The Amateur Gourmet | Adam Roberts | Talks at Google

ADAM ROBERTS: OK Hi, everyone My name is Adam Roberts, and I am a food blogger from the website The Amateur Gourmet, and I’m also the author of a new cookbook that some of you just purchased called Secrets of the Best Chefs Thank you so much for having me here at Google This has been really cool I got to eat at the big– what was it called? MALE SPEAKER: The big table ADAM ROBERTS: It was very good I took pictures I’m going to blog it on Monday So anyway, I’m going to tell you all about myself and the story of how I started my food blog and how it led to this book And actually, Google plays a role that story, so this is like interactive storytelling Anyway, so what happened was I started my blog back in 2004 I was in law school at Emory in Atlanta, and I came from a family where nobody cooked My mother didn’t cook, my father didn’t cook, my grandparents didn’t cook And for some reason, going to law school, I just got very interested in cooking And so I would watch the Food Network and I would sort of write down recipes And then one day, I gave it a try and I got behind the stove and I made, I think, it was Mario Batale’s tomato sauce, and I was hooked And I just started cooking all the time, and it was a lot of fun So around that time, like in 2004– which was my third year of law school– two of my friends suggested that I start a food blog And back then, in 2004, it wasn’t like an established thing I’m sure all of you guys read food blogs Are you guys all big food people? Cooks and readers– OK, yes, one person So anyway, it wasn’t like an established thing back then So I started my food blog in January of 2004, and I called it The Amateur Gourmet because I was learning how to cook and I didn’t know anything and I wasn’t an authority And the goal of the blog when I started it was really just to share all my disasters and things that went wrong and things that went right and what I was learning as I went along So when I started my blog, I had about five readers, including my parents and my roommate and maybe two other people And this is where Google enters the story Around the end of January 2004, Janet Jackson, you might recall, showed her breast at the Super Bowl Do you guys remember that? And I decided it would be funny to make a Janet Jackson breast cupcake So I made a cupcake and I had mocha frosting and a Hershey kiss as the nipple It had the nipple shield– remember it had a shield around her–? Yeah, I did like white icing, and I put that on my blog And I went to school the next day And when I got home, my site had had 70,000 hits And it was linked all over and CNN actually called me and asked if they could come over and do a story on the Janet Jackson breast cupcake And so Google enters the story here, though, because that post became so popular and went so viral that when people were googling cupcake, that would come up as a top result And so I actually had a picture of her breast at the top of that post, and I got flagged for having inappropriate conduct and I actually got kicked off of Google after that So I had to the take off– it was a whole elaborate thing Anyway, I got back on and so that’s my Google related story I hope you like that part of [INAUDIBLE] So anyway, after that I actually grew an audience I had a lot of readers of my blog, and I sort of had to make a choice of I wanted to keep doing zany sort of cupcakey pop culture things, or if I really wanted to take cooking seriously and really start to become more of a serious home cook, and that’s sort of what happened So in 2005, I actually sold my first book It was a book of essays called The Amateur Gourmet, and it was about learning how to cook from point zero It was basically my story of knowing absolutely nothing about food and cooking and getting to a point where I could make dinner for a group of– at the end the book, I would make a giant five first course tasting menu dinner for 10 friends So that first book was about learning how to cook And actually that book led– the Food Network, it caught the attention of the Food Network And they hired me to host a web show for a year called The FN Dish, which was sort of their, like, Food Network, F dot N dot Then it was, like, effing dish What was funny was they really wanted to create these viral web videos that would set the world on fire, but it was hard because they didn’t want to make fun of any of the Food Network people and it had to be very PC So actually it was funny I got to interview Rachael Ray for that And when I sat down to interview her, the director said, don’t ask her any questions yet We’re going to start rolling tape and we’ll tell you when to start So she sat down and I sat down and I said hi, I’m Adam, and she said hi We just sat there in stony silence for 23 seconds And I was fidgeting and really nervous and she was just sort of sitting there And then they said OK go, you can ask questions And I started the interview and she perked up and it was great But when it was over, I said to my director if you want a viral video, you have to put those 23 awkward seconds with Rachael Ray on the Web

