July 19, 2018
The Art of Cooking with Chef Linda Hampsten Fox
Linda Hampsten Fox is a light; upon first meeting her I was greeted with a warmth and excitement that made me want to know all about what she is cooking up. I want to see how she plates her dishes, to find out about her favorite seasonal ingredients, to see her put out elegant dishes inspired by the world around her that she has lived and worked all over.
She was eager to jump on board with MCA Dinner Society, and I am looking forward to working with her for this Saturday's event. I recently asked her a few questions about her life as a chef, and she was happy to share her thoughts while my mouth is watering in anticipation for her food.
When did you know that you would build your career as a chef? Did you have an "Ah Ha" moment when you realized your calling was to create culinary works of art?
I always loved drawing and art. As a little girl, I would spend time with a drawing pad and paper instead of playing with dolls or other toys. In high school, I was voted most artistic. I thought about being a doctor at one point but then decided to study fine arts and art history in college. Food is my perfect medium as an artist. I find it challenges me to be creative in various ways as I look at dishes not only with the nuances of taste in mind but also color, texture, and temperature. I believe great art creates meaning and investigates the meaning it creates. Food is commonplace, everyone eats and everyone has an opinion about food but taste, is not exclusively a matter of individual perception and food is never just food. What we eat affects how the world looks and how we understand it. In Italy, when you ask someone how they are, they tell you what they ate. For all these reasons, cooking is my art and the conversation I want to provide.
Do you have mentors that helped to shape who you are as a chef? Who have you looked up to, who inspires you?
My biggest inspiration was my mother. She respected food and her sourcing was impeccable. She cooked from scratch and taught me about the joy of food and entertaining.
As far as mentors, I learned a lot on the streets be it from a sly butcher in a small town in Tuscany, to a winemaker in Northern Italy to an old peasant woman who used to kill pigeons with her thumb on their skull. If they were a mango farmer or growing agave, real people taught me the value in sourcing and how to respect things masterfully yet simply.
Do you pursue additional forms of creative expression, or does food satisfy all your creative output needs?
Right now I spend so much time thinking about and creating food that it is my primary creative expression but I also write a lot about food and my travels.