Sue Rathbun thinks it’s weird that we call things “caviar” when no one has ever tasted it.
The executive chef at Duke’s Roast brings a head-to-toe, three-week journey to New York City that is as comprehensive as it is disgusting. When she’s in the kitchen she sniffes each dish she prepares and makes sure there are no overwhelming odors that aren’t working together to create a unique and delicious dish.
Sounds crazy, right? Well, last year Rathbun went on a 10-day adventure to six countries across the world that was a culinary odyssey—to learn about the ingredients and farm-to-table food traditions in each region.
In Athens, Rathbun sampled “dead sea scallops, foul-smelling muddy water and ‘bug-giant’ belly of human sea slug.” In Hungary, she tried a “crusty hallucinogenic (but tasteful!) cilantro seed-hook bean and bland, gray street dog meat.” In London, Rathbun learned how to identify 10 different dried herbs that she used for “bitter, rotten vegetable” turns in her Thai soup. In North Korea, she tried “bitter, green-ish cabbage,” sweet camel food, the cold swatch of the South Korean winter, and the pungent ribs of the Hangi-ni mountains.
Ladies and Gentlemen, here is something you want to see
-and then imagine
But wait until you smell it.
It’s quite a mouthful:
-grade 4, asp (a type of algae) on cold, hard bread
-dead sea scallops (you will not try to eat them)
-a thick, hollow loin of dried sheep’s milk tongue
-carrots (no greens here)
-bacon (or another meat byproduct)
-any warm, sweet spices (stir in, ya’ll)
-wheat (no plants here)
Then there’s the slime you’ll find on everything:
-30 tons of sewer sludge
-1,500 tons of fertilizer
-$100,000 worth of pesticides
-an unholy plethora of animal waste
With all this going on, Rathbun would have discovered a whole new menu. “I’m not big on defining things, and sometimes, by the end of something, I don’t even know what to call it.”
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