple flavours you want to pair and accentuate then present it in a minimalist fashion.  You don't need fancy equipment to make nice food, but you do need some creativity and ingenuity.  Although the portions are smaller, look to kaiseki cuisine to get a feel for high end Japanese food, it's not about Alinea-like explosions of 30 components on a plate, but it is using a few seasonal ingredients to form a couple components that is both beautiful, delicate, and subtle on the plate and palate.

"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #3 of 5
Since you are looking at a single dish on an existing menu, you want something that will sell. Take a look at what's on offer, and look for gaps, try to fill an empty space.

You probably will want something that stands out, but not because it looks out of place. You can draw on your western background without getting "fusiony", if need be. I would hope that your chef would actually be interested in taking advantage of that background.
Try to base things around what you already have on hand, you probably don't want to bring in a couple hundred bucks worth of turbine clams for one dish.
post #4 of 5

I would start with learning basic techniques.  Start from the earth (or water) then to the kitchen to the table.

post #5 of 5

I must admit, I don't know the first thing about Japanese cuisine, being fully rooted in French/Italian/German cooking and some knowledge on Middle Eastern and Indian food. However, I have seen it many times before where a new dish was created at a restaurant and it bombed, because it was too far out, usually a pairing that was just absurd rather than well thought out. To me, cooking is a lot like music: there are only so many different notes and chords, and you have to use those in order to come up with a new and interesting song that will catch people's attention. Of course, you are free to throw in a completely random, out-of-key note into your new tune, and it will catch your listeners' attention, but only because it will grind on them, as it won't sit right with listening habits. So, in essence, just like music, creating "new" dishes is all about composition of ingredients that will somehow be in key with the overall tune, perhaps a twist or flourish here and there, but mostly in keeping with traditional customs.


I wrote "new" in inverted commas simply because I honestly think there is no such thing as a "new" dish that will appeal to people. There may be new takes, variations on a theme and such like, but the food and ingredients which we have at our disposal has been around for hundreds or thousands of years, with certain pairings developed by the palates of generations and generations of eaters. I am certain that cooks hundreds of years ago already tried beef with strawberries or sweetened mushroom cake, and it just didn't work. Somehow all existing dishes make sense, even if you discover something you have never eaten before, say, as a Westerner tasting a Pigmy dish for the very first time. You might not fancy those fried maggots with some bush herb and fermented plant concoction, but it will make sense flavourwise if you give it a try.


But perhaps I'm just a reactionary chef... ;-)

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