Holism over Hokkaido Scallops

Because philosophy’s more fun when it’s full of flavor

“Luck is rarely a lightning strike, isolated and dramatic. It’s much more like the wind, blowing constantly. Sometimes it’s calm and sometimes it blows in gusts. Sometimes it comes from directions you didn’t even imagine.” — Tina Seelig

Truth is I’ve been inspired to write some variation of this for quite some time but I’ve kept getting interrupted and now I know why… because some things are meant to wait for their perfect moment. It’s frustrating before you know why things aren’t advancing the way you want them to, but then kismet happens and it all just clicks.

Thousands of things had to occur precisely the way they did in order to be sitting at that exact dinner table last night, just as last night had to happen for these thoughts to get on paper.

I guess you could say the stars aligned, especially since this moment was not only under the stars, but… in a star? It started at the roof of Culver City’s Waffle Building in a very special restaurant called Vespertine, the result of Chef Jordan Kahn, Architect Eric Owen Moss, and a series of artists, sculptors, engineers and specialists of all *10* senses who co-created a surreal and almost utopian 20-course edible gallery that felt much like entering an asteroid that was catapulted on planet Earth. The building was barren and alive, sedated and uplifting, solemn and magnetic, humming as if every atom had a heavy trace of human consciousness with no actual human in sight. Kinda freaky. We ate chips and dip in the form of crunchy giant kelp and yuzu emulsion, a milkbread (??) wrapped in garlic leather topped with a delicate layer of mushroom teardrops, and a Hokkaido scallop not to be mistaken with the bright black terrain sparkling after the water brushes the shore of the obsidian beaches of Vik, Iceland.

The conversation at the table began with a mention of Tina Seelig’s Ted Talk, which positions luck as the reward of risk-taking rather than something that happens by chance. The funny thing is that the dinner itself was the thesis of the talk personified. According to Seelig, it wasn’t chance that the three individuals who served as — not a but the — mentors in different and seemingly unrelated stages and spheres of my young adulthood all happened to be sitting at the same table, working on one project, together. By the same logic, it wasn’t chance that the woman who responded to my blind email as a hungry freshman in college had the same exact first, and last, unusual name as my mom, or that “the other” Ronit Menashe went to grad school with my current boss who called her as a reference before I was hired thinking we were related, or that I got very temporarily “laid off,” leaving just enough time to stumble into Joey’s Venice rooftop office the Summer of 2015. Somehow, 3 summers later, he stumbled back into mine, until it became ours. How do you explain that if not by chance?

For brevity’s sake, I’ve left some holes to this magnificent story, but the point is that it’s all too perfect. Having a hand in building up the culinary program for one of the world’s top ideas festivals is beyond my wildest dreams. Learning from someone who has a unique and oddly aligned flavor philosophy is even better. Getting invited to experience one of the most revolutionary dining experiences in the world after having witnessed it’s ideation from behind the scenes is the best. But sitting at that table with the three people who made that exact moment possible, collaborating with them on a project that feels too much like fate is the pinnacle of everything. Because whether it’s by chance or not, what we come to call fate is just the universe’s way of converting a “this is too good to be true” to a “this is exactly where you belong.” Even when it’s confusing, hard work, and uncertain, interconnectedness is the single most gratifying feeling in the human experience. It transcends the who, what and where, and takes a different shape for everyone, but when it happens, nothing really matters because everything you want, you already have.

So? Where do we go from here?

“The gym,” says Joey.

He’s probably right.

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Food-born thoughts about the moments in between.

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