The Two Sides sessions: Paul Cunningham
What would you say is the most important influence on your work (whether within, or outside of your field)?
Without a doubt, the changing seasons. Everything that I create is a product of the changing seasons. Using an item out of its season makes, to me, no sense at all.
The wait also, the anticipation of the forthcoming harvest, always heightens our excitement. The very first wild mushrooms of spring, Plump, sweet raspberries of late summer and winters own roughly rooted highly perfumed celeriac.
How does this influence manifest itself in your work?
Using the seasons is a most natural, everyday occurrence for me. It always has been.
Maybe it was my downfall as a young chef. I found my sense of non-conformity at a very early stage of my career. To fall upon, to accept compromise has never been of question. The seasons, for me are king.
What key trends do you see emerging in your field of work right now?
Two decisive elements, that I can see, are becoming more and more apparent in the kitchens of today’s high profile restaurants.
‘From the field to the table’ – this (for the want of a much better term) concept, has been around for many years. The organic, bio-dynamic crowds of America’s west coast, and in particular San Francisco have, for generations run cafés, dining rooms and small local restaurants based upon the manifests of organic living. Now, thankfully this action has spread to the more high profiled, ‘starred’ establishments. Newspaper supplements and glossy magazines now overflow with ‘reasons to be cheerful’, whist getting dirty, digging up your own, home-grown veg, from your very own ‘un-deinsectified’ vegetable patch – just like your grandfather used to.
The lightness of cooking is also a new wave, rolling in over our beaches. ‘Raw-cooking’ is again, nothing new to some but with the recent hype around Japanese gastronomy, it cannot be overlooked. The fact that many items actually taste a whole lot better when they aren’t messed about with has flow over the heads of many chefs for many years. Gone are the days when everything had to be cut into a small, uniformed dice, wrapped and ravished to be accepted by the culinary crowds. The fads of latter years – airs, gels, foams, textures are silently disappearing. ‘Cuisine au natural’ is back, but did it really go away?
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