I was recently watching No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, and after listening to the chefs talking about the creation process behind their meals got me thinking. I realized that their thought process is identical to that of artists, only in a different medium. It begins by the chefs taking stock of their ingredients(materials), and either working with what they have causing them to use them in unusual combinations, or purchasing what they need.
Then they either start out with an idea in mind or they set everything out in their working area and see what happens. I know personally that inspiration come in different ways for different people and is hard to explain in words. For me it starts with an inspirational picture, movie, tv show, article or book I have read. Chiefs probably get ideas in similar ways, from the episode I know for a fact they are greatly influenced by the fresh unadulterated ingredients they are exposed to daily.
Finally the chef gets to work and creates his wonderful dish(es) which are then served to the appreciative restaurant goers. Kind of like when an artist has a showing at an art gallery where the appreciative public can see their artwork.
The second step takes the most time and effort and after that everything is smooth sailing. That is not to say It is not a lot of work , but all the difficult details have been ironed out