Chefs Feed visits Joshua Skenes at Saison.
[MUSIC] There's two sides to simplicity. There's this side, where you get a beautiful ingredient and you just cook it, and you just put it on a plate. [MUSIC] Then there's the other side where you're, you know, Spending hours, weeks, months trying to understand the ingredient, trying to understand what is inside that ingredient so you can bring it out. We just want to find the most natural flavor that we can. [MUSIC] I am Joshua Skenes, of Saison. [BLANK_AUDIO] I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. Unfortunately, unfortunately, I guess. It's very wild, you grow up around water moccasins and alligators. We spent a lot of time camping, we spent a lot of time in the woods. I mean I remember catching water snakes and filleting them. And remembering, knowing how to take out the poison sack when I was eight years old and saute them. Yeah, a typical woods' life, I guess. [MUSIC] I moved to Boston right after high school. [MUSIC] I was going to go to art school. I thought about cooking before but I was on the bus and I read a pamphlet. It was for the French Culinary Institute. I remember the sun shining through the window. Sounds ridiculous but it was very, it was pretty motivational at that time. [MUSIC] So I decided to pack up my bags and go to New York and go to school. [MUSIC] While I was in school, I worked at one of the Jean-Georges restaurants [MUSIC] And then I came out here in 2003 and was a chef at Chez TJ. [MUSIC] I worked for Michael Mina, opened a restaurant in the St. Regis in Orange County called Stonehill Tavern. And then I took a couple of years off. [MUSIC] I thought growing up my whole life I was going to teach martial arts, and that was what I was going to do. It's called Ba ha Jong. I think my dad introduced me to it when I was young and I can remember doing it as long as I've been alive. I would take a job for six months or something like that and then really be drawn back to martial arts and then go practice in the park for six months. And then I'd get drawn back to cooking. Then I'd get drawn back to martial arts. It was tough because cooking, it's one of those things where you either commit 100% or you just don't do it. But then finally I found a way to just realize that they're the same thing. Any skill that you try to dedicate yourself to wholly is just the perseverance of hard work. Just the discipline of doing it when you really don't wanna do it. And pushing through the walls. As a young cook, you're not really cooking. But you're learning how to evolve yourself. [MUSIC] You know you're constantly berated and told that everything is ****. And you can say, **** this man I'm out of here. Or you can say well this is your know an eye opening experience and there's just a time to learn. [MUSIC] Yeah I guess it's kinda part of the thinking and the itching to get back in a kitchen that I came up with [UNKNOWN]. The cooking is a reflection of things in their natural state or in their most honest form. [MUSIC] I think it's inevitable I guess that spending time eating twigs and berries as a kid, you kind of appreciate just that taste of nature, where it's pure, and it is what it is, and that's what's special about it. It's really a process of elimination for everything. Turn the volume down and dial the seasoning back and draw out the inherent flavors. [MUSIC] You know, you don't want every single dish to have sweet, sour, salty, you know all these flavors. Because by the end of the meal you're exhausted. Each dish should be as singular as possible and as focused as possible. So each course is probably pretty simple in appearance. But then there's layers within those things that make them taste good. It's food that's meant to be nourishing and pure and wholesome and delicious. But also an experience. [MUSIC] There's so much work that goes into it that isn't seen. From growing to handling to storing. So you have to pay attention to everything on the back end. Little things that really make a big difference. Like the refrigerators all being separate from one another so the flavors don't mix together. The smell of aging meat is a good smell when it's by itself, but not when it's in your parsley. And of course how you cook it, the technique you use. [BLANK_AUDIO] Pretty much everything on the menu, some major component is cooked over the fire. Fire provides an honest flavor. I think when you grill something it always tastes better than if you cook in a pan or a pot or in a gas oven. [MUSIC] We try to take everything that we used to do on the stove, and see what we could do over the fire. Grilling, or roasted over the embers, or on a spit roast Or buried in the ash and the embers. And then, there's some new stuff also, like kissing things with a coal. We'll take a piece of the white charcoal that burns very hot, fan it off, and then sear the skin of the fish with that so that it kind of carmelizes the skin and tenderizes it. So kind of merging the worlds of the precision of the stove with the flavor of the fire. [BLANK_AUDIO] The design of the restaurant is the same, it's meant to be materials presented in their honest form. The woods, and the glass, and the china, and the silver, it all has a strand of kind of handcrafted nature throughout the whole thing. [MUSIC] Everything's an influence I guess to some degree. I mean, no matter where you go and what you see It's constantly a catalog of memories and likes, and preferences and dislikes. And I guess we just create from those memories. And I think that's the beauty of it all. [MUSIC]