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Where Professional Chefs Shop for Ideas

While some chefs belong to culinary think tanks or attend creative recipe-writing workshops in venues like Bologna or San Sebastian, most of the world’s top restaurant chefs need nothing more than a farmers market to get their creative juices flowing. It was surely an adventuresome cook who first realized that leeks and chestnuts worked well together, or shallots and corn, wild mushrooms and goat cheese, spinach and pignolis, etc. An outdoor market in midsummer is a bonanza of fresh flavors, colors, shapes, and textures fueling five senses of culinary inspiration.But too much experience can also be problematic when shopping, notes San Diego chef and cookbook author Deborah Schneider, who has to remind herself to “keep an open mind and see what looks best that day.”She’s not keen on specific pairings as much as seeking to locate that “one great item and then build around it by looking for flavor balance and complementary tastes: acidic/tart, sweet/starchy, and savory/herbal.” Ideally, she’ll end up with all three contrasts on the same plate. After thirty-plus years of cooking in private kitchens and rest …

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