And actually, if you Google that, you’ll see there is a video called 23 Awkward Seconds with Rachael Ray And that’s basically my crowning achievement in my year at the Food Network And not shockingly, they didn’t really keep me on very long after that So I had a year at the Food Network The other sort of controversial thing that I did there was Anthony Bourdain is a famous Food Network critic He really doesn’t like the Food Network So when I was at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, we stumbled upon him and he was in a kitchen somewhere And we said to him, you can do an interview with me and rant about the Food Network You can say whatever you want and we’ll put it on the Food Network website, because again, the goal was to create these viral videos And so he did You can find that if you want He just rails against the Food Network And actually, they put in on the home page of And apparently, a lot of the Food Network stars called up the president of the Food Network and were like, why do you have this video of Anthony Bourdain trashing the Food Network on the Food Network home page? And they said well, we’re trying to go viral So again, I lost that job after a year– not shocking But I’m telling you all this and giving you my trajectory because that all led to this book that is for sale in the back at a very reasonable $10 It’s called Secrets of the Best Chefs So essentially around the time that I finished the Food Network show, I realized that I wanted to go to the next level I wanted to– if I was an amateur home cook and if I was self-taught, I wanted to now sort of go forward a little bit And so the idea came to what would it be like to travel the country and cook with 50 world class chefs and home cooks and to really to cook with them side by side and to absorb as much as I could in the process? And a lot of chef cookbooks don’t really adapt their recipes Chefs don’t really have the mindset of home cooks They’re thinking about how to feed large quantities of people They’re thinking of how to dazzle you with inventiveness and things that don’t really apply when you’re cooking at home So I felt like I was in a really good position to be an advocate for the home cook while cooking in the kitchens of great chefs, and that’s sort of how this book came about So in 2010, I sold the book to Artisan Books And they do the French Laundry cookbook, they do all of Thomas Keller’s cookbooks, so they’re a really great publisher, and so I felt really excited that I was going to get to do this hardcover 400 page multicolor pictures, because in the last book– the first book that I wrote was just a book of essays, so I was ready to go on to the next thing So the concept, again, was that I was going to travel the country, cook with 50 chefs and home cooks, and then each of them were going to teach me three dishes And I was going to go home and adapt the dishes for home cooks And that’s pretty much how it worked So I started in New York Melissa Clark is a recipe writer for the New York Times and she’s a cookbook author And so I started with her and I said to her, I want to learn how do you come up with original recipes that you can published in the New York Times on a weekly basis? Like, how do you even think of like these recipes? And so she took me the Union Square farmers’ market in the middle of Union Square, New York And we went food shopping, and she just started grabbing radishes– beautiful radishes– and she put them in a bag, and then she got sugar snap peas and filled the bag And she saw sheep’s milk ricotta and bought that and she saw this beautiful loaf of bread and she bought that And so she started buying all these ingredients And we went back to her house in Brooklyn She just started– it was like the Tasmanian devil She just started– she took the bread and she sliced and she put it in a toaster Then she took the sheep’s milk ricotta and put it in a bowl and stirred it around and then she sliced the radishes and she sliced the sugar snap peas And she stirred the sugar snap peas and radishes in a bowl with olive oil and lemon juice and garlic and anchovies And when the toast came out of the toaster, she put the ricotta on top and then she put that whole mixture of the sugar snap peas and radishes on top and she said, that’s crustini That’s the first recipe And I said wait, how did you did that? I don’t know, she goes That’s how I do it So it’s just sort of watching that process And what I learned from her is that it’s all about momentum It was just her energy of just grabbing things and trying things She said, if you fail at it, just call it recipe developing, which is great And she also said that if you don’t like the way something comes out, just rename the dish And she actually wrote about this recently in the New York Times She says she wants to make this eggplant salad that was supposed to be like the traditional eggplant salad, but the eggplant was really bitter So she just named the dish bitter eggplant salad, and there it was So I started with her, and I kind of think of this book as sort of a mural or something where I started in this part and I sort of grew outwards and outwards and outwards and outwards So I thought, OK, I have her Who do I want to cook with next? And actually, Rebecca Charles is the chef of the Pearl Oyster Bar in New York, which is a really well known restaurant there And from her, I learned how to cook [FRENCH], which is to cook in the moment, to actually cook hot restaurant

