Let it speak for itself!

After 20 something years in a sales and marketing career, my life took a dramatic (some might say mid-life) turn in 2002. Long story short – I ended up in Vancouver BC, finishing my professional culinary and wine training, and believe it or not, talked myself into a job I wasn’t even remotely qualified for.

My plan was to somehow, someway, forge a career around my passion for all things food and wine. So here I was, all fresh and pressed and on my way to the office as General Manager for Major the Gourmet. I learned later how crazy this was. My new boss, (Nicky Major) is considered one of the culinary pioneers in Vancouver, and she’s a noted, award winning caterer and event planner across North America. I struck the mother lode via an overly confident pursuit of my dream job – and had no idea on that fortuitous day what an amazing journey I was set to embark on.

Smoked Salmon Blinis

During my time in this job I learned more than any culinary school could teach me. Nicky Major is from New Zealand, and landed in Vancouver via London in the late 70s where she trained at the Cordon Bleu. Although my job was NOT in the kitchen, I spent many a day there working with the chefs on the menus I was planning and selling. It was a heady, fantastic job. We made food for thousands at a time, and yet the kitchen didn’t possess a single food processor. Nicky’s Cordon Bleu training demanded nothing less than perfection. Perfection NEVER included a rotary blade hacking ingredients into unrecognizable bits and pieces. Everything, and I mean everything, was cut, mixed, blended, and stirred by hand! Sharp knives, cheese cloth, good work surfaces, and strong arms were the essential tools for Nicky’s kitchen.  It was hard, exacting work that had to offer a level of quality that matched the price it was sold for – and it wasn’t cheap eats!

Now, here’s the point of this post. Even though I was blessed with an amazing job, with extraordinarily difficult standards, my ultimate take-away was something so simple and universal. Nicky, in all her quirky, demanding ways, had a philosophy stated in one simple phrase that every recipe and menu decision followed: “let the food speak for itself”. She loathed fussy, pretentious recipes. It was all about the beauty of the food, the flavors, and the way they harmonized to create a culinary experience par excellence!

She took basic stuff, and made it exceptional every time. A beautiful piece of wild salmon poached with white wine, stuffed with hand peeled shrimp tossed in a simple creme fraiche with bits of fresh dill, plated with lavender from the kitchen garden along with slices of organic lemons–this was her idea of culinary perfection!

Every time I talk to a novice cook, or not-so-novice cook, who feels overwhelmed by all the methods, and techniques, and processes so many recipes dictate, I’m reminded of Nicky and her mantra. Sometimes, I think many of these recipes were written because someone has an ego that needs to be recognized and fed. I say, screw the complicated recipes. I say, the next time you want something exceptional, go to your local market, browse the aisles. Let your imagination speak to you. Pick that nice piece of meat, those fresh appealing vegetables, that rustic loaf of freshly baked bread. Gather it all up, lay it out on your kitchen counter and create your own piece of art on a plate… just remember – let the food speak to you. I promise, if you take the time to listen, it will!


4 Responses to “Let it speak for itself!”

  1. January 8, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Simplicity and using only few ingredients only works if you’ve got the best, freshest ingredients. Crack open a can of anything and try using it for a canapé and it’ll stick out like a bad review on the NY Times.

  2. 3 Erica Jennings
    January 21, 2010 at 11:02 pm


    I just wanted to tell you I loved reading all about Di Sogno! What a great Blog, Ive been reading for the last hour and I havent read all the categories, cant wait to finish them!

    Thank you

    • 4 Patrick Bartlett
      January 22, 2010 at 12:53 am


      Thanks so much… I’m excited to know that what I write can be fun and entertaining… I’m honored.


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Patrick Bartlett

A conversation about food, wine, and the art of living well!


January 2010
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