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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

Yannick Alléno: The French Revolution

The Parisian Chef Reimagines Modern Cuisine From the Heights of the Alps

“The rhythm of French cuisine has always been dictated by its jus and its sauces—that’s what its DNA is made of, but it’s time to blur the lines,” says award-winning chef Yannick Alléno, the subject of this new short by French filmmaker Frédéric Guelaff. Heard among the incidental sounds of Alpine winds and feet trudging through snow, Alléno narrates the philosophy behind his relaunch of 1947, the top restaurant at the Cheval Blanc hotel in the winter paradise of Courchevel. The gastronomic créateur recently announced his departure from the prestigious Hôtel Meurice, a Parisian palace for which he earned three Michelin stars, to dedicate himself to this high-altitude culinary refuge designed by interior architect Sybille de Margerie, who dressed the locale in white leather and coriander green finishings. Known for pushing research into taste and texture as far as possible, Alléno's current obsession is “extraction,” a new cooking technique that optimizes flavor beyond compare. The results are advanced foods like truffled bread and essence of smoked parmesan, cooked in a vacuum and followed up with “cryoconcentration” to make a powerful elixir that gives a granulated texture to pure liquid. Is this molecular cuisine at its peak? “Not at all,” he says. “I am just thinking about what modern cuisine should be. Everything is put into question and thought of in a new way.” 

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