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If food tells a story, Chef Theo Friedman has plenty of stories to tell. With a mission to “reintroduce stories, emotions, and personal experiences into the industrial food system,” the young cook has treated dining as a medium that transcends the fundamentals of taste.
All of Friedman’s dishes showcase ingredients in a way that is not only delicious (farm-to-table freshness is mandatory), but intriguing and visually arresting. Yellow tomatoes are not only perfectly golden, but referred to as “dessert” for their sweetness. The preparation of Meyer lemon frozen yogurt is wildly entertaining (thanks to liquid nitrogen), but also scientific in its role to support a delicate basil meringue. Every meticulous detail serves a purpose in not only showcasing an ingredient’s versatility, potential, and overall beauty, but how it also interacts with and complements the plate’s other components.
“You’re always trying to balance things,” says Friedman. “Having a path [is important], but also being able to pull from different flavor combinations, different experiences in the past of different things you’ve eaten.”
Perhaps one of Friedman’s most memorable experiences was a 20-course meal from his senior year at Tufts University. Drawing upon the tricks and techniques he gathered from summer apprenticeships at top New York restaurants, the American Studies major hosted a research-backed, 10-person meal in his own apartment. One highlight was a trumpet mushroom “foie gras” served on wood from his home in the Berkshires. The innovative dish revealed both his commitment to sustainability, as well as the unique sights and smells of his childhood. This clear example of food as a conversation garnered great praise from those who attended, yielding profiles in the Boston Globe and Yahoo! Food, in addition to the launch of his own pop-up restaurant business, Theory Kitchen.
For Friedman, the story of cooking is certainly not over. In fact, at only 25 years old, it has seemingly just begun. If there’s one thing he’s learned since swapping his cap and gown for a chef jacket in 2015, it’s that, perhaps, a meal’s biggest storyteller isn’t necessarily the chef who prepares it, but the ingredients themselves. It’s simply his job to curate.
“Really, at the end of the day, just let the food speak for itself,” he says.
And if you’ve tasted Friedman’s food, full of personality and robust flavors, these are obviously stories worth listening to.
Stay tuned for more chef stories as part of Stella Artois’ Cuisine d’Auteur series that highlights the process of conceptualizing, creating, and elevating food to the level of art.