dishes on order She taught me how to take two pans and a pair of tongs and to make a beautiful place of restaurant quality food So she got these two pans, she put them on the stone, she turned on the heat In the first pan, she added a splash of oil and the second pan she added butter And in the first pan, she took fish– I think it was trout, or no, it was cod She put cod in the first pan and started searing it In the second pan, she put sugar snap peas and corn and heirloom tomatoes with the butter So she had these two pans going and she used the tongs to stir around the vegetables and she used the tongs to flip over the fish And all of this is going on at once And by the time she was done, she poured the vegetables onto a plate, she lifted the fish on top, and it was the most gorgeous– you can see it in the book I mean, it’s the most beautiful plate of restaurant food and she used were two pans and a pair of tongs That lesson of just sort of seeing how with the most simple equipment you can make really gorgeous restaurant quality food was really instructive to me, that it’s not so much about what fancy equipment you have at home It’s really just about the rhythm of it and really understanding how to interact with food as you make it And so that’s how the book started to grow And I went to 11 different cities I went to Chicago, San Francisco, LA, Portland, Seattle, New York, DC, Athens, Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia And so I was really trying to create a portrait of American cooking and to try to get as many different cuisines and cultures and chefs, both high and low, and older chefs and younger chefs We have a 24 year old chef who was on Top Chef, and we have a– sorry, I knocked that microphone– like 60 something year old chef I really wanted to get a panorama of chefs And the hardest part of writing the book was not the cooking and it wasn’t the adaptation of the recipes, which I’ll talk about in a second– it was just booking chefs Chefs are difficult– to nail them down, to convince them to do this book I mean, because really what I was asking was for access to their kitchens I was saying, let me into your kitchen and then show me what you do here and there’s going to a photographer And a lot of chefs are like, no way, we’re not going to let you do that But this chefs did let me in, actually– I think what the reason that they let me in was that I feel like the more confident you are as a chef, the less threatened you are by somebody stealing your ideas because it’s not so much about the ideas, it’s more about the philosophy of how you approach food So as you read through this book, you’ll see that each chef has a different attitude about food and it sort of reflects their own personalities and their own personas through their food, and it has very little to do with a secret formula or a guarded recipe It has much more to do with– Daniel Patterson, the chef at Qua here in San Francisco is a great example of that, because he’s all about the very best ingredients He goes foraging for ingredients everywhere And so for him it’s not about the secret formula of a recipe that he has to keep guarded to himself, it’s more about getting these gorgeous radishes delivered to him by a farmer and then going foraging for strange herbs and weeds that he then puts into the salad It’s not something that somebody can steal, it’s more just a way of teaching So that was sort of how the book came together Actually at the front of the book, in the front matter– this is the book again– I have the 10 lessons that I learned from cooking with 50 of the country’s best chefs And so I thought I would go through those and talk about them a little bit So these are the 10 essential rules for cooking like a chef And the first one is actually probably the most cliche You’ve heard it before, but I kind of want to articulate my own slant on it, which is to taste as you go Now tasting as you go, you hear that a lot You’ll watch the Food Network and they’ll say taste as you go, taste as you go Well, for me what that ended up being about was about not just tasting for salt and not just tasting for whatever else you’re tasting for What you’re really trying to do as a great chef and what these great chefs did is in their mind they had a vision of what this dish should taste like and then they were getting it to taste that way, which is something that a lot of home cooks don’t think about it Most home cooks, I think, are pretty strict recipe followers Most of my friends who cook for me or have people over for dinner they follow a recipe like it’s the Bible It’s like if it says a quarter teaspoon of paprika and they only have an eighth of a teaspoon, they’ll throw everything out and start– I used to do that when I started If I didn’t have exactly what I needed to make a recipe, I wouldn’t do it And chefs never do that Chefs just adapt They engage with their food And the real key is understanding the tools available to you to make your food taste great And so for me– and you’ll see this in the first lesson about taste as you go– those tools are fat, and when I say fat I mean olive oil, cream, butter If you want to enrich a dish, every chef– and this won’t come as a shock to you– was generous with fat I mean, they would take butter and pop it into a pan, or they would take cream and pour it all And you don’t have to do that at home because you’re not trying to kill your family, but just to understand that that’s a tool available to you, that that’s a way to

