When the cocaine benders come to an end and the fine dining world’s maestros finally retreat home, one wonders what they do in their domestic domains, especially when it comes to food.
Just as Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential revealed the seedy underworld of chefs’ lives, Inside Chefs’ Fridges by Adrian Moore and Carrie Solomon reveals another dimension hidden from the public eye—the chef's’ personal fridge.
What do they eat? What do they cook (when they already do it for a living)? What are their essentials? More importantly, what are their guilty pleasures?
“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” wrote Brillat Savarin in his Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste, 1825).
The notorious French gastronome’s dictum could easily be applied to fridge of a chef.
What a chef stores in his ice box reflects greatly not only his palate’s preferences but his culinary character.
Ours is the era of the celebrity chef, so naturally there’s a demand to know what Mr. Chef stores in his cupboard, eats when he’s heartbroken—or deliriously happy.
Moore, an American expat who lives in Paris, discussed the evolution of the book. “What compelled us to write a book was, I think was simply enough wanting to meet and understand the personalities of the coolest chefs in Europe, whether they be three-star Michelin master chefs or up and coming innovators,” he said.
Moore, born in Toronto but raised in the U.S., works as a assistant concierge at the Mandarin hotel, and is no stranger to the City of Light’s food scene—having witnessed the rise and fall of numerous trends.
One could go as far to say that his life and the vantage from which he writes is similar to the children’s book author and illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans. Best known for his Madeleine children’s book series, Bemelman was also a notorious gourmand whose youth was spent working in restaurants and hotels on the continent, later landing at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City.
Bourdain called him “the original bad boy of the New York dining subculture.”
Like Moore, Bemelman was a sharp observer of restaurant and hotel life, which he vividly brought to life in The Hotel Splendide. His books and cartoons of working at the Ritz in the 1930s presented a side of the fine dining and hotel world that was rich not only in food, but in its characters.
Although there are no images of big Gallic-nosed patrons clad in mink coats, accompanied by timid small dogs, or maître d’s swigging leftover Champagne, Inside Chefs’ Fridges shares the same voyeuristic sensibility, it just takes a different approach.
Moore and his co-collaborator, Carrie Solomon, another American in Paris and one of Paris’ leading culinary photographers, both saw the project as a chance to get know the personalities of Europe’s leading chefs. What better way than a chef’s icebox—the window to his soul.
Solomon told The Daily Beast, “I will start by saying that after photographing all these chefs’ fridges, I can’t look at my own the same anymore.”
She admitted that some chefs tidied up their fridges prior to the shoots, but for the most part were relaxed about revealing their inner sanctums.
“I tried to capture and present each fridge equally and objectively.”
This was key to accurately capturing the chefs’ personalities—both in and out of their restaurant and home kitchens.
“While almost all the chefs had a smattering of mundane commercial food, a handful had some downright bizarre items. We had to check if a couple items were legal—turns out they weren’t, but the chefs gave their go ahead to publish anyway.”
From old birthday cake to pickled marigold flowers, Solomon and Moore were rarely disappointed with their subjects’ ice boxes.
Even the fridges themselves were a reflection of chefs’ personalities. According to Solomon, a few chefs had gigantic luxury fridges while the majority had rather standard models.
“There were rarely areas that were out of bounds, but more often than not it was the freezer, the underwear drawer of the kitchen. Frozen fish sticks sometimes nestled next to homemade ice-cream from the Thermomix or a Weight Watchers dinner.”
Along with Solomon’s artful snapshots, each fridge profile comes with two recipes from the profiled chef, emphasizing local ingredients. Fatéma Hal of France’s La Man has a tagine recipe that will immediately transport you to Morocco without the carbon footprint.
Amidst the glut of food literature, Inside Chefs’ Fridges charts a new territory, showing how the home and domestic life inform, but also ground culinary geniuses.