After a decade living the fast-paced restaurant life in New York City I committed to exploring the culinary world. The journey started in Malta with a winter spent chasing sunshine, pastizzi, and a new way of living.
I was fortunate to spend an afternoon exploring Malta with the Editor of HORECA Magazine. Seeing Malta through their eyes, I was reminded of why I got into the culinary industry and of how powerful food can be. I tasted tradition. I witnessed innovation. I learned about sustainability, agriculture, and the future of food in Malta. On a glorious sunny day in the middle of winter in Malta, I remembered what it means to me to be a Chef.
When I left Malta – I took the lessons I learned here with me, lessons that I will never forget.
#1 EXPLORATION IS A POWERFUL TOOL
Exploring flavour is key to developing your palate – your internal library of taste, texture, aroma, and experience. A Chef’s palate is the driver of culinary innovation, the epicentre that distinguishes one Chef from the next. Exploration can happen in the market when you choose a new ingredient to work with.
It happens every time you dine as you distinguish the flavours, process the dish, and understand its components. Growing your sense of exploration is in your control; it is something to be honed so push your boundaries, support new restaurants, seek out culinary experiences. This exploration yields results beyond the strengthening of one’s palate, but it serves to expand your perspective and bring new innovation to your kitchen.
#2 ALWAYS APPRECIATE YOUR INGREDIENTS
All ingredients are not created equally – it is important to cherish and elevate the flavours and ingredients that are impactful to your cuisine. I felt I had forgotten the flavours of garlic, of caper, of olive until I remembered them here in Malta. The balance found in each of those ingredients was striking.
Without a reference it is easy to take an ingredient for granted – to overlook something of outstanding quality as the standard and not the outlier. Without seeking out and trying ingredients it is impossible to know ‘how’ something can taste – to build the mental map of the dish and add the ingredient to the symphony of flavours that you are striving to create.
#3 INNOVATION IS ROOTED IN TRADITION
In all my travels in Malta and beyond I have found that innovation is born out of an understanding and respect for tradition and history. To innovate is to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods or ideas. You cannot innovate without understanding what you are trying to innovate!
In an ever-modernizing world, traditional culinary practices and methodology are being lost at an alarming rate – it is essential to pursue opportunities to learn and share the knowledge afforded to you. A culinary community is what you make it and I was fortunate to experience the community here in Malta first hand – I am excited to see how things evolve next time I am in town.
As I continue on my journey I will hold the lessons I learned in Malta close to my heart. I encourage all who read this to seek out experiences that broaden their culinary horizons, to explore flavour with purpose, and to share the language of food with anyone who seeks to learn it.
Kevin Gregory is a chef and restaurant consultant based in New York City. With a
hospitality degree from Cornell University and a certificate in pastry from Le Cordon
Bleu Paris, he travels the world exploring perspectives on baking and pastry. Reach
out to him on instagram: @thatchefkev