As a culinary artist with an imaginative palette amid backgrounds of visual art and cuisine, Garrett Tallent, founder of Bon Vivant, chefs his own epicurean experiences right in your home.
interview by nicole camack
Why did you choose to be a chef? In all honesty I didn’t choose it. I am one of those chefs who just fell into it. I spent several years as a visual artist, but I also really enjoyed cooking for my friends and family. As I learned more about haute cuisine, I quickly realized I could combine my two passions of art and food and paint on plates. I’ve been in love with culinary ever since.
Tell us about Bon Vivant. What’s the significance of the name and what motivated you to start? We wanted to find a name that represents my feelings about the culinary industry and what I feel I can bring to it. A bon vivant is above all an epicurean who enjoys the good life. We strive to make all of our clients “bon vivants” while serving them. Restaurants are amazing places I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to, but they are in abundance, even great ones. I’ve always loved the ever-changing nature of catering, meeting new people and hearing their stories.
What’s your favorite recipe? Unless it’s baking, I rarely follow recipes, not even my own. The recipe is a guide and I try my best to do something unexpected every time I cook. One of the best aspects of my business is that it allows me to be completely creative and make something different for each individual.
How do you respond to the theory that fine dining should be in a restaurant? I highly disagree. Restaurants are restricted by overhead and menu and cannot offer the variety and personal attention both in menu planning and at the table.
Things everyone should have in their kitchen? All the tools any good chef requires are a sturdy sauté pan and a spoon.
The culinary world is often overlooked for its artistic/artisan nature. Your blank canvas being a kitchen, talk about how you approach the “creation” for your dishes? The creative process for me begins with the client. I try and get a sense for what they want to experience, what they want to remember. Once I get to that place, I can go outside of the kitchen to find my creativity from farmers, stores, and sometimes other chefs. I also always find a good deal of creative energy in colors and visual art. I consult with my international and local purveyors and take all of that back to my test kitchen, pop on some classical music, and see where it takes me.
Where do you get your inspiration? My staff. I have always wanted to work in an environment where, literally, every person in the kitchen had something to work for, something to contribute, and something to lose. I think I have created that.
You’ve had a lot of successes. Talk about how you overcame fear and failure to live your dream. I’ve always felt that the true death of an artist or chef is one who doesn’t put themselves out there. I can take criticism and I have, but I always felt that I’d be better off falling flat on my face trying than if I stayed at home and no one ever saw it. For every one goal I accomplish I have six more waiting. But I’m not scared. I’ll always be hungry for more.
This interview was conducted early 2014.