i asked my protege Gabriel Short a few questions and the monstrosity before you is what spewed out. i kid, but really this is a kid who keeps me on my toes and has become my constant reminder that there is always somebody else new out there around the corner waiting on their chance.since I was giving the chance to shine, i think it would be a huge disservice to myself and those who helped me if i didnt turn around and help every person i could. so with out further ado, i present to you, Gabriel Short.
What is it that you do?
I am a college student at the University of Memphis studying Anthropology, History, and the Japanese language. I work at Tsunami in midtown Memphis as a pantry chef. Although my creativity and sense of originality are still developing, I have received a lot of instruction from my coworkers and have been taught more in the culinary arts than I ever dreamed possible when I began working as a dishwasher almost four years ago. Outside of Tsunami, I have had some experience creating and decorating themed cakes and small baked goods for small occasions. My most influential muses in the culinary arts outside of Tsunami have been drawn from a lifetime of playing and following the storylines of several varieties of video games. Most of my cakes have been in some way made to resemble or refer to either video games or some other venue of “nerd culture”, which incidentally has surprisingly had a recent fusion and adoption of the culinary arts.
Furthering this affinity, after two years of tossing the idea around in my head I have finally broken through and began to catalogue and create recipes for food found in and inspired by video games. Originally this concept was meant to manifest as a cookbook, but after more creative channels and ideas came into play I shifted the plan to be reinvented into an online blog site, which I have dubbed “Eat Bit”. The name Eat Bit is a play on the old pixel and 8-bit sound drive used in early video game formatting on consoles like the original Nintendo Entertainment System, (NES), the Super Nintendo, (SNES), and Atari and arcade systems. I am not the first with this concept, as there are other blogs such as The Geeky Chef and Gourmet Gaming that have already assembled a vast library of recipes and concepts for food found in video games. However, I am still driving on with my take on the foods in games as there are still several niches and motifs that have not been explored within game food creation. And ultimately, I realize that cooking is obviously an art, and as such as an aspiring artist of the craft I am not only giving myself the drive and experience of learning more eclectic cooking techniques in a way that will hold my attention; I am also, and more importantly, putting a bit of myself into each recipe to let gamers and chefs alike see what these foods mean and represent to me.
For the people who don’t know you, why should they care?
The only thing I can think of as to why a wider range of people outside my family, friends, and acquaintances should care about what I do is if they find what I do to be of enough interest to them; and if my work can provide them with one of the most important and influential forces known- inspiration. In the past few weeks I have experienced and been tremendously humbled by a large assortment of people taking an interest in my work both in and out of Tsunami. My special dessert creations have received a lot of attention since I began cataloging them and placing them in my virtual portfolio, and I have been given a lot of praise on some of my recipes for Eat Bit from friends and strangers- so far as even in other countries. The margin of people I think who will care about what I’m doing isn’t necessarily measurable in percentage demographics or some other crude increment.
I think the true measurement of identifying who and how many people would care about my work lies simply in how many people care about not only video games and cooking, but in the pursuit of creativity, and the progress of one’s creative potential. I have had people that don’t know the first thing about video games and are occasional stove-top cooks at best tell me that I am talented and that they look forward to seeing more simply because they enjoy my style. Speaking for myself, when I see others reach out and claim goals that rely on their own sense of creative force, it inspires me to do the same in my own medium. I don’t consider myself yet to be that movable a source of inspiration, but I do hope to become one through my work, and pass on not only the raw inspiration, but also the confidence it takes to act on inspiration.
What are your short term culinary related goals? 5 year goals? 15 year goals?
While I am interested in progressing my culinary knowledge and skills, I don’t actually have any ironed-out goals for the long run. Eat Bit is just a project to have fun with and share among my gaming friends, and baking at home is mostly simply recreational. My primary goal is to do something with what I’m learning in school. I am continuing my learning and progress culinary wise to serve as a solid back up; but I do not want to have spent the time, money, and work I’ve invested with school to not do anything with my degrees. However, if my culinary endeavors do take flight, I won’t sell them short or let opportunities to invest in them pass me by.
Why culinary arts?
I initially became interested in the culinary arts as a young teenager, likely from a mixture of having a family well versed in cooking for generations, being charmed by the fiction of Food network, and also out of a fear of not knowing what else I would do with my life in the still to this day intimidating realm of adulthood. I began my first few clumsy steps into cooking out of necessity though; being the only child of a single parent household requires a little know how- though really I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I started cooking very simple things, and quickly grew an affinity for breakfast foods given their high carb and energy content, as well as the fact that I admittedly have a tremendous sweet tooth. From this I went on to pursue my sweet tooth and began baking. I remember the first thing I ever baked on my own was a zucchini bread loaf and I remember feeling extraordinarily triumphant, though now in retrospect it was admittedly an incredibly small accomplishment.
