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Charlie Trotter —
born on September 08, 1959,
died on November 05, 2013
Charles "Charlie" Trotter was an American chef and restaurateur... (wikipedia)
All four elements were happening in equal measure - the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambience. It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level.
If you know what you're doing, you can make a meal happen with any kitchen knife. But using a top-quality knife versus a low-quality one is the difference between driving a Jaguar and a VW Jetta across the country. They'll both get you there. But the Jaguar will give you a much smoother ride.
A jazz musician can improvise based on his knowledge of music. He understands how things go together. For a chef, once you have that basis, that's when cuisine is truly exciting.
Excellence is about fighting and pursuing something diligently, with a strict and determined approach to doing it right. It's okay if there are flaws in the process - it makes it more interesting.
To me, searching for perfection isn't anywhere near as interesting as trying to find your own voice.