José Andrés, chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup, presents Creativity in Cooking Can Solve Our Biggest Challenges at TEDxMidAtlantic 2011 event. Here is the full transcript of the TEDx talk.
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José Andrés – Chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup
Well, I don’t know about you but today, I learned many things. I learned that, actually, astronomers don’t have all the ingredients with them, or that they don’t know many of the ingredients in the universe.
Cooks… We do. And it’s funny that she’s using liquid nitrogen, when I use liquid nitrogen to cook, and I’m so happy we found water in very distant and far away countries — very far away planets.
With water, I can cook — I know I have а job… forever.
Why am I here? I would love to believe it’s because I have something important to share with you, but I have a feeling that all my TED friends, in a very busy weekend in Washington, they wanted the excuse of — why ask me for a reservation — They invite me to speak, they go to other places.
But we are here to talk about more important things. I’m a chef — I’m a chef and I cook for the few, but, really, I want to be cooking for the world. I want to create the spark.
And how we create the spark being a chef? We create the spark through creativity. I know lunch is coming. Are you hungry? Sometimes, guys, to be creative, the only thing we have to be doing is — Why not? Looking at the stars, maybe, Andromeda, or maybe, a far away galaxy, it’s a way to get inspired. I just got inspired by these amazing presentations.
Sometimes, you only have to do simple things as these. I’m going to start now. Why? Because the world needs me to start.
But creativity doesn’t happen, you know, in the middle of a beach, doing nothing, under a palm tree… No! I’ve never created anything in the beach, I only get burned by the sun. Actually, creativity will only happen when I’m surrounded by high energy environments that keep all of these ideas coming and coming, and keeps you alive.
Well, sometimes, to look for new creative ways we don’t need to look into the big things, we need to concentrate in the small ones. Sometimes, we need to be looking into the big ones, because that can be what creates a small idea. What is big can be small, and what’s small can become huge. We have no time to waste, but in order to be creative, people of the world, we have to make sure that we will not be afraid to look beyond the horizon that we don’t know what’s behind.
To take really that challenge of saying, “I’m going to move away from my comfort zone and I’m going to reach beyond what I don’t know.” This is really how we become creative. Where, sometimes, light can be what makes us blind, or what gives us the light to help us begin with a new creation.
Sometimes, using a simple piece of paper, writing one word or one phrase can begin something amazing. But here is… what important things start. Sometimes, very simple ideas — very simple ideas can achieve fascinating things.
Take a look at something like what we have in front of us every day of our lives. How many of you have had a glass of water today? Great! What did you do with it, besides drinking it? You didn’t talk to it, you didn’t ask, what can I do today with this glass of water that has never been done before?
Well, funny thing is that if I take risks, and if I move away from my comfort zone, that meaning not going to the market to get inspired, or opening a cookbook to get inspiration, but maybe, going to Harvard or MIT, where I have no clue what those scientists are talking about — but I’m taking the risk of making a fool of myself only because it’s worth it — and I understand that I can defy gravity — And I can control the water by understanding the pressure — the low pressure that is formed inside. And understanding a little bit about water surface tension — Wow, I am being creative, right here, right now!
At the end, guys, you know, a simple ingredient, like water, can be helping me to come up with something fascinating from a very old ingredient — and water is quite old.
But at the low end, I can learn new ways to cook in a clean and efficient way. You know, guys, we’ve been cooking with fire for hundreds of thousands of years. That was almost the beginning of creativity in cooking! Yes? But it’s so funny.
Today, hundred of thousands of years after we began controlling fire, we use that same fire to cook on a Sunday for our friends. Why? Because we’re rich and powerful, and we have the charcoal, and we have the money to buy the meat that can feed our friends, and because we are men, and we know how to cook.
But this is not laughing. Hundreds of millions of years of evolution, reaching to the stars, going to the moon — and still people are living lives, as we used to live them hundreds of thousands of years ago.
This is what the advance of humanity has helped us – for having people that to achieve fire — what takes me a second, it takes them hours — They had to search for the wood — these girls get in danger because they’re alone in the forest, in the middle of nowhere. They can be raped, because they’re looking for the fuel to cook their food. They have no time to go to school, so they have no future because they receive no education.
Wow! And here we come… to corn; a grain that is everywhere to be found in America. For thousands of years, civilizations have been living around corn. Let me show you creativity.
With corn we feed the cattle, when, actually, we should feed the cattle with grass. It’s smarter, but no, we use it to feed those cattle that will produce meat. And with corn we are able to come out with oil, that is going to fry those potatoes. And with corn we can make syrup that help us to make ketchup. And believe it or not, with corn, also, we can make a great soda! Wow! With corn we’re even able to make the paper! Creativity at it best! I cannot beat that, guys.
So, the fun part is that I could be telling you how many things are wrong about these, but the truth is that a burger is a paradigm of the complexities of how we feed humanity. But I’m not going to be only blaming them, we are all here to be blamed. It’s a responsibility for everyone to be feeding people. Actually, you know one thing? You think that people coming to my restaurant, me, the great chef, José Andrés, I am not part of the best city problem?
Or, you know what about the environment? Who put more CO2, me or the fast food companies? A fast food restaurant receives two deliveries a week if — Do you know how many I receive? Sometimes 50 or 60. I need to be pragmatic if we want to feed the world. Actually, I put more CO2 in the environment than maybe those fast food companies that sometimes we complain about.
But no, I’m not being paid by them, I only know that I need to be pragmatic if I want my boys to be respected, and we can use creativity to bring everyone to the table, and bring riches — Are you with me?
So here I’m going to show you my creativity. Who likes almonds? Come on! Are you hungry? Are you hungry up there? Who likes cheese? Almond and cheese, right? That’s simple. Piece of cake!
Let me show you what I do when I’m willing to move away from my comfort zone — I’m pushing the envelope — Let me show you creativity my way.