Reassurance: Chefs Have Trouble Too

by Lisa Rosen on May 16, 2011

This is a mildly interesting concoction:  it’s sort of a mayonnaise, but without any egg yolks, with a whole lot of pureed garlic mixed in.

I made it a while back, in the middle of a slightly obsessive quest to duplicate the whipped garlic served at a Lebanese restaurant we go to sometimes.  The garlic, which they serve as a condiment with some of their dishes (but not all; you can ask for some, but it doesn’t just appear automatically), is a sort of amazing sensory experience–it’s creamy, but in a solid, substantive way.  The first time I tried it I was baffled, and immediately started trying to figure out how I could replicate it.

After a number of visits to the restaurant, and extensive grilling of various waitstaff, I started experimenting.  I bet I tried it half a dozen times in two weeks before I gave up.  I had gotten close, and had made some interesting dips/spreads/sauces (as well as some spectacularly awful ones).  But I hadn’t gotten it quite right.  Meh–win some, lose some.

We were back at that restaurant last week, and I was reminded how much I love that spread. Once again, I peppered our waiter with questions.  He finally went back and talked to the chef, and came back with a new tip that I hadn’t heard before (add some ice–yeah, I never would’ve figured that out), and the best affirmation ever:

Two out of three times, the chef screws it up, too.

Wow.  I feel so much better now.  It’s nice to be reminded occasionally that some things are just really hard to do, and require a lot of effort, even after you think you should’ve mastered them.  Really excellent work doesn’t come easily, even for people who are good at whatever the thing is. (Of course, I’m thinking about writers, and it’s good to remember that even the best, most gifted authors have to practice and draft and revise and sometimes even start over.)

I also feel totally justified in not messing around trying to make whipped garlic anymore.  I’ll just go to the restaurant when the craving hits.  They have better equipment than I do, anyway.

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