Yesterday I joined the NOMA team on a jaunt to an enormous Zen temple complex in northern Kyoto. The property is up against a bamboo forest and we all climbed a slope to reach a short point halfway up the summit. Chefs and cooks and wait staff and lots of babies made the trip.
We had lunch inside the complex at a vegetarian restaurant where we were seated on tatami mats in three long rows. A succession of dishes arrived to join what had been placed before us when we first sat down.
Everything was delicious. And plentiful. We had pickled vegetables, yuba, fried taro root, and so on.
When the meal ended, the chef came out to say hello and take questions, I was struck by the deep curiosity of Chef Rene Redzepi. “Wow,” he kept saying with an inspiring, boyish awe. And then alongside his desire to know more about how dishes were prepared, what steps were needed, how many people were in the kitchen, and the history of vegetarian food in Japan–was his delight in experiencing the world through taste.
As we returned to the hotel, I imagined I saw the world a little perhaps the way he saw it: What is hidden around and within us? What do we need to do in order to coax from nature and ourselves the best of experiences that celebrate life?