enrich your food to make it taste a little better But if you’re making eggs and they’re not coming out as creamy as you want them and you add a little more butter at the end or you add some cream to the– it’s a tool that you can use to make food taste better And then the second tool, of course, being salt Taste as you go is generally about salt, salting your food properly But what’s really interesting about chefs if they taste for salt at every stage of cooking They’re not just tasting it at the end and adding salt to make sure it tastes good Michel Richard is a famous French chef that’s in this book, and he was making a mixture that had raw chicken in it That’s like the worst thing you could do in the world is to eat raw chicken, but it sort of showed his mettle as a chef that he just sort ate a spoonful of ground up raw chicken to see if it was salty enough, and he added more salt But that’s what chefs do– they taste it at every stage And the final thing that a lot of home cooks don’t know about in terms of tasting as you go is acid, how to use acid to make your food taste better And when I say acid, I mean vinegar, I mean lemon juice, any kind of citrus, lime juice Chefs use acidic elements all the time, and it’s such a remarkable thing how much better it’ll make your food taste If you make something as simple as a chicken breast and you roast it in the oven and you take it out and you squeeze a lemon over it, I think that will enhance it immeasurably, because it perks up– it makes the taste pop in your mouth And chefs use acid all the time– they use balsamic vinegar, they use cider vinegar, they use lemon juice, all that kind of stuff So I think tasting as you go is so essential, that that’s why I talked so long about it just now The second essential rule that I learned cooking with the chefs was to put ingredients on display That sounds like a strange one But so many of these homes– I got to cook with Alice Waters in Berkeley And when I went into her home, she had these basketballs of beautiful ingredients, like just really unusual ingredients that she’d gotten from the farmer’s market like watermelon radishes and things I’d never even seen before There are so many chefs that I cooked with who literally had the exact same thing Their kitchens were full of beautiful ingredients that they put on display In fact, actually, one of the chefs that I cooked with, Anthony Martin, who’s the chef at TRU in Chicago, had worked for Joel Robuchan, who’s a legendary French chef And he said Joel Robuchan’s kitchens always had ingredients displayed in the kitchen to inspire cooks And so when I was in the middle of writing this book, I bought a basket– I just went to a store and I bought a basket And I put it on my counter and I made myself go at least once a week to a farmer’s market I made myself buy things that I had no idea what I was going to do with them and I would bring them home and I just put them in the basket And it was amazing, because having it on display and just seeing it there was a trigger to get me to use it and to get me to cook more often, because I would come home after working all day And usually what happens– I don’t if you guys relate– is you get home from work and the last thing you want to do is go food shopping It’s like you don’t want to then get back into your car and drive to the store go food shopping So if you have your ingredients displayed out there and you just have beautiful things and you have a box of pasta and let’s say you have broccoli rabe out there, or whatever you buy, and then you make your pasta with a fresh ingredient, you’re much more likely to cook if you have ingredients on display And also it’s just sort of the color and the actual liveliness of it, just sort of seeing this beautiful food in your kitchen just creates an environment in your kitchen that makes you want to cook in there I think these little psychological triggers that you don’t think a lot about that actually don’t seem important– it probably seems like the least important thing in the world to put ingredients on display– actually can be the difference between ordering Chinese food and actually cooking So to me, that was actually an important one The third one is sort of tied up in that If it looks good before you cook it, it will taste good after you cook it So many times with the chefs in this book, they would be prepping something that was not– it should not have looked appetizing at that stage, but it still looked beautiful and made me want to eat it Like Charles Phan, the chef at The Slanted Door here in San Francisco– I cooked with him And he taught me how make