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The Art of the Recipe: A Star-Studded Cookstr Panel

October 12, 2009

On Saturday afternoon I had the kind of sexy/cool privilege of moderating a panel for the New York Wine & Food Festival, focusing on The Art of the Recipe. No, wait, that’s not even the sexy/cool part. The sexy/cool part is that the panelists were Rocco DiSpirito, Barbara Kafka, Amanada Hesser, and Jim Peterson, giants all. And really different kinds of giants, each having established their own reputation and following in different way, but each a walking trove of info.

From left: Katie Workman, Barbara Kafka, Jim Peterson, Amanda Hesser, Rocco DiSpirito

From left: Katie Workman, Barbara Kafka, Jim Peterson, Amanda Hesser, Rocco DiSpirito

The panel was great, lively and fun, and afterward many members of the audience came up to thank the participants for sharing their insights and wisdom.

So, here’s my main takeaway. One person, at the very end of the Q&A portion, asked if it was common for chefs and authors to withhold a special recipe, or a secret ingredient from their signature recipe, so that no one would be able to replicate it. (She clearly has a great aunt Millie who was going to be damned if anyone was going to make her very own apple pie recipe, no sir.) It was the only moment the panel was a little bit lost for words (not speechless, mind you; at no point would this opinionated and smart group of food people ever be rendered speechless, at least not collectively). There was a bit of reflection, some thoughts expressed, but what I loved (LOVED) was when the panel collectively said in essence, “Hey, I think you’re asking the wrong group of people.  We love food, we love recipes, and we’re kind of in the business of sharing all of that.”

So interesting, to see how the concept of protectiveness and secrecy was just not a driving force, not at all.  “Recipes are a dime a dozen,” Rocco said, just to make the point. “You get paid a dime?” joked Barbara. Well, of course good recipes are worth a whole lot more than a dime a dozen. But the point seems to be that trying to be cloak-and-dagger and about secret ingredients, or spending endless amounts of time mulling over the protection of one’s addition of a dollop of dijon mustard in the tuna salad (oh, did I just say that out loud? Dammit!) is a little bit useless, especially in this day and age. Protecting that secret ingredient isn’t going to help you win friends and influence people; the consensus seemed to be that being yourself, having a point of view, finding your audience, and expressing things your own way was the most winning formula…if the word formula applies. which it doesn’t.

I loved the panel, I loved the participants, and I was happy to see all of the attendees (almost all of whom I hadn’t even met) who bought tickets, asked questions, and has a good time. The art of the recipe–always evolving, never dull.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    October 12, 2009 10:40 pm

    This sounds like a really interesting panel, does anyone know if you can get a recording of the panel?

  2. Eve permalink
    October 12, 2009 11:20 pm

    I so agree about not hoarding one’s recipes like a miser. My mom never wanted to give certain recipes outside the family. I think that is so weird. I love sharing recipes with anyone who wants them. The world needs more people cooking good food, not less!

  3. Eve permalink
    October 12, 2009 11:21 pm

    I mean “not fewer.”
    : )

  4. October 13, 2009 5:33 pm

    Oh wow! That sounds like a blast. I’m with David, I’d love to hear a recording if it was available.

    And love that they had that response to the whole secret ingredient issue. I totally agree: cooking is all about sharing. Plus, if you gave 10 people the same recipe, I’d be willing to bet that you’d wind up with 10 distinct dishes at the end. Everyone interprets things in their own way.


  5. Katie Workman, Editor-in-Chief permalink*
    October 14, 2009 6:01 pm

    Sorry, no recording. Next year we’ll be doing another panel, and we’ll make every effort to capture it for posterity!

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