Naomi Duguid spoke at Terroir 2017 last month on three observations about working with food that she picked up from her travels. I spoke with Duguid after her talk, to get more insight into how chefs and restaurateurs can be inspired by a sense of place.
First, she said if you’re cooking local food, get to know your area. “Visit the farms, see them in different seasons, learn to forage,” she says. “That will tell you more about your local area and inform your cooking.” And she suggests that you get to know your distributors. Understanding who they are, and where your food is coming from, is key. Work with them as a partner and your cooking will reap the rewards.
Second, if your cooking inspiration comes from elsewhere, she suggests you go to that place and hang out. If you’re looking for places to be inspired and haven’t done much travelling, she says, “Thailand and Korea are interesting and accessible because so much happens in the street.” Start in an area of a country or city that’s a known tourist area, “because you can find your feet there.” And keep a flexible schedule – be prepared to change your plans. All of this can help immerse you in that location and find its sense of place. (Note: Duguid offers cooking tours of Thailand and Burma – check out her website for details.)
And no matter whether you’re inspired locally or internationally, she says “Slow down! Take a narrow focus and go deep.” You’ll be rewarded with a stronger sense of understanding of what you’re cooking.
Finally, I asked her how to make a culinary experience authentic. Duguid suggests you engage with what she calls “the ‘hereness’ of here” – in other words, the things that make your region and its cuisine unique to where you are.
If you missed Duguid’s presentation at Terroir 2017, be sure to check out our recap.