Restraint: What Cooks Can Learn From Miles Davis

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There is not an art form that I am not an appreciative fan of: food, music, theater, film, fine art. My love of food is evident in my career. My love of art was displayed in every restaurant I opened and is evident when you walk through my home. I would think that my love of music was validated with the creation of my restaurant Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco 16 years ago. Before that I created "Regina's at the Regis," which catered to the theater crowd and actors. You cannot love art and not feel complete awe for the creative artists.

Recently, I have a new found awe for Miles Davis. I know it may seem a bit strange when I say, "As a chef you can learn a lot from Miles Davis," but bear with me, I will get you there.

What Miles knew inherently as a jazz musician, as cooks often learn though experience and time, was restraint, or, simply put, "less is more."

On a recent Sunday I went to Lafayette, Louisiana, to see my friend Lisa Fischer, who is touring with jazz artist Chris Botti. Now that I am in Natchez most of the time, New York just some of the time, and San Francisco less and less, I never see my friends enough. The beauty of true friendship is you always pick up where you left off, and what I have also found with true friendship is that if you keep your expectations simple and sincere it endures. Lisa will remain always as one of the most amazing people and vocalists I have met.

We were instant friends when we first met over 19 years ago. Lisa was working with my more than brilliant friend songwriter, drummer, and producer Narada Michael Walden, on a song for her album So Intense. Narada always brought nice people into my life. He would call me to make reservations at Regina's and say, "I need some biscuit love." I knew I would have a captive audience to show off my art form, which is Southern cooking. Whenever Narada would come to the restaurant he would make me give his guests a kitchen tour, and his favorite part was the rolling racks in the walk-in cooler with sheet pans full of stuffed oysters that were prepared to go into the oven for my popular "oysters 2, 2 and 2." I had a variety of baked oysters, and guests could choose two of each.

Funny, the things that we remember. To this day I remember the black velvet maternity outfit I wore (feeling very pregnant and unattractive) while Lisa was very chic and had the most amazing leopard heels—but all evening she kept telling me how fabulous I looked pregnant. She won a Grammy for "How Can I Ease the Pain"; she should have won an Academy Award for making me believe that I looked fabulous even though I was big and pregnant. Right after meeting Lisa she began touring with the Rolling Stones from 1994 and every tour since—Voodoo Lounge Tour, Bridges to Babylon Tour, No Security Tour, Licks Tour, A Bigger Bang Tour, and the Steel Wheels tour. If you have ever seen her perform, you know how talented she is. I am touting her because not only is she one of the most talented singers I have seen, she is genuinely one of the loveliest, talented, and still humble people I know. She has never been on a tour that did not somehow include my family, and she remains special to each one of us.

I should have known if Lisa was touring with Chris Botti that he had to have mega talent and be a wonderful person. He is hands down the most amazing trumpet player of our generation. Many remember Chris from touring with Paul Simon, then with Sting's band until Sting had the foresight to have Chris form his own band to open for Sting's tour. Like Lisa, Chris has quite the impressive resume and like Lisa he has an amazing heart. I was so touched when he chose a woman out of the audience whose husband had been deployed to Iraq; Chris not only dedicated the evening to her and her husband—he genuinely played to her as if she were the only person in the room. I can spot a true heart, like true talent, when it is present.

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Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of Regina's Table at Twin Oaks. More

Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of two cookbooks: A Collection of Seasonal Menus & Recipes from Regina's Kitchen and Regina's Table at Twin Oaks.
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