this steamed chicken dish where it was a clay bowl and he put raw chicken that he cut up into it and he put slivered ginger and garlic and fermented black beans and scallions And it was raw chicken with all those things and he was about to place it a steamer But just looking at it, the raw chicken with all that stuff, I just knew it was going to taste good, because something about the visual of how that looked– and I think that that’s really important for home cooks to understand If you’re making something and it’s just not doing it for you– like, if you’re making a dish that sort of looks gray or brown and all you need to do is add green herbs or red chilies to make the color pop, that actually will make it taste better too I think the visual ties in to how things taste So if it looks good before you cook it, it will taste good after you cook it And it was really true throughout the book And number four is an interesting one It’s use your internal timer So it was funny, I cooked with Gary Danko– I keep referencing all these San Francisco chefs So Gary Danko– it was funny, he taught me how to make a blueberry crostata And he made the dough, he rolled it out, he put the

blueberry filling, he folded it up, and then he put it in the oven, and he walked away to do something else And I said, wait, aren’t you going to set a timer? And he looked at me like I was totally crazy– like, a timer? And chefs never set timers I never once in writing this book with over 150 recipes and 50 chefs did I ever see a chef set the timer And I started to ask myself, well, why is that? And I think it ties into what I was saying earlier about home cooks being slaves to recipes, that where you feel you have to cook it for exactly 50 minutes or bake the lasagna for 47 minutes and 32 seconds That’s not how cooking works And cooks are engaged with what’s happening in the kitchen at every stage, and that includes how long something is going to cook for So with the crostata, what he was looking for– it’s actually not even just looking, it’s listening and smelling So he smelled it when it was ready And he looked at it, and it was golden brown on the outside But what he was looking for– he was just looking for a visual clue as a very simple thing– he was looking to see if blueberries in the middle of the crostata were at a boil, if the liquid was boiling, because there was corn starch as a thickener in the blueberries And the corn starch doesn’t dissolve until it reaches a boil So that’s all he was looking for was for the liquid to be boiling at the center, and then he took it out the oven, and it was delicious But I think what’s important about using an internal timer is to be engaged with food in your kitchen as you’re making it, that idea of engagement So I think people, when they follow recipes are sort of disengaged It’s like, I’m going to follow this rule, I’m going to follow this rule, I’m going to follow this rule, and that will yield this result, sort of a mathematical way of cooking And chefs are not like that Chefs are totally, absolutely 100% immersed in their kitchen and totally aware of everything that’s happening all at once and reacting to it as it’s happening And similar to that is number five which is to control the heat A lot of chefs– or a lot of recipes will say to you, put it on high heat, walk away, and come back in 30 minutes, or put it at a simmer and walk away and come back And again, chefs would never do that Chefs are always noodling with the dial on the stove so that if something is boiling too rapidly, they lower the heat If something is at too low of a simmer, they’ll raise the heat But it’s, again, being really engaged with food as it’s happening and coming back and lowering and raising it– and so, that whole experience of being engaged with your food The heat is kind of funny, too, though, and this is sort of tangential thing, which is that a lot of people ask me what did I learn overall? How has my cooking changed at home? And the biggest thing I say is actually the boldness, that I’m much bolder when it comes to cooking now And the story I like to tell is Susan Feniger, who’s the chef from Street in Los Angeles and who’s also on Top Chef Masters You might know her She had a show on the Food Network called Two Hot Tamales, which was on a long time ago But when I cooked with her, she got a pan, she put it on the heat– she put on high heat– and then she started talking to me, and we were just talking and talking and talking and talking, chatting and chatting The pan was getting hotter and hotter and hotter and hotter and hotter, and at some point, she’s like, well, this is how I make my black peppered clams And she just added all these clams to this pan that had oil and it just burst into flames It was like Mount Vesuvius erupted in flames and she did not flinch at all It as if room had just exploded, but she was like, mhmm, mhmm I was like, whoa And so actually the way that I wrote this book that all the chefs that when I cooked them, I took frantic notes I was writing things down at every second I was writing, writing, writing What I didn’t want to do is I didn’t want the chefs to give a recipe and then to photocopy that