The following is part of a series of monthly posts with Chef Erik Bruner-Yang.
The importance of vacation is to embrace the idea that there is more in this world than the small footprint one lays traffic on. The luxury of being able to travel to other parts of the world for vacation is a reward in itself. Opening new doors and embracing new cultures for the right-minded can inspire new paths of life and new inspirations. In my line of work this type of inspiration leads to new plates of food, perhaps entire new restaurant concepts, or the inspiration to retool current projects.
Staying innovative requires the mind to stay within its own bubble while learning and being inspired by how others in the world innovate and change too. I am in the school of thought that groupthink is still the greatest tool to inspiration than an idea of a “one man show” but sometimes there are those shows that push the parameters of change.
The intention of this piece was to be about the balance of inspiration during travel and how one uses those planted ideas to bloom new ones. Chefs constantly talk about ideas getting stolen, reinterpreted, and who came up with something first. Toki Underground is years of accumulated inspiration that sat somewhere in my memory bank, dormant for years, until the project began and everything came together. It was uniquely mine but also inspired by many people, many designs, and many cultures. Unfortunately, the world will never be able to avoid ex-pat copycats like Fukuro Noodle Bar in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Which is which?
With so many new projects already in the works what I was searching for in this trip wasn’t inspiration but validation. A one-week stay in Paris at the tail end of a winter vacation for my wife and I was just the right kind of break that I needed. The Parisians will always consider themselves the cultural capital of the world and even though I disagree, it isn’t far from the truth either. Travel recommendation lists are like Jekyll and Hyde. They provide a good parameter to start your adventure but run the risk of where you are enjoying someone else’s idea of a great trip.
Here is a list of great places to visit in Paris that validated to me what I chose to do for a living, the new concepts my team has opening, and why Parisians can consider themselves cultural trend setters. If you visit any of my new places opening up in 2014/2015 and you have been to these places in Paris and it seems like I am ripping them off, you can call me out on it:
213 rue saint-honoré 75001 Paris
111 boulevard beauchmarchais 75003 Paris
1 rue villedo 75001 Paris
43 rue des petites écuries 75010 Paris
43 rue des petites écuries 75010 Paris
Le Comptoir Général
80 quai de jemmapes 75010 Paris
Le Petit Cambodge
20 rue alibert 75010 Paris
Restaurant Le Chateaubriand
129 avenue parmentier 75011 Paris
About Erik Bruner-Yang
Executive Chef and Owner, Toki Underground
In January of 2011, chef and owner Erik Bruner-Yang opened the acclaimed Toki Underground in Washington, D.C. In the first years of its opening, Toki Underground has been nationally and locally recognized for its creative menu featuring hybrid Taiwanese style ramen, authentic Taiwanese dumplings, and Asian-themed cocktails. As the winner of the 2012 DC “Restaurant of the Year” and 2011 “So Hot Right Now” Eater Awards, Toki Underground continues to receive rave reviews from The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, the Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats”, and many more. Chef Yang’s consulting restaurant work for Kushi Izakaya and Sushi landed the 5th and K NW eatery as a 2011 James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant, Mid-Atlantic. Chef Erik Bruner-Yang, who is a resident of H Street, plans to expand his local footprint and commitment to the neighborhood with a new establishment named Maketto that will transport the Asian night market experience, energy and cuisine to Washington, D.C.