This is a pretty great question and can be hard to answer. If you try and think back to the first piece of food you ever made, it is most likely a pb&j or tomato soup straight from the can. I've chosen to focus on the first dish I can remember making as a professional in food service. I was actually a waiter at a country club and I asked a line cook who would soon become one of my best friends how to put together this dish that I had seen him make so many times. I still remember Dan telling me how to cut the leeks(I remember thinking that I'd never really thought about what a leek was) and rinse all of the grit from the freshly cut vegetable. I remember putting that dish together. Again, I wasn't a cook yet. I was a waiter who spent too much time in the kitchen. Soon enough the club management would decide that since I wasn't going to leave the kitchen, they should just make me a cook. Good idea, guys!
This dish is still around. When Summer comes around and corn and tomatoes are at their peak, I love putting this dish on the menu. First, let's talk about the dish: Salmon is the main protein, the base is sweet corn, tomato, leek, red potato, shallot, garlic, dry vermouth, Old Bay and a bit of dairy. Sure, throughout my career, I have tinkered with the dish a little bit. Now, the salmon gets walked across the grill and gets a little wood smoke before being plated.
I think the key takeaway for me is to not be afraid of keeping a great dish around. Sometimes, in the rush to be creative, we want to never duplicate anything; always looking to change things and come up with new dishes. I've come to realize that if you have a great dish that people love and can relate to, you should celebrate that dish. As long as you keep looking at the flavor profiles with a fresh set of eyes and taste buds, the dish will continue to evolve and stay fresh. The reasons that classics become passe is because people begin to take them for granted and stop caring about the details; they stop looking at them with fresh eyes.
I love this dish. It connects me to my earliest days of professional cooking. It connects me to the great friends I made as a young cook. I really hope that there are dishes at Josephine that the kitchen team will be able to look back at years from now and remember all the great times we had creating and recreating them day in and day out. Those memories are priceless and I hope I can contribute to making those memories.