There's a great interview with my hero Thomas Keller at Epicurious.com. In particular, his musings on passion and community echo my feelings and experience with food. (Interview questions in bold):
One of the great things about bistros, and not just about bistros but about cooking and dining in general, is the sense of community. Do you feel that?
It's a real social interaction, whether you're cooking or whether you're eating. You have to feel comfortable in your environment. In the restaurant, we enjoy doing what we're doing together. That's really one of the wonderful things about being in a kitchen environment where there's a common vision and a common goal and a common respect for what you're doing. It's like nothing else, it really is.
And that passion translates to the food?
You have to be emotionally attached. I cook because it fulfills something inside of me, satisfaction, gratitude, making somebody happy. It's all wrapped up in those emotions, and eating should be the same. I understand in modern society we can't always be emotionally connected to what we're eating and what we're doing, but there are those moments when we have to sit back and appreciate it and say, "Okay, this is that moment where I'm just going to relax and have this event."
At the end, Keller closes with one of the best things I've ever heard:
"I think one of the true meanings of success is creating a memory for somebody."
Also included are menus, a cooking demo by Keller, and a video tour behind the scenes at Per Se all accessible from this page. I really need to start saving for a Per Se visit.