The culinary star behind New York’s famed Le Bernardin offers a chef’s perspective on watchmaking.
By Laurie Kahle, October 12, 2011
Why are so many chefs passionate about watches?
There are similarities between watchmakers and chefs. It’s about craftsmanship more than anything else. In watchmaking, artistry comes in the design and when they create different complications for calculating time. For chefs, the artistry is in the look of the plate and also in the way we create flavors. We find ways to control flavors to create a dish like they control time. Those similarities bring us together in some way subconsciously. A watch is very useful for us because we work under time restrictions, and it’s a beautiful object that we respect.
What role does time play in your work?
Dining rooms in restaurants all over the world fill up twice per day, every day. Chefs have to organize themselves and create systems that allow them to serve 80 people at the same time, without anyone being frustrated because they wait too long or feeling rushed because it’s ready too fast. Timing is something we deal with both consciously and unconsciously on a daily basis. When creating sauces and preparations, sometimes we have to be very patient and let things cook for a long time. Other times we have to be very fast, because if something cooks too long, the flavors die.”
How did you become interested in watches?
I started my watch collection at age 15. When I graduated from culinary school, my mom gave me a round Cartier Santos ultra thin in gold and stainless steel. That was my first watch, and I still have it. Over the years, I have built a collection of about a dozen pieces.
What drew you to Vacheron Constantin?
I got into Vacheron Constantin about a decade ago. I saw an Overseas at a photo shoot, and I purchased it. Now I have a Royal Eagle and the Patrimony Contemporaine in platinum. I also have number seven of the limited-edition Historiques American 1921.
I like the mystique, the quality mentality, the design, and I like the way they create and organize their complications. I visited the factories where they make the watches, and I was amazed by the way the watchmakers work in a very confined universe. They look through a microscope all day long. Talking to them is so interesting, because when they see the world beyond the microscope they get overwhelmed, and I was overwhelmed by how confined their world is.