There was a time where holding a recipe book meant following a magical recipe which let us into the secrets of how to transform ingredients into a delicious meal. When a perfect recipe would give us the best lemon custard ever. No questions asked. We would just follow the recipe.
When I started my cooking apprenticeship, I was told that I should know, by heart, every single classic dish that made up French gastronomy. I should know my Sauce Choron from my Hollandaise. I should know what a Bercy garnish adds to a filet of Sole. I should be reverent to everything Escoffier had said and done. So I learnt it, and without realizing I became just another recipe follower.
Then in 1993 I entered the kitchen of Alain Ducasse, and for the next two years I slowly rediscovered the fundamentals of cooking by trusting my instincts and intuition rather than following a written recipe. First I realised that cooking was all about the original ingredient, something Escoffier had forgotten to mention. Then I realised that the best ingredients are almost always the ones that are local that can be found naturally around you. But vitally I realised that the most important 'ingredient' of all is trusting your instincts.