When Neurologist-Chef Miguel Sánchez Romera opened a restaurant in NYC this past September claiming that his food could produce acute changes in the brains of diners, I scoffed, knowing that so much more is at stake. Yes, I share his conviction that the eggplant strips he was serving would increase short term memory. Yes, I knew that an edible flower, plucked from a Greek mountaintop, had the power to make me happy.
Chef Romera was not really saying anything terribly new here. Psilocybin mushrooms, opium poppy, coca leaves, and cannabis plants are all put into the body to create neurological and subsequent behavioral and mood changes. Chef Romera was applying the same logic to other types of food. The advantages to his method were the legality of what he was doing, the pleasures to be derived from the tastes, and the shared experiences between the cooks and the guests.
However, what is left out of the equation, ironically, is the chef. It is one thing to serve up mind altering food, but it is something else entirely to know what to cook and when to cook it. The chef’s neurology is central here; how a chef thinks, his or her moods, and their overall character are fundamental to the food being cooked.
I am not alone in recognizing that who the chef is as a person will be the next big dining trend.
In January, 2012, in Miami, Chef Thomas Sullivan, former chef de cuisine at Les Mougins, on Manhattan’s upper east Side, is opening Carousel, which he bills as, “The World’s First Restaurant Where the Mood is the Food.”
With a menu that will change, “Every twenty minutes depending on the chef’s mood,” Sullivan hopes to bring, “new meaning to seasonality.”
“Basically,” Chef Sullivan explained to me over what had initially been mojitos and crab cakes, but which were then removed after a sip and one bite, to be replaced by tuna tartare and diced macomber turnips and shots of Talisker, “I’m applying seasonality to the emotion of the chef. How I feel is paramount to how I create.”
The zeitgeist means that independently of Mr. Sullivan other chefs throughout the country are putting their emotions on the plate.
In Tribeca, in March, 2012, Chef Takeshi Ebisan, recently diagnosed with an Atypical Bipolar Disorder and Adult Onset Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder, and who credits his current stability to, “A cocktail of Seraquel, Limigdal, and gin,” is opening, Sushi Ebisan. Traditionally, masters have served sushi to regular guests that effortlessly address their moods, but at Ebisan, the chef is turning the tables.
“Why should I sell some fucking piece of glistening ahi if I’m down in the dumps?” said Chef Ebisan. “Conversely, if I am high as a kite, why not multiply flavors until the guest is on my wavelength.”
Describing himself as, “Godlike in appearance,” while admitting to grave bouts of, “Feeling as if my body is as diseased as a house pocked with termite holes,” Chef Ebisan spoke of building an empire of Sushi Ebisan.
“I see us in every airport terminal in the world,” he said. “Either that or we close in two months.”