recipe into the book, because I thought that would be totally useless for the home cook I wanted to write it down, what I saw– I wanted to write down what I saw happening in the kitchen, and then I wanted to replicate that So my method was to take notes, write out my own recipe, go home, cook it based on what I saw and what I wrote, and then if it didn’t come out right, to email the chef and say hey, when I made it I didn’t come out correctly So with that recipe, which was a black pepper clam recipe, when I was testing it at home, I invited my friend Rob over, and I was like, I’m going to make this dish tonight that Susan Feniger taught me When she made it, she got the pan really hot and there was this big flame ball, but I’m not going to do that I’m a little scared, so I’m just going to get it pretty hot and it will be hot enough, but it’s not going to be flame ball hot It will just be moderately hot He’s like, OK, whatever And so I started heating my pan 20 seconds went by, and I’m like it has to get hotter And a minute went by, I was like– I just sort of started playing with, do I want to do it now? I was holding the clams and I had the oil I was like, am I going to do it, am I going to do it? And at some point, I was like, OK, here we go, and I threw them in And I had the exact same thing It was a flame ball And the difference was when she did it, it was, again, like nothing happened When I did it, I was shaking I poured into a bowl and I was giving it to Rob I was like, here you go He’s like, what’s wrong? I was like, nothing But just that experience of how chefs are bold, they’re just bold It’s like that whole thing of having scars on your arms and knife cuts and burns, it’s like they’re just bold And so I tie that into that thing of controlling the heat, which is that they get their pans hot They’re not scared to get their pans hot, they’re not scared of fire, they’re not scared of death You just have to just be bold, be a bold cook

And they’re bold at everything else, too, I should say, too Like salt– there’s another story I keep going on tangents, but why not? One of the chefs in the book was Harold Dieterle, who won season one of Top Chef, if you guys watched Top Chef He taught me how to make his creamed corn, which is one of his famous dishes at Perilla in New York And so all it is is fresh corn that cook with cream, you blend up half of it, and then you stir it in with more fresh corn, and that’s his creamed corn And at the end he said, OK, Adam, why don’t you season it? So I took the salt shaker and I put it on the little sprinkle holes and I sprinkled some salt and I stirred it around and I tasted it And he’s like, what do you think? I was like, I think it’s good Why don’t you taste it? So then he took a spoon and he tasted and said, mhmm And he took the dial and turned it to the hole at the top, he turned the salt thing upside down, and a stream of salt went pouring in He turned it back up and turned it around and was like, now taste it I was like, whoa It was like the difference between a candle and a firework It was explosively flavorful And chefs just add tons of salt, they add tons of butter, they get their pans really hot They’re bold, chefs are bold OK, enough tangents Number six is use your ears, which is tied into the whole being engaged in the kitchen, to engage with food as you make it And so one of the chefs, who I actually just did a dinner with here in San Francisco at Tartine after hours Her name is Samin Nosrat and she’s amazing She’s sort of a home cook She’s done some things in restaurants in San Francisco Anyway, she taught me how to make her buttermilk marinated chicken, where you take a whole chicken, you marinate it in buttermilk, and then you roast it So we were in the other room while the chicken was being roasted, and she heard a loud sizzle And she said, the chicken’s talking to me I have to go, I’ll be right back And she went into the kitchen and she lowered the temperature in the oven And I said, so you just heard that and you knew? She goes, yeah, it sizzled so I knew it’s too hot I had to lower the temperature And again, that sort of tied into not using a timer, being engaged, reacting to food as it’s cooking That’s what chefs do Number seven is a pretty good rule, which is just don’t use pepper the way that you use salt Salt and pepper are not always– they don’t always go together And in fact, 95% of the time chefs did not use pepper when they seasoned something They season it with salt, and they use all different kinds of salt They use sea salt, they use kosher salt, they use Himalayan rock salt, they use all different kinds of salt But pepper is only used when they want to add that very specific peppery flavor to something And I think a lot of people think that they’re just going to add salt, add pepper, add salt, add pepper, and that’s not how chefs do it Chefs add pepper only if they want that flavor So that’s something to think about Number eight I think you guys like, which is use the internet A lot of chefs are actually very humble about the fact that they don’t know everything and they want to learn things, and that if they don’t know something, they’re not afraid to go on the