Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.
When I'm back in New York - and this is a terrible thing to complain about - I eat a lot more really, really good food than perhaps I'd like to. So many of my friends are really good chefs. It's kind of like being in the Mafia.
Give the people you work with or deal with or have relationships with the respect to show up at the time you said you were going to. And by that I mean, every day, always and forever. Always be on time.
An employer of mine back in the '80s was kind enough to take me on after a rough patch, and it made a big difference in my life that I knew I was the sort of person who showed up on time. It's a basic tell of character.
Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman -- not an artist. There's nothing wrong with that: The great cathedrals of Europe were built by craftsmen -- though not designed by them. Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable, and satisfying.
I was a journeyman chef of middling abilities. Whatever authority I have as a commenter on this world comes from the sheer weight of 28 years in the business. I kicked around for 28 years and came out the other end alive and able to form a sentence.
When I'm doing a book tour in the States, I'll wake up in the room sometimes in an anonymous chain hotel, and I don't know where I am right away. I'll go to the window, and it doesn't help there either, especially if you're in an anonymous strip and it's the usual Victoria's Secret, Gap, Chili's, Applebee's.
Going to Southeast Asia for the first time and tasting that spectrum of flavors - that certainly changed my whole palate, the kind of foods I crave. A lot of the dishes I used to love became boring to me.