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San Jose, Costa Rica
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A magical space in the center of Costa Rica's capital. For unique architectural pieces, furniture and objets d'art, a discovery of treasures to enjoy for a lifetime. Park Cafe's restaurant has relocated. Please read below for information.
Original Indian Doors
Park Cafe Designs using Indonesian carved panels
Columns and side cabinets by Park Cafe Antiques
Indian Tribal Door
"Un espacio magico en la capital de Costa Rica.
Observations from the Kitchen is an autobiographical adventure story that unfolds upon the metaphoric battlefield of a chess board, a place The Cook uses to describe and make sense of a lifetime spent in service to gastronomy.
Set within the sweatshop kitchens that have been his home, it is a journey that takes the reader from the frenetic chaos of the London's West End to the narcissistic playgrounds of the Cote d'Azur, through amazing India and magical Marrakech to the snow-covered domes of the Kremlin before ending in the steamy jungles of beautiful Costa Rica.
The Cook invites different companions, the people who have touched him, made his life something other than mundane, to join him 'a table', where, whilst preparing his signature dishes, they discuss such themes as Ambition, Loyalty and Contentment and whether such ideas are comprehensible to anyone other than the person who utters them.
Tico Times book review. April 2014.
Richard Neat, the cerebral chef over at San José’s Park Café, has a penchant for chess, Russian novels, philosophy and political manifestos. Now he’s whipped up perhaps his most complex dish in the form of a self-published reminiscence centered on “life at the center of the gastronomic revolution.”
Neat weaves in tantalizing snippets of how he prepares his signature dishes, as well as vivid travelogues covering his nomadic life over four decades, from London to France to India to Morocco to Costa Rica.
The introspective, existential themes of the book are played out against the strategic framework of an ongoing chess game and fashioned after a Platonic dialogue, with the chef debating such heady topics as ambition, faith, hubris and loyalty, with various opposing interlocutors. Along the way we are also treated to scathing but entertaining rants against greedy, over-taxing governments, and — my favorite — poisonous, overweening restaurant critics.
As a non-chess player, the metaphoric strategy was lost on me. What I did enjoy were the insights Neat provides into what it takes to aspire to and reach the pinnacle of artistry and craftsmanship in any field – in his case, gastronomy, and the golden grail of Michelin stardom.
The achievement of two Michelin stars in his London restaurant Pied à Terre, along with the only Michelin star awarded to an Englishman cooking in France, for his Neat Cannes restaurant, certainly qualifies the chef as an expert in what it takes to succeed in the gastronomic world. Much of the book deals with the collision between the forces of creativity and the high-stakes economics of the restaurant business.
Each chapter features the preparation of a Neat signature dish, starting with smoked foie gras with onion purée, and ending with an incredibly complicated braised pig’s head with pumpkin purée. Neat makes it all seem so deceptively simple. But these complicated “preps” make you realize how much training, experience and talent it takes to attain Neat’s level of creativity and craftsmanship.
The pressures to “create new temptations to amuse my ever-fickle audience” and to become a “faultless, fanatical craftsman” are neatly balanced by the pleasure Neat takes in the “beasts and vegetables that were reared and grown with care,” which, he says “oblige a cook to treat them with sufficient reverence.”
There is a lot to digest in Neat’s observations, on a number of levels. As a food aficionado, the lasting impression I took away was the realization that, along with skill, a lot of thinking goes into haute cuisine. All those decades Neat has spent in the kitchen were not just about producing food to eat, but also food for thought.
“Observations From the Kitchen“ by Richard Neat is available on-line for $7.99 at http://bookstore.authorhouse.com/Products/SKU-000683863/Default.aspx. Or visit Neat’s blog at www.parkcafecostarica.blogspot.com.
I had hoped to have a professionally edited and photographed book to offer and even imagined that I had secured the help of a large and prestigious literary agency whose M.D encouraged me over the summer with the following assessment ........
OBSERVATIONS FROM THE KITCHEN is rather wonderful. You’ve created an extraordinary work here, and a beautifully crafted one. I found myself thinking that every creative should read it regardless of what industry they’re in or skillset they’re mastering. It raises such important questions, and is so refreshingly forthright about them.
This work is unique in many ways, yet you refer to OBSERVATIONS as a novel. That brings with it certain assumptions and expectations. I’m not sure that this is where it should sit. It’s such a smart, thoughtful, brave discussion about some really difficult (dare I say unresolvable) issues. It strikes me as a meditation, a parable, an exploration of the creative journey. If a reader comes to the work with that sort of lens, I think they would get a lot more out of it than if they came to it with “novel” in mind.
Unfortunately, the company decided that the book was impossible to 'position' so I am left with offering an amateurishly edited book accompanied by my own home photographs. I do hope however, that you might still enjoy it.
If you would like a copy you can find it at the following link.