In truth, I do believe that with that success was really when I had my first true inkling of seriously taking the culinary arts as a potential path. The true motivation behind my making the zucchini bread was, as it likely is the motivation for many guys of any art form, is best quoted by Robin Williams in The Dead Poet’s Society, “to woo women”. The zucchini bread I made was to be a gift for my at-the-time-girlfriend’s mother’s wedding. However, it wound up being an incredibly powerful piece of encouragement for me as her mother and stepfather requested that I make them another two loaves and ice them in a simple cream cheese icing to be their wedding cake. It was at this time I really began thinking that I may actually have potential for cooking.
However, I did not really have much guidance or influence aside from Food Network to actually get to really practice the craft. It wasn’t until I was seventeen that I really got my chance to work and become involved with cooking. It was half way through my senior year of high school at Central High and my mom had been in between jobs for several months. I had began frantically looking for work to help nullify my own personal expenses and to help with bills. After months of no one taking an interest in me, I received word from my English teacher, Ms. Kristy Alley, that some past employers of hers needed a dishwasher at their restaurant- Tsunami. She told me that she put in a good word for me and to call the head chef, Ben Smith, about confirming an interview. Looking back now, though I at the time believed I was being very professional and tried to sound as responsible and mature as I could muster, I’m sure that from Ben’s perspective on that phone call I sounded hopelessly ditzy and childish. However, Ben did give me that opportunity and I have worked at Tsunami ever since and have learned more things than I could have even imagined possible about food from him, as well from the Sous-Chef Donny Graham, my friend and mentor Chef Kevin Sullivan, and the rest of the crew through the years. I willl always be grateful for Ms. Alley’s help connecting me to Tsunami, as well as the chance Ben took to give me the shot to see what I was worth.
What is the one lesson that if you keep could start over again from scratch and still remember?
The one lesson I would keep in mind is that above all and despite everything: do it. Don’t worry if it’s already been done. Don’t worry if it’s going to be hard. Just do it. What YOU do will be YOURS. Not anyone else’s. You may not get fame; you may not get notoriety of any sort. Those glamorous niceties are not what define success- action is. The most important thing is to just keep going and carry out what it is you want to do- and do your best to not see it as work, but as recreation.
What gets you through the lows of chasing your dreams?
The things that most spur me on even through the muck and build up of the nastier parts of life are both the encouragement and love I get from friends, mentors, and family, and also my sense of fear in failing in what I want to do. I am very concerned and fearful of failing- rather, not failing, but giving up. Failure is merely a way to learn whereas giving up is the only true failure, and unfortunately I feel it is all too a seductive choice for me sometimes. However, I now have had so many people, (even strangers and fresh acquaintances), encourage me and reassure me that not only am I very much loved for not only what I do in culinary, recreational, and educational terms; but also for who I am. And that knowledge is the best thing in my arsenal I have to keep me going- the feeling that I am of significance enough to someone that they would want to help me with my own projects, or check out my future ideas, or just want to be around me and learn just who I am- knowing that I am that loved is the most powerful force and drive I could ever fathom, let alone ask for.
One word to describe your work and why?
Fun. Though it can be exhausting, irritating, and usually consists of a haunting looming feeling that I’m not working as hard or often as I should be, I do describe my own personal work to be very fun. I think the true source of the fun is in finding all the crazy things and ideas I’ve been having; and discovering my own sense of creativity. The many forms of study and research I’ve had to put into creating my recipes for my blog has been particularly enjoyable- figuring out how to create the recipe versions of the foods in video games, researching the cooking techniques of how to make them, and infusing the recipes with reflective elements to give depth to the actual ideas behind them.
For example, to further the motif of the Koopasta from the Paper Mario games being a delicacy of the turtle-like Koopa, I thought to incorporate wakame seaweed into the spinach noodle pasta mixture, along with fresh spinach leaves and ginger vinaigrette. Another example would be my utilizing the first few steps in the process of making crème brulee to accentuate the French elements in making the creamy French-inspired drink Chateau Romani from the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Thinking of ways to add depth and real personality to my takes on the foods in video games has been very enlightening- I’ve surprisingly learned much on my own about the histories and culture behind the real world inspirations of the food I’m now working with.
If you had the world’s attention for a moment what would you share?
That is an incredibly difficult question to answer, which I predict is why it was asked. I don’t think anything I’m doing is worth the world’s attention, but should such a freak occurrence present itself, I would think I would share the only thing I really have- myself. I would share who I am, what I do, and where I want to be. I guess, essentially I would present this very interview since this is similar and probably as close to the entire world as I’m going to get. Sheesh, next question!
Any online presence?
I am currently configuring several recipes I have made and am familiarizing myself with blog creation and management. I anticipate having Eat Bit completely up and running with weekly updates and an initial collection of at least 15 game recipes by September 2012, as well as a synchronized page on facebook. I also have a page on DeviantART at whisksambition.deviantart.com. For my cake services, I do have a group on Facebook called “Short Cakes”, which is the best way to contact me for anyone in the Memphis area. More pictures of my cakes will be uploaded soon so as to provide a more expansive portfolio.
And there you have it people, what can i say that has not already been said. Watch out for Gabriel Short in the future and enjoy a small gallery below of a few of his works!