internet and look it up So Naomi Pomeroy, who’s the chef at Beast in Portland, which is an amazing restaurant, she told me she uses the internet all the time to learn new techniques and to learn things And I think that that’s important, because I think a lot of people at home feel like they have to either be an authority when they make food, they have to know everything And it’s like to open yourself up and to be open to learning and bringing new things into it what you do already is important I think a lot of chefs were open to that Number nine– I think this is the most important rule, because I think this is the difference between actually cooking and not cooking, which is clean with fluidity So when I started my blog and I started cooking, I would do would probably a lot of you do, which is I would cook a dish or I’d make dinner, I would pile dishes in the sink, I would go watch TV, go watch something on Netflix, go to sleep, check my email the next day, do my work And those dishes would sit, and they would kind of crust over and a whole family of bacteria would grow in it Chefs never do that Chefs are always cleaning while they’re cooking It’s a fluid process So what they would do, as I’ve said, they’re sauteing something in a pan, they would pour whatever’s in the pan into a bowl, they take that pan, they put it in the sink, they run water They stir around the bowl, they put that into another pan, they take that bowl, they put it in the sink, they run water They put it in the oven, they clean those two bowls They wipe down the counter The thing comes out of the oven, they pop it onto a cake stand, they clean that thing And so they’re are always cleaning while they’re cooking, which makes tons of sense, because when you’re done you have a beautiful plated dish and you have a clean kitchen It’s wonderful and it makes you cook more Because when I have dinner parties now, I do that If I have a dinner party, I’ll make the dessert– so I’ll make a cake and then I’ll clean all the baking stuff that I used to make the cake Then I’ll make the next dish and so when I’m done, when people come over to eat dinner, the kitchen is spotless, the food is prepared, and all I have to clean the dishes, the plates, that people ate off of And it makes a huge difference for people I think a lot of people don’t like to do dishes And if you clean fluidity, if you clean while you go, you’ll cook a lot more Finally, number 10 is remember everyone makes mistakes There’s a funny little anecdote from the book, which is Elizabeth Faulkner, who was the pastry chef here at Citizen Cake in Orson, although now she’s moved to Brooklyn

I don’t if you guys know that I think Citizen Cake closed Do you guys know if it closed? That’s so sad Anyway, so I was cooking with her And she was teaching me how to candy bacon for a salad So she had the pan on the stove, she had the bacon, she had maple syrup in it, she was candying it, and her back was to the stove She was talking to me and I was asking about her life and why she got interested in cooking And as we were talking, the pan burst into flames while she was in the middle of an emotional story, and I was like, mhmm, and was watching I was like, I’m sorry, is that pan supposed to be on fire? And she’s like, oh! And so she grabbed the pan– and this is the important part– she put the flames out, she put it in the sink, she ran some water, got another pan, put it on the stove, put some bacon in it, put some maple syrup in it, turn on the heat And before I could even blink, the other pan was clean, the bacon was candied, and that was it She’d just recovered so quickly from that mistake that it was as if it never happened And I think for home cooks– when a mistake happens for me, if I make a mistake in the kitchen, it’s like I need weeks of therapy afterwards to want to cook again And I think that seeing how chefs recover when they screw up was actually really important, because you realize that it’s not about the mistake, it’s about the recovery, it’s about picking yourself up and moving on and just getting back on your feet and getting going again So that’s the tenth of my 10 essential rules for learning how to cook And so I think at this point if you guys have questions about this book I’d love to answer them, or I can keep talking more if you’d like There’s a microphone there, so don’t be shy FEMALE SPEAKER: So as everyone here knows, we have a lot of health problems in America and a lot of people attribute that to the lost art of home cooking So you had this great experience when you were in school where you cooked for the first time and had a breakthrough moment and became a serial cook How can we get other people to have that experience and really learn to love home cooking and get that initial experience and then holding onto it? ADAM ROBERTS: That’s a really good question Thanks for that I think the key is not to think of cooking as a chore and to think of cooking as a treat And I think the way that you do that is you don’t make it punishing to start So if you want to make the most decadent chocolate cake in the world or you want to make doughnuts at home or you want to make something really bad for you but