I'm a jumping-bean kind of guy. I get up early, and I stay up late, and in between, I'm on the move—surfing, yoga, walking the dog, painting big, colorful, slightly mad canvases, going from one place to another. I just can't stop being in action in some way.
I think it's because my brain is always working. As the ideas race through my cerebellum, my body is trying to keep up. Until the moment comes when the racing ideas begin to cohere into a single clear picture, and then I know I have to capture that clarity right away.
That is when—and it is why—I write.
Writing gives balance to all the motion, slows down the frenzy of activity and thought, brings it all home. I write because it forces me—and enables me—to really examine the ideas running around in my head. This notion I have about roasted peaches and mascarpone with balsamic vinegar: is this for real? is this what I mean? Out comes the laptop, and I work through it—and the result may or may not become a new dish. (In this case, it was. And it was a winner.)
In other words, writing is the discipline that is the other side of the creativity of being a chef. And both sides—creativity and discipline—are rock-bottom essential for fine cooking.
I can't answer for my own creativity as a chef; I'm not sure where it comes from. But I know that the discipline comes from the reality of my disease: I'm a diabetic, and without discipline, I could never sustain the balance that keeps me alive and healthy.
In surfing, we say that being in balance on the board—perfectly positioned for stability with the knees bent, hips forward, arms up, eyes looking ahead—is what provides the "ultimate" experience, enabling you to ride the wave with speed and grace. Typically, you have to keep "trimming," adjusting your stance and position, to maintain the balance and sustain the experience.
It's the same in living with diabetes. So long as all the elements are in proportion and your life is in balance, you can keep on "shooting the curl," as surfers say—i.e., you can get right inside the heart of what life has to offer, live a sweet life without boundaries. And the way to get and keep everything in proportion and achieve that balance is through discipline.
Does my diabetic's discipline—my writing—add a special edge to my chef's creativity? Maybe. I wrote this book to show how creative you can be within the discipline of sustaining the balance diabetics need for health. The proof of the pudding—or the peaches—is in the eating.
Sam Talbot is executive chef of Imperial #9 at the Mondrian Hotel SoHo in New York City as well as the Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y. A diabetic since childhood, Talbot now works closely with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. He lives in New York City. The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries will be published by Rodale in October.