Monday, April 13, 2009

Pissed Off Over Ego

A couple of years ago, when LA Mill Coffee opened their Silver Lake store in Los Angeles, a discussion ensued amongst a number of us in the barista community. Turns out that LA Mill had co-opted some of our signature drinks and placed it on their menu. People wanted to know if I was pissed about it.

Quite frankly: no. It didn't bother me at all. However, some of my friends weren't as pleased. Some were upset that they didn't ask permission to use the idea for the drinks or recognize the source of the material. Some wanted their names on the menu. I didn't care.

I didn't care because I knew that there's truly very little real originality left in the world. That all of us create drinks and dishes based on our prior influences and we generate our ideas from others. To stand around an be petulant over whether or not I was given credit would demand that I list on my own menu the line of inspiration for each of my items - and that would just be ridiculous.

I'm reminded of this today as I was reading at article on Marco Pierre White on where Marco is commenting on Marcel Vigneron's use of a Wylie Dufresne method:
"We live in a world of refinement, not invention. It's the greatest compliment he can be given, this guy. If someone takes one of your dishes and does it, it's flattery. For you to get pissed off because he didn't acknowledge you is ego. It's all too political really, isn't it? I mean, we're fucking chefs."

When I think back on all of the dishes I work on and drinks I've created, all of them fall back on inspiration and interpretation from someone else. They're springboards for, hopefully, something interesting and tasty.

Honestly, the reason I do what I do (and inevitably write at length about it) is to share the experience. To encourage others to explore for themselves. Maybe start out by recreating the recipes and then use that experience as the springboard to try something different. To create an interpretation that is their own.

On the egotistical side of things, do I really want another place to use my recipes and give me credit by blazing my name on the menu? What if they screw it up and/or present it poorly? Suddenly, a whole group of consumers never exposed to my work is left thinking that it's crap and the name is tarnished. Perhaps it's simply better for me to tarnish my reputation in person rather than a drink on a menu in some distant coffee house somewhere in the world...