What keeps Sean Brock so passionate about cooking and the restaurant industry?
I love the eating, I love discovering and I love learning. And I’ve always been this way, since I was a little kid, and that’s what this job is— constant research, constant development, constantly forming relationships and searching out producers and even guests and even ideas, and then taking all of these things and developing them into a dining experience. That’s a lifetime journey. What I’m trying to do is going to take my entire life. I want to get food, Southern food, back to its purity and its honesty. And you can’t do that by yourself. It all starts with the dirt and the plants and the breeds, and if we can do that, which will take a lifetime, then we can sit down and enjoy food that is as delicious as it can possibly be. Let’s take watermelon, for instance. The watermelon we eat these days is like playing Russian roulette. No one ever knows even what variety it is. It’s so commercialized. If you go back to the 19th century, you’ll find very specific varieties grown for very specific flavors, all well documented. The ground and soil haven’t been contaminated with toxins and poisons like we have now. And if you can find an old Bradford watermelon seed and grow it in beautiful soil, then you’re going to taste a watermelon that’s going to blow your mind. Just like the heirloom tomato series. Once you taste an heirloom tomato grown in proper soil, you won’t let someone shove one of those plastic-looking tomatoes into your mouth. But what we have to understand is that every vegetable is in the same situation — even lemons, even celery. We’ve screwed celery up! Who’s growing beautiful heirloom celery? In order to move forward, we have to look back pretty far, and we have to dig through agricultural journals, and look through the literature and old newspaper ads and farm journals. We have to make friends with historians, professors, scientists and seeds men. We can’t just stay in the kitchen glued to the stove in order to move this cuisine forward. It’s a tremendous amount of work that involves a lot of different of people.