What Leonard Cohen Taught Chef Nancy Hinton About Food



This Post Contains 24% Of Your Recommended Daily Allowance Of Leonard Cohen

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.

~ From Democracy by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen – Restaurant Consultant

Chef Nancy Hinton1 opens her essay, What Leonard Cohen taught me about food (soupnancy: September 18, 2007), with these words:

Do not judge. Just do your thing. Try and please the person on the receiving end, the consumer of your art, whoever he or she is without any expectation of appreciation. This is what Leonard Cohen taught me about cooking.

Peeking under the silver dome to check out the entrée,2 it turns out that the key to the lesson is that “Leonard Cohen’s music made me [Ms Hinton] realize that it is still possible to be touched profoundly by something without understanding every nuance.”

She goes on to discuss the parallel situation in which she, as a chef, might feel her skills are wasted in preparing meals for yokels.3

Her point, of course, is that less refined customers may genuinely and profoundly enjoy her food without grasping each aspect of the process of preparation or the product much the same way that she is deeply moved by Cohen’s songs and words without grasping each aspect of the process of preparation or the product.

… covering Leonard Cohen songs, especially for television soundtracks,
[is] one of the few high growth industries in the current economy …

And, she is precisely correct (i.e., her view is identical to mine) about Leonard Cohen’s generosity of spirit in making his music and poetry accessible not only to a widely diverse audience but also to other musicians, who have made covering Leonard Cohen songs, especially for television soundtracks, one of the few high growth industries in the current economy; to visual artists, who use his words as inspiration; and to more profoundly creative sorts like Phillip Glass, who adapt and weave his work into their own visions.

Heck, he’s gracious to journalists, some of whom clearly lack any manners, let alone a valid perspective on his oeuvre, and who use his conversations as well as his professional work to sell cold remedies and diet colas advertised in their publications.

I admit to being a tad disappointed that the chef-author chose not to comment on Leonard Cohen’s penchant for “pair[ing] Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with a 1982 Chateau La Tour,”4 his experience during his five year stay with the Zen monks on Mount Baldy as a cook (his specialties were soups and a lauded preparation of teriyaki salmon),5 or the Red Needle cocktail he concocted, according to the authoritative LeonardCohenFiles, from Tequila, Cranberry juice, Lemon (and/or exotic fruits), and ice.

Otherwise, however, Nancy Hinton’s post is not only an interesting, relevant, and thoughtful piece well worth reading but also a heartening source of encouragement for folks like me who have on occasion been treated cavalierly at one or two of your swankier beaneries. The idea of a hot-shot chef who believes in putting out her best work for every customer, regardless of his bumpkin titer, and who has a thing for Leonard Cohen has me ready to hie myself to Montreal to chow down at Ms Hinton’s establishment.

Her post can be found at What Leonard Cohen taught me about food
Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post is courtesy of my Photoshop program.

Note: Originally posted Dec 13, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Nancy Hinton describes herself on her blog:
    I’m thirty seven years old, an anglo from Quebec City, and a chef by profession. Formerly the chef de cuisine at L’Eau à la Bouche, I now cook at “la Table des Jardins Sauvages”, a woodland table specializing in wild plants and mushrooms just outside Montreal, and I consult and teach on the side. In spirit, I’m a proud Québecoise and Canadian, who loves Montreal, and the country too. I’m a fiesty, passionate, idealistic, slightly obsessive-compulsive insomniac, who loves life, and my job. I love food and cooking, and making people happy. I love to work hard and play hard. I love fire and knives; I love fresh herbs, tomatoes, almonds and cheese. I love curry, and meat broths, and everything anise flavored. I love anything from a pig, anything green, and anything pickled. I love good coffee and wine, and eating with chopsticks. I love the smell of men’s cologne, of Dad’s bagel shop, and of fresh coriander. I love making lists and checking things off. When not in the kitchen, I love newspapers, reading and rollerblading. I love CBC radio, Leonard Cohen and being in the sky.

    She sounds, in fact, delightful – if a bit exhausting. []

  2. The wordplay could have been worse – I considered using “spill the beans” []
  3. To be fair, she doesn’t call the culinary disadvantaged “yokels.” She calls us “country bumpkins on a bender,” which I’m sure is meant only in the nicest way. Shucks, within the Québecoise crowd, “country bumpkins” is probably one of those expressions that masquerade as insults but are actually used as an ironic signs of comradely, not unlike men in the Ozarks greeting each other with “Jim, you ol’ SOB, how are you?” []
  4. Quote from Anjani Thomas. See Pitchfork interview []
  5. See Rolling Stone, “The New Leonard Cohen” []