"Over the years I've asked other cooks at the Zen Center, 'What's the most difficult part about cooking?'" he says in the 2007 documentary "How to Cook Your Life." "They almost invariably answer, 'the people,' having to work with others, having to work with yourself. The food takes care of itself."
For someone who's been practicing Zen for 40 years, Brown can be rather peevish. At a daylong retreat at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in California's Marin County, Brown broke from periods of sitting and walking meditation to tell stories of his own anger. When he returned as a guest chef to San Francisco's famed Greens restaurant -- a pioneering vegetarian place that he helped found –- he was asked if he had been a chef there before.
"Excuse me, I'm Ed Brown!" he recalled himself wanting to say. "And I was working here, doing five jobs in the kitchen, before you were born!"