If you’ve seen me on television—or if you’ve visited one of my Atlanta restaurants—you know I’m passionate about finding creative ways to reinvent classic dishes. I like to experiment in the kitchen and work with unusual textures and flavors, and I love when the food I serve surprises and intrigues my guests. I’m often asked where I get my inspiration—and that’s a tricky question, because my ideas come from a diverse range of sources. One major influence, however, would definitely be plastic packaging and storage containers.
Here are a few examples:
- Flexible plastic packaging: I grew up eating packaged and pre-cooked foods, so I have a nostalgic connection to food packaging. And it’s amazing to see how packaging has advanced due to innovations in plastics. You now see sustainable, minimalist food packaging that keeps food fresh on grocery store shelves and can be re-sealed to easily store leftovers. Some time I’d love to prepare food and then serve it in re-sealable plastic packaging—sort of an appeal to nostalgia and a tribute to this amazing plastic innovation.
- Re-sealable plastic storage containers: These small containers are an iconic part of any chef’s kitchen, and my fridge is filled with them. They’re great for storing sauces, ingredients, and leftovers until I’m ready to use them. I don’t have the most well-organized fridge, but I would never be able to find anything without these containers! Also, sustainability is very important to me, and it’s easier than ever to find durable, reusable plastic storage containers made with recycled plastics to help close the recycling loop.
- Cosmetics containers: I know this might sound a little weird, but plastic cosmetics packaging is so innovative and diverse that I can’t help but be inspired by it. I wouldn’t actually use a lipstick tube for food, but the lipstick dispensing method that plastics enable is intriguing to me, and I might find a way to use that for food one day. And I often work with foods that have a gel-like consistency, so I think it’d be fun to dispense one of them using a squeezable plastic bottle like the kind hair gel comes in.
- Plastic wraps: I love exploring new uses for plastic wraps, including plastic bubble wrap and plastic film. The unique textures of these plastic products give me all sorts of interesting ideas. I love using bubble wrap as a mold for forming visually striking chocolate garnishes. Plastic film also is such an amazing product, and I’d love to make an edible version out of sugar—but with the same texture as the plastic kind.
- Spherical plastic containers: I’m obsessed with spheres in cooking. I think it’s the perfect, precise shape that intrigues me. I’m drawn to the unusual and unexpected in cuisine, and the sphere is not a shape you typically see on your dinner plate. I rely on plastics to help me mold food into spheres—I’m not sure how I would create my favorite shape without my perfectly spherical plastic containers!
I can’t think of any type of material that does as many different things—and plays such a large role in our lives—as plastics. This versatility inspires me to incorporate new, unconventional ideas into my cooking, helping me explore my creativity to give my restaurant guests new experiences. And plastic packaging and storage containers available now at retail stores make it easy for any home chef—whether pro, amateur, or anything in between—to put his or her own personal spin on favorite recipes.