Kenny Shopsin’s Creative Process

As promised earlier, here is an excerpt from Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin about creativity.

“Cooking, for me, is a creative process, and I believe that people who are creative are creative for one of two reasons: Either they are going for truth and beauty, or they create as a way to dilute the venom produced by the subconscious minds. I cook for the second reason. When I cook, I am in a cathartic, recuperative process that calms me down and brings me from a neurotic state to a relaxed, functioning state.” ……

“I am not an Alice Waters type of cook who is inspired by ingredients and builds from there. The inspiration is mine — it comes from within me. But as a creative person, ingredients are the tangible medium I work with, so when I am inspired, when I am in the therapeutic, creative process of cooking, I start looking around, and the more ingredients I have, the more creative I can be.”

Cooking as creative therapy is certainly familiar to many us. When my children were young, cooking was a major creative outlet that I could share with my family everyday. I fondly remember my oldest sitting on the counter discovering new tastes as I was discovering new techniques and ingredients. Cooking became a visceral form of philosophy for me. I like Shopsin’s compulsive sense of creativity as a self-recovering urge. And, that his relationship with ingredients is collaborative rather than instructive. The emphasis on more….abundance, multiplicity, contradiction, duality (ying-yang bowls) reflects in his recipes. He is not searching for the true and the authentic. He talks about his “culinary fictions” that are dishes not authentically ethnic, like Carmine Street Enchiladas, but “feels” to him Mexican, Brazilian or Greek.

From a design historian point of view I see him adopting the early 20th century Aesthetic Movement stance that aspired to convey the sense and feel of  a culture, to mix and match as the designer or artist saw fit. It was a philosophy that embraced the joy of life and the freedom of artists, appropriately championed by Oscar Wilde. It was an era that produced incredibly standardization resistant, subjective and creative things like this, tongue vase by Christopher Dresser. IF

I feel like Kenny Shopsin would appreciate this vase. Although I don’t think we’ll find it at Walmart anytime soon.