URS FISCHER: You say, for you, that food is about emotions. How would you describe this emotional aspect of cooking and eating?
PIERRE MINA: I think I cook well when I’m in a good emotional state and when I feel plugged into the people I’m cooking for.
UF: Is there a performative aspect to the way you understand yourself as a conductor?
MRS: Yes, it’s funny that you ask that. Someone else used this word recently and I was thinking about the past when I was cooking at Gavin Brown’s Gallery. People would go upstairs to the kitchen and think that working there was performance art or a happening. It always made me laugh.
UF: How do you envision a meal? Are there a lot of times when you improvise?
MRS: I have a first idea of ââwhat inspires me and then I bring things so that everything is complete. Maybe I pick the main course and ask, “What are the other elements that will add freshness, texture, color, beauty, nutrition to the meal to bring it all together?” There has to be a balance in everything you eat. My second book took five years to write because all the recipes were journal entries. I take photos often and cook things that I really love a few times, just tasty and easy meals. These stay with me when I sit down to write a recipe list for a book and it ends up reflecting things I’ve done over a period of time that still feel relevant to me.
UF: How do you find inspiration to start a new dish?
MRS: I think it’s being exposed to a different kind of food, through a trip or a friend or someone who has done something that I ate and liked. I bring it through my sieve and make it mine. Going to Russia was a transformation because I learned a lot about food. When I lived in Greece for a year, I learned a lot about food. Back then, I often didn’t even realize what was going on. I notice it later when I incorporate these things I’ve been exposed to into my cooking.
UF: I know you have been a mentor for young chefs. When you’re cooking with someone else, how open are you to letting them do their job?
MRS: In a more private setting, like a dinner where I cook with other people, I really like this collaboration. I like that several people taste a dish and say, âMore salt, less that. I feel like then you can do something amazing that you couldn’t have done on your own. However, in the cafÃ© there is not so much room for this collaboration. Consistency can feel overwhelming at times, and because you don’t have access to your customers, you can’t see their responses.
UF: When I go to restaurants and cafes, I am reassured by the taste of the food every time. Children love that a dish always tastes the same.
MRS: That’s right, and they’re your harshest critic.
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