Since I started Flavors on Fire, I've spent a lot of time thinking about it's identity. Why am I so passionate about cooking? Why do I want to share this with others? What do I say when someone asks me why I do what I do?
The answer was harder to write down than I thought. I spent weeks thinking about the road I traveled to get here. How my experiences in life have formed me as a person, a cook, and now an entrepreneur. In this "manifesto", I will share with you why I must cook with fire. And why I have to turn it into a business. Let's Back Up To understand why one is passionate about something, you often have to go back in time. Growing up, ordering takeout was something my family did once a month. Most nights, my mom would cook at home. Rustic food. Delicious food. Rooted in Dutch tradition, heavy on starch, meat and veggies. While I love meat and potatoes just as much as the next guy - travels to other countries, shaped my palate. The first time I had Jamon Iberico in Madrid, Gravlax in Norway, and Shrimp Dumplings in Vietnam - were mind blowing. These travels helped me distinguish more flavors and aromas. And made me want to recreate the dish back home.
My passion for fire also started at a young age. My dad loved to build fires. I built in-ground fires when I was a boy scout. There was something magical about a burger fresh off the grill. Hard to recreate indoors. Different every time. Starting a business that combines my passion for food and fire has been a lifelong dream. A dream that combines what I care most about. Let's dive in! Cooking is Family Cooking a meal for someone is as personal as it gets. Pouring your time, attention, love into a dish, screams that you care. Whether that person is family by blood, or family by choice. Cooking a meal for someone creates (and recreates) memories. Sharing a meal with someone shortens the distance. Cooking for someone makes them family. Providing food for someone is also a primal instinct. Whether you're a man or woman, providing food for your loved ones is a way to secure their survival. This might sound far-fetched, but I strongly believe it's a subconscious need we have as humans. How do you feel when your child eats the food you made? When you give back to your mom by cooking her favorite meal? It's an awesome feeling. You feel accomplished. You feel whole.
Cooking Builds Skills A large portion of our life is lived digitally. Stuck in front of a screen for work or during our free time. Cooking gives me time away from screens. I envision a dish and create it with my hands. Over the years, I have honed my cooking skills across two dimensions: ingredients and fire.
On ingredients - I started as a "pre-cook". My ingredients were pre-cut, pre-seasoned and mostly came out of a packet. As my taste evolved, and my budget for food increased, so did my ingredients. Using locally grown ingredients (vegetables and proteins) is important to me. It stimulates the local economy. It cuts down the distance between the farmer and me. It tastes better.
The ultimate sourcing of protein is hunting. I feel a connection to the land, as well as the animals I am able to harvest. Hunting, harvesting, butchering, and cooking wild game is as personal to my ingredients as I can get. It's good to realize that "one cow does not yield 150 ribeye steaks", as Derek Wolf so brilliantly said in this podcast. On fire - my journey has been one of progression. Starting in the Netherlands, from cooking bread sticks over in-ground fires with the boy scouts, to burning Dutch sausages and burgers over charcoal briquettes. When I moved to the US, the aperture for fire cooking was opened. The wide variety of grills, smokers and cookers fueled my curiosity and inspiration. I keep coming back to my early childhood memories though. The sound of a crackling fire. The smell of wood in the air. You can't beat an open fire to cook on.
Cooking is the Ultimate Celebration
Think about the best parties you've been to. The most memorable holidays you celebrated. They all have something in common: great meals. Ever since we were hunters and gatherers, harvesting food has been celebrated, and celebrations include food.
To me, cooking, and especially cooking over fire, is a celebration of life. It's a celebration of friendship, family, our shared values across cultures and backgrounds. It's a way to show what we are thankful for. Conclusion
As I wrapped up this post, I had to go back and change the title. "Why I love cooking with fire" just didn't cut it… I must cook with fire! It boils down to four things. Two of them keep me sane and develop my skills. Two help celebrate life and the loved ones around me. My journey to cook with fire has started, but is always evolving. As I look ahead, I hope to share my passion with as many of you as possible.
Thanks for sticking with this till the end. I'm interested in your story: what drives you to cook (with fire)?