The Foyer of Love

All of us have our own source of inspiration

Country Guy Martin

 

Perhaps there is not a single sphere of human life, where the eternal and the ephemeral are so closely intertwined, as in the artistry of a chef. A chef, on the one hand, is bearer and guardian of centuries-old national and sociocultural codes, and on the other, he is the Creator of moments, of momentary pleasures lasting for the brief duration of a dinner or lunch. However, this does not bother the great chefs, whose names become part of history, living on in the names of dishes and culinary schools, and who shape the world even more radically and irrevocably than do politicians. Not to mention the fact that so few people are able to create individual, distinct, living universes out of their own taste and understanding. Chefs who have discovered their own style and signature, do this constantly and everywhere, yet it does not cease to be miraculous, regardless of how accustomed we become to such miracles. Guy Martin, chef, restaurateur, philosopher, sage, and Creator of worlds, has, just a bit, revealed to us the secrets of his universe.

A discovery in the restaurant business is a discovery of the universe! We are moving away from everyday life into another mode of existence. Each restaurant exists according to its own laws, with its own philosophy and sense of time, like the setting of a good movie or book. There are establishments that have their own pronounced national features, ranging from the kitchen, to the interior, to the menu, or the manner of serving dishes. There are restaurants that are, above all, cosmopolitan. Some are warm, simple and sincere, others grandiose, even pompous. Opening a new place, you can plan, anticipate, try to do everything perfectly, but, like any living creature, a restaurant is born and exists in a way of its own, and only after some time passes can you find out what works and what doesn’t. There are institutions with long histories, which have gone through dozens of chefs and owners, but that still retain their special mood, character, and individuality, no matter what happens in the world outside. And there are restaurants with bright, but shortlived destinies, places that are long since remembered, but that, upon revival, can never be made exactly the same as before — they can be only similar, at best.

All of us have our own source of inspiration, and our own way of discovering he new. What interests me most is discovering the products of a certain region. This is one of the countless prisms that reveal the endless diversity of the restaurant business. It is through these regional products, through their flavours and cooking methods, that I discover for myself their place of origin. The customs and traditions of different cities and regions, the intricacies of the people’s way of life, the seasons — all of these aspects are reflected in the local cuisine, and, through that cuisine, I am given some insight into the place itself. It is immense and infinitely diverse. It is easy, at first superficial glance, to overlook something truly special, but cuisine allows all of the nuances gradually to open up, until another universe reveals itself before you, and you are mesmerised.

Food is temptation, in the broadest sense of the word. In France, it is said that le restaurant est l’antichambre de l’amour, or the restaurant is the antechamber to love. Before making love, or just at the very beginning of a romantic relationship, the restaurant is an indispensable stage in the development of the love story. And this is very, very important, because the main product offered by a good restaurant is temptation. When we invite someone out to eat, we wish to give them pleasure in the experience, and, we, of course, hope to receive pleasure in turn. And this is precisely why restaurants are full of temptation. The restaurant seduces us with its staff, its service, its food. It unfalteringly aligns with the side of the seducer — by contract, so to speak, in business matters, in romantic proposals, in love, in promises of adventure, on first dates.

A good restaurant is a good accomplice, and that’s why it is always necessary. If you need to ask your wife’s forgiveness, you invite her to an expensive restaurant; if you need to persuade your boss of something, you invite him to an exceptionally expensive restaurant; if you have a complex issue to discuss with friends or relatives, you invite them out to where the walls themselves will support you. I know exactly how a restaurant needs to be in order to tempt me, and believe me, it’s very hard to find. It can’t be too tightly wound of a place, because too many codes and restrictions create stress, tension. So it shouldn’t be so exacting — rather, what’s important is that it be filled with an atmosphere of love. For me, a restaurant is comfort, merriment, colors, joy, and of course, delicious, exciting cuisine. And if you can bring all these together, then yes, it would be for me a great temptation and a pleasure.