Q & A With Red Medicine's Jordan Kahn: Food as Art, Abstract Oddities + Why Vietnamese Food
|Recipe for this muscat grape dessert coming soon.|
JK: I dunno. It's something that over the years we've started to adapt. I worked for Thomas Keller for a long time, and he's very much about being so exact and precise and specific on everything, which we are but in a very different way. We welcome the abstract and the differentness and the oddities.
Last week we got a bunch of red mizuna from Coleman [Bill Coleman of Coleman Family Farm], and I said, "Did the mizuna come in? Is it nice?" And he said, "Yeah, kinda," and I said "What do you mean?" He said, "Well it's nice but it looks like it got burned by the sun and there's a lot of little holes in it."
And I looked at it and I saw that this is amazing. Now all of a sudden it has a hundred little holes in each one and it looks like it's been slightly burned, but the leaf is still intact. It's not wilting, and it's hearty. Nature did this for us. And we used them on the plate and we didn't do anything. So it's about the taking the risks of seeing the beauty in everything and trying to capture it every single time.
SI: Why Vietnamese food?
JK: I drew particular fascination with Vietnamese because of their overabundant use of herbs. The first thing you do when you sit down at a Vietnamese restaurant is you get a giant plate stacked with herbs and it's not just mint. It might be two or three mints. There's basil, there's perilla, there's rau ram, there's ngo gai, there's fish mint.
It was a cuisine that really spoke to me because it really spoke to me about my desserts in a weird way. You might get a rich, fatty grilled piece of pork, and it's always served with raw herbs and raw vegetables and something really acidic. And there's this dichotomy of rich, cooked, raw and bright in every dish.
It's not like French cuisine or some Italian dishes or Indian or anything. Their balance is something I understand because I approach desserts that way. You would never have one of my desserts that's just a big, sweet fucking rich bomb. A big ass molten chocolate cake or a giant bowl of pudding. I don't put things together that way.
I don't like warm desserts. People always make fun of me for that. I hate eating a warm cobbler or a warm pie. I always prefer to eat them cold. You get more texture that way. Texture's always been a huge thing for me so Vietnamese for me has been a very close parallel to what I've been doing in my career for desserts even though it doesn't seem like that to anybody. But in my brain it absolutely makes sense.
Check back later for the second part of this interview and a recipe from Red Medicine.