Feel-osophy: Linton Hopkins at the Southern Chefs Series, Part 1
When Linton Hopkins arrived last month for the Southern Chefs Series, he had 4 things he’d never brought before: a plan to cook Italian food. a chittara pasta cutter; a four-ounce bottle of vinegar that cost $120; and his 17-year-old son, Linton V.
But he had that same all-encompassing passion for food and knowledge, which always strikes me, no matter how many times he visits. Every time that man walks through my door, I learn something.
The words “cooking class” only loosely describe what happens when Linton straps on his apron and starts talking to guests in my kitchen. It’s a food history, cooking technique and philosophy class rolled into one.
At some point — possibly when he was showing everyone the Peugeot peppermill he bought in Paris that lets you change the grind on the pepper — I just sat back and listened. He is such an unbelievable teacher. Here are four things he said that spoke straight to my soul:
1. Cooking well means having a love affair with food. And no one wants a crappy lover. That means using the best ingredients — the best olive oil; the best cut of meat. He didn’t use that $120 bottle of balsamic to dress a salad; he put a drop of it on top of a thin slice of sautéed garlic sitting on top of a thick slice of bacon he’d cured at Restaurant Eugene. And it was heaven.
2. Ten thousand hours. This was Linton’s response any time someone asked him how long it took him to learn how to poach an egg, or crack one with one hand. It takes practice, he told them. Hours and hours of practice. It reminded me so much of that scene in Julie & Julia when Julia Child refuses to be defeated at Le Cordon Bleu because she can’t chop onions correctly. So she gets a huge sack of onions, goes home and practices until she gets it right.
3. Fail forward: If you fail, keep moving forward. Don’t stop and don’t let it get you off track. Keep moving, keep trying, keep thinking your way to success.
4. Get your hands dirty: Linton is a huge kitchen gadget geek, but the most essential tools are his hands. He asked, “How can we learn to cook — how can we learn how the food really feels — unless our hands are in it?”
Come back next week for more about Linton’s homemade pasta and another thing I learned: the difference between marinara and pomodoro.