Muse in the Kitchen

Writers, painters, and musicians often speak about the inspiration behind their masterpieces; the creative process for chefs is not so far removed. Artists of all kinds cite real-world muses that inspire their work, from ingredients, nostalgia, and the work of their peers to works of music, art, and architecture. Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana in Boston says, “Inspiration comes from everywhere, everyone, everything. It’s very random. It can be a person; it can be a person’s mother that I’m having a conversation with; a random thought; an ingredient that inspires me; a trip.”

For visual inspiration art and architecture easily translate into plating presentation. For Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza, formerly of Sona, the source of inspiration for his desserts is that, “I love architecture, buildings, structure." And Pastry Chef Heather Chittum, formerly of Dish, is also known for her architecturally-driven creations. Pastry Chef Boris Portnoy of SucrePunch is heavily influenced by modern art, including paintings, sculptures, and architecture. He often plays the role of the artist by sketching a dessert before creating it.

Music is another major source of inspiration for chefs. Chef Dante Boccuzzi of Restaurant Dante in Tremont, Ohio has been a musician for a number of years, and notes that “all through my culinary career there has always been a musical memory,” to the point to which the music can almost be heard in his dishes. And Pastry Chef Sam Mason has taken this one step futher with his new television show, Dinner With The Band, which combines music and cooking to demonstrate how one influences the other.

The six chefs and pastry chefs below draw their inspiration from a number of sources, from memories and travel to art and ingredients. What is your muse in the kitchen?