Thursday, January 26, 2006

My Visit With Charlie Trotter

As some readers of this blog know, I am currently working on a law review article examining the copyrightability of recipes in American law. I decided that it would be useful to interview master chefs to discuss their thoughts on originality, creativity, recipes, and the Western culinary tradition to better understand how recipes function for people at the top of their profession (one might, of course, say "art"). Last week I called up Charlie Trotter's and left the chef a voicemail telling him of my project and requesting a time for an interview. He returned my call on Monday, proposing that we meet on Wednesday. I immediately accepted.

I arrived at the restaurant about fifteen minutes early and was greeted by someone on the staff. Charlie would be right out, I was told, and I was given a seat in the studio where they film Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter. The chef appeared in a few minutes, and we removed to the bar. He was a very pleasant and friendly gentleman, and he answered my questions for over half an hour. Chef Trotter likens cooking to jazz music, and he had plenty of insight into my subject matter.

After thirty minutes or so, the chef recommended that we move the site of the interview, saying that "we don't want this to be just an ordinary interview." Barely able to control my excitement, I was led into the kitchen and was seated at a table set for one. I was introduced to chef de cuisine Mathias Merges who sat down with me and answered more of my questions for another hour and a half. During this time I was served an elaborate five-course lunch with expertly paired wines.

Lunch began with a duo of olive oil poached salmon with smoked salmon roe and monkfish liver served with eel terrine. It was marvelous. The smoked roe seemed inspired by my favorite Scottish whiskies, and the monkfish live and eel expertly combined sweet and bitter components. The next course was buttermilk poached poulard breast with pomegranate gastrique paired with a delightful sauvi blanc from Justin Winery. This was followed by turbot and kumomoto oyster with watermelon radish and grapefruit served with sake. The meat course was a gorgeous preparation of roasted squab with black trumpet mushrooms, oxtail, collard greens, and braised carrots. It was paired with Brooks Pinot Noir 2004. Finally, I was presented with a light and refreshing dessert of fuji apples with butterscotch and rye crisp matched with Isole e Olena's Vin Santo 1998.

Everything was beyond my wildest expectations. Chefs Trotter and Merges were incredibly gracious with their time and their patience answering all of my inartfully worded questions. While I ate, members of the staff wandered by and introduced themselves to me, sharing insights about food, wine, recipes, and cooking. All of their ideas will certainly appear in my finished paper. I was very lucky to have this opportunity, and I am very grateful to everyone at the restaurant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a day. You're so lucky.