gastronomy

Inside the world’s top kitchens, where leading chefs, mixologists and winemakers reveal their secret ingredients

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August 19, 2014

At Home with Diana Kennedy

Inside the Chili-Filled Kitchen Garden of Mexican Food's Grand Dame

“In 1976 I decided to create a centre for my learning and cooking,” says Diana Kennedy, the 91-year-old doyenne of Mexican cuisine and culture. “I bought some land and gradually built my ecological house.” Quinta Diana in Mexico’s Michoacán state has been the longtime home of the legendary food writer and culinary anthropologist—and following a private lunch and post-prandial stroll through her garden—is explored in today’s film by James Casey, founder of New York-based Swallow Magazine. Kennedy’s publishing career began in 1972 with the epicurean classic, The Cuisines of Mexico, most recently winning a James Beard Award for her 2010 journey into the heart of her adopted country’s eating, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy. Nestled in the verdant hills above the small town of Zitácuaro, the fertile grounds of Kennedy’s home support an embarrassment of riches. Vast selections of meticulously sourced chilies are flanked by numerous edible plants, herbs and fruits, celebrating Mexico’s extreme biodiversity in miniature. “There’s a lot I want to do,” she says. “When I make this place a foundation it will keep my ideas of conservation and sustainability alive.” Plans are afoot to turn the property into the Diana Kennedy Center, a non-profit space housing Kennedy’s vast archives of literature, writing and collecting, a fitting tribute to a life’s work both edible and otherwise.

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Bay Leaves

Californian Chef Leif Hedendal Forages a Micro-Seasonal Meal

San Francisco-based chef Leif Hedendal creates an exclusive meal for NOWNESS with ingredients foraged locally in the Bay Area, from Laird’s Landing in Point Reyes and Slide Ranch in West Marin. In the resulting photo series by Jake Stangel, the delicate petals and leaves of pennyroyal, lemon balm and bachelor buttons feature alongside the more robust flavors of lardo, abalone and oysters. Hedendal has always operated across both food and art worlds, exploring those points where the two converge. This August he is taking up residency on artist-run Rabbit Island, in Lake Superior, and in September he will be feeding those artists aboard Doug Aitken’s cross-country train project, Station to Station. The chef has staged in the kitchens of Noma and Chez Panisse, and in 2008 created Dinner Discussion, a bi-coastal dinner series where invitees have included designer Yves Behar, his partner, the art advisor, Sabrina Buell, and food-centric artist, Jennifer Rubell. "The next one will be hosted by Alice Waters, which is pretty special,” he says. "I want to put together a curatorial project where I commission new work by artists doing dinner-based work.” Shot at the J.B. Blunk House, with its majestic views of the Pt. Reyes seashore, our shoot looks at those flora that form the basis of Leif’s signature dishes. "These days it would definitely be wild flowers and medicinal herbs. You will be eating ingredients you have never heard of before.”

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Spotlight

Danny Bowien: Mission Chinese

The Culinary Rogue Reveals the Secrets of Chinatown and the Music of Sichuan Cuisine

Sporting his trademark long bleached hair, maverick foodie and Sonic Youth aficionado Danny Bowien shares the kitchen antics at his celebrated Mission Chinese Food restaurant and feasts at his favorite local joint, where he finds inspiration in peppercorn- and beer-braised chicken and pork pancakes, in this new film by Jordan Bahat. The Korean-born, Oklahoma-raised chef has been drawing visitors to his small Chinatown outpost in staggering numbers since it opened in Manhattan last May, placating lines of hungry guests with a keg of free beer. It’s worth the wait: hybrid dishes like Kung Pao pastrami, catfish à la Sichuan seasoned with Old Bay and barbequed pig tails marinated in Coca-Cola have earned him a place at the top of The New York Times critic Pete Wells’ 2012 “Restaurant Triumphs” list. Bowien first gained cred for his signature brand of Chinese-American dishes with a pop-up venture in San Francisco’s Mission District. He picked up his culinary spark working odd restaurant jobs—not in formal training—and happily credits neighborhood haunts like Spicy Village as keys to his success. “Danny really let us in on his process,” said Bahat, who has shot music videos for indie acts including Josh Osho and Grouplove, and chose the sounds of Ducky to accompany this new short. “Danny goes somewhere, orders everything on the menu and then goes home and tries to recreate it. He’s the Mayor of Chinatown.”

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