[Photo: Carlo Cruz]
Our compadres over at Eater National interviewed Daniel Patterson of Coi this week surrounding the October release of his cookbook, the first Phaidon book by an American chef. (Other Phaidon culinary alumni include Ferran Adrià and Magnus Nilsson.) The full interviews are great and revealing, but here are some of the highlights:
On tasting menus: "No one is putting a gun to your head to eat at these restaurants. It's like going to the Louvre and trying to see everything all in one day and then complaining that there was too much art. We all have to take responsibility for our choices. For example, if you really want a big steak and you come to Coi, we don't have that. If I did, I'd make it for you. If you really want a Mercedes and you go to a Toyota dealership, they're not going to be able to give it to you. It's not right or wrong. It's just not there."
On his social skills: "I'm not really that socially adept...Some people will agree and some people will argue, like my wife. Yeah, I think most people who end up in the kitchen feel a little bit of that awkwardness. I certainly do. There's a little bit of chicken and egg, because I've spent my whole life in the kitchen, basically. It's a very different environment and way of communicating than the rest of the world. I put real effort in being as positive and direct and pleasant as I can outside of the kitchen. It just doesn't come as naturally to me as other things do...I think that there are many, many criticisms of me that are accurate. But no one can say I don't work or try hard."
On what tastes good: "I think that deliciousness is subjective, and we forget that. I'm not sure that talking about what's better, what's best is a good context for food. I think that when you get to a certain level of food — in a way, any level of food — it's about recognizing something that is honest for what it is. If Restaurant A and Restaurant B are both true to themselves, it's just a matter of what you prefer. Sometimes I'll go to a restaurant where it isn't my thing, but it's perfect for what it is, and I really enjoy that. Openness to other perspectives is important."
On creativity: "I used to think everyone should be creative. I don't think so anymore. I think there should be an emphasis on honesty. If you're a creative person, then be creative. But if you're not a creative person, you shouldn't feel pressure. Speaking for myself, if I tried to make mainstream food, that would be a mistake. At the same time, if I tried to make super avant-garde food, that would be a mistake."