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The latest episode of Culinary Journeys by CNN International aired last week following chef Kevin Gillespie as he traveled to the countryside of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to learn about the traditional asado method of grilling meat.
In the episode, the keen meat and BBQ enthusiast, who runs a number of restaurants that serve Southern style American dishes, learned about open fire cooking techniques and the idea of letting the meat shine. No rubs, spices, or special sauces - just perfectly cooked meat with what he calls a "complex brine".
It’s a top episode that follows a wide eyed chef in search of knowledge. You can now watch the whole episode online with the three clips below, plus read our interview with Gillespie as he discusses what he took away from the wonderful experience.
Tell us about your Culinary Journey.
"I honestly think that the best part about it was watching this passion for a style of cookery that we in the Northern American portions share with our cousins in South America. We learned it from the same people and to watch that style of open fire cooking, whether we call it BBQ here and they call it Asado, just seeing the similarities you realise that even though we live thousands of miles apart we really share a lot of the same culinary heritage.
"I believe that chefs inherently are drawn to some of these older ways… there’s a piece of us that’s just rooted in our humanity and as human beings we are naturally drawn to the essence and power of fire. And when you look at the food world that we’re in these days with places that offer more style than substance, how could you revert back to more substantive cooking than to return to cook with fire? When people now are trying to find a way to differentiate themselves, as funny as it is, returning to the most archaic method possible almost makes you unique.
"One of the things that I noticed is how simple they make the seasoning. For example, when they’re cooking meat, they don’t cover in a lot of various spices or rub it down with anything, they essentially make a complex salt water brine and they use that liquid to baste the meat as it’s cooking. It seemed a little peculiar to me but what I realised is that their goal is to focus on perfect cooking. I think they feel that the more simplistic they can do it, it’s a show of prowess and that’s a very brave way of cooking - one that I applaud and although I’ve been saying it for many years, it really energises you to going home and focusing on doing things in the most simplistic manner but executing them perfectly".
What’s one culinary journey you really look forward to taking?
"For me it’s actually something that we have been trying to cook for years, it’s the traditional open pit BBQ of The Deep South. It’s a whole hog cooked in a manner where it is just seasoned with salt and cooked over coals. It sounds very simple but almost no one does it any more because it’s a very difficult technique to execute. There’s only two places near my home that do it, one is seven hours away and one is nine hours away, and I frequently drive to both of those places just to eat lunch because I love that food so much.
"I look forward to waking up early in the morning and getting on the road, drinking my cup of coffee, watching the sun come up as I'm already driving, finally arriving at this place in the early afternoon and having that meal, that eight hours of build up is one that gets you so excited about it and it never disappoints".
What’s one of the highlights of your own career journey.
"One of the largest highlights I ever had was that, when I was 17-years-old I said I was going to own my own restaurant by the time I was 25 and all of my peers and mentors told me that was not going to happen, they wanted to squash that idea out of my head but I wouldn’t let it go. I bought Woodfire Grill, my first restaurant, on September 24th of 2008 and I turned 25 six days later. I felt like I’d accomplished a goal that I wanted, for me it was one of those huge marquee moments where I felt that the at least the journey I was trekking I was doing at the pace I wanted to".
If you could take a culinary journey anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
"I would go to India. The reason for that is that I’ve been working on this research from the past 10-years or so regarding how the food of the Southern United States of America and the food of Western India parallel each other.
"The reason it exists is that the route of slaves and spices in and out of India produced a parable cuisine. We use a lot of the same ingredients and techniques that they do and then we apply our own personality to them. I brought in an Indian chef into one of my restaurants a few years ago and we each created five dishes and asked people to tell us which chef prepared which course and they couldn’t tell.
"To me that’s the next big journey that I have to figure out how to take. It’s an interesting piece of culinary history and I guarantee that most people here don’t think they have any link to Western India".