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Chef’s Eye - Marie Hull’s Watermelons

Monday, January 4, 2016

See more in our Chef’s Eye series, where Executive Chef and Culinary Curator unearths culinary inspiration in the galleries of the Museum.

Coming around the corner in the Marie Hull exhibition, I was delighted to confront a painting of one of my favorite naturally occurring treats, the watermelon. When I look at this painting by Hull - Rinds, painted in 1947 - I see a world of stories. You’ll notice the bite marks – whoever was eating the watermelon took it all the way down to the rind.

That’s how we did it as kids. Watermelons were the perfect Saturday snacks. The whole family would sit outside on a picnic table eating and there wouldn’t be a napkin in sight. It’s all about getting up close and personal with the food. Eating every bit, and spitting the seeds out on the ground.

I always get a kick out of eating watermelons because it’s food play. And play is so important in cooking. When you have that playfulness in the kitchen, it makes you more engaged with the process. It keeps you entertained. Whether you’re slicing fruits and vegetables or searing a piece of bright, fresh fish. If you love to cook, it’s not a chore, it’s a game and a performance. As chefs, we play with our tools just like a passionate mechanic or a basketball player would. And when you have that happiness embedded in your craft, it makes you more connected to your ingredients and it shows in the end result. And the goal is victory. For a chef, that means having the diner give you the thumbs up and eat everything on the plate. All the way down the rind.