It’s not often that we enjoy reading a cookbook from cover to cover. In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef is such an exception. During a period of three years, illustrator Christophe Blain followed three-star Michelin chef Alain Passard through his kitchens and gardens. The result is a wonderful, funny, graphic cookbook that shows not only beautiful, colourful food and the way it’s prepared, but above all it shows the world and kitchen of a chef.
Around 1998 Alain Passard decided to focus on preparing and serving vegetables in his Parisian restaurant, L’Arpege. He set up two organic gardens, making sure he can cook with excellent, seasonal ingredients. Nowadays L’Arpege offers a inspiring menu with vegetables at the centre, but also room for lobster, chicken and duck. Take some time to browse his website and enjoy the wonderful pictures and combinations. Impressive, isn’t it?
Unfortunately dining at L’Arpege is a well above our budget, so once in a while we open this wonderful book (published in 2013) and smile when reading the illustrated dialog between the Chef and the Illustrator. As if you can hear them talk about a dish that is being prepared by the Chef! The drawings are simple, subtle, lively and colourful. They perfectly visualise the dining room, the reaction of the guests when tasting the dish, the movements of the Chef, his kitchen staff and the waiters.
Then we start preparing one of the 15 recipes, for instance his Potato Paillasse with Sage and young Garlic or his combination of carrots, cinnamon and basil. We’re probably not even close to the dish as served at L’Arpege, but we’re enjoying it immensely.
Next year on February 11th and 12th, the 7th Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food will take place in Amsterdam. You can also join online, for € 40,00 only. Lunch not included of course. This year’s theme is Food and the Environment: The Dynamic Relationship Between Food Practices and Nature.
The key note will be delivered by Ewout Frankema, Professor of Rural and Environmental History at the Dutch Wageningen University and research fellow of the UK Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). Amongst the speaker are Christian Reynolds on The evolution of “sustainable” and vegetarian recipes from manuscripts and cookbooks to online and Amber Striekwold on The Dutch Alternative Food Movement.
On Friday 11th the program will close with the Prize-giving ceremony of the 2022 Johannes van Dam Prize and the 2022 Joop Witteveen Prize. Previous winners of the prestigious Johannes van Dam Prize include Yotam Ottolenghi, John Halvemaan, Carlo Petrini, Alice Waters, Claudia Roden and Alain Passard (see picture).
On Friday November 15th and Saturday 16th 2019 the annual Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food took place at the main auditorium of the University of Amsterdam. Such a pleasure to listen to great papers presented, discussing (post-) colonial foodways; creating, negotiating, and resisting transnational food systems. Two award ceremonies are part of the symposium.
Joop Witteveen Prize
Maarten Hell, author of De Amsterdamse herberg 1450-1800: geestrijk centrum van het openbare leven (published by VanTilt, Nijmegen, 2017) was the winner in the Academic category, the Joop Witteveen Prize. A book that discusses not only the history of food and drink as served in the inns in Amsterdam between 1450 and 1800, but also the development of what we would call hospitality. The prize is named after culinary historian and author Joop Witteveen (1928-2016). Together with his partner Bart Cuperus and Johannes van Dam (see below) he founded the Dutch Gastronomische Bibliotheek (gastronomic library), now part of the historical collection of the University of Amsterdam.
Johannes van Dam Prize
Alain Passard received the prestigious Johannes van Dam prize. The jury, chaired by professor Louise O. Fresco (President of the Wageningen University & Research Executive Board), mentioned his impressive contribution to international cuisine. She highlighted that many years ago Alain Passard shifted towards vegetables, creating a new balanced cuisine, without banning fish and meat from his menu. The vegetables and fruit are organic and produced on his own three farms. His combinations and flavours are exceptional, just think about a side dish with haricots verts, almonds, white peach and basil.
His second important contribution to today’s cuisine is to introduce colour and art as elements of cooking, next to flavour, shape, odour, temperature and texture. His approach is unique and his recipes are a tribute to vegetables, fruit, flavour and colour. The prize is named after culinary writer and critic Johannes van Dam (1946-2013) who was not only known for his reviews of restaurants but also for his massive collection of books on food and drink plus his passion for tasty, good food. Amongst his favourite dishes were the typical Dutch kroketten (‘croquets’ in French). Normally a cheap and fat snack, but Johannes van Dam was convinced that it is a true delicacy provided – of course – it is prepared the right way. Mr. Passard was clearly very happy, proud and touched to receive the prize. In his speech he emphasized the importance of the season. He mentioned that nature is a cook book in its own right, one that is beautiful and should be followed.