you want to do it from scratch, I think it’s a great way to start, because people don’t want to learn how to cook and learn how to make some healthy dietetic dish that’s just sort of sad and depressing I actually think that the more you start by just being indulgent and decadent at the beginning as a cook and just making the food that sounds so delicious you can’t even imagine something tasting better, so that’s it’s a treat, so that it’s something you really look forward to you Then you can kind of cut back and scale back and start making food that’s more realistic and healthy And I think the mistake so many people make when they start cooking at home is that they punish themselves They make food that they don’t get excited about I think you have to get excited about the dish that you’re making That’s, to me, the key And the other thing, of course, is just– I actually think it’s psychological I think some people just aren’t into the idea of cooking It’s like you can’t really make somebody a cook if they don’t really have that interest My mom doesn’t have that interest at all I’ve been doing this for years and it’s not like she’s reading my blog– which she does– and is inspired to cook with it She’s never going to want to do it So unfortunately, I think some people just don’t have that interest But I do think for those that do have the interest to just kind of be– just treat yourself the beginning, and then scale back I think that’s a good way to get started MALE SPEAKER: Hello So you said the hardest part of writing the book was convincing all the 50 chefs to work with you on this How did you actually do that and were there times when people said no, absolutely not and you were able to convince them to do it? ADAM ROBERTS: A lot of it was psychological Really, to be very honest, it was like getting names, like recognizable names, in the book, and then calling up a chef and saying, hey, I have so and so and so and so who’s done it, why don’t you do it? It was a little bit like that It was funny I’m not going to name names, but there was a city I went to for the book where there are two very famous chefs And I called the first chef– when I say called the chef, it’s never the chef, it’s the PR team, it’s the people handling the chef And I said the PR team for this famous chef, hi, I’m coming to your city, I’d love to cook with your chef And they were like, sorry, he’s very busy No, this is not a project he’ll want to do So then I called the other chef and I was like, I’d like to cook with you I’m coming to your city And they said, yeah, we’d love to do it, so great So then I called back the first team, the first chef, and I was like, well, I just want to let you guys know that I’m cooking with this other chef and this other chef is sort of going to represent your city and I just want to make sure that’s OK, because your chef is really not to be in the book and it’s going to look like this other chef is the star chef of this city And they’re like, oh, actually, he does have some time in the morning It was all the little games Also on that front, there were chefs who I scheduled to cook with who at the very last second would cancel and it would really throw us into a turmoil I had a photographer that took all the snapshot

pictures in the book So she would take a day off work, and I would buy the travel It was one chef I’m thinking about We bought train tickets, we were all ready to go, and then they just called and canceled So there’s a lot of that It was a lot of dealing with chefs who changed their mind of the last minute What was great about the book, though– the reason I’m so proud of it and the reason I actually think it’s a great book is that all of the chefs who ended up doing it really were engaged with it and they really were excited to teach It was like a chance for them to share what they know with somebody who really wanted to learn it All the chefs who said no, I’m glad that they’re not in the book, because if they had a hesitation to do the book then I wouldn’t want to have them in the book So for the most part the chefs that did the book were eager to do it There are a couple of chefs– Naomi Pomeroy at Beast in Portland was really funny You’ll see in her chapter, there’s a recipe for her lentils, which I called Lentilpalooza because there’s so much in it And so she was kind of a little bit guarded So shed be making these lentils and I would say, what did you just put in there? She was like, sun dried tomatoes, and I’d be writing down sun dried tomatoes And then she would add three other things I was like, what was that? And every time I turned my back she would be adding more things So it was a little bit like I had to drag some things out of certain chefs But overall they were eager to share It was really great Thanks for your question So the question is how do you shop at farmer’s markets and not get overwhelmed? I still get overwhelmed, it’s true I think the key is to go on a day– my routine, mostly I’m living in LA these days, is to go on Monday to the farmer’s market Monday is important that it’s Monday– it’s not Thursday, it’s not Saturday, it’s Monday, which means that I’m buying stuff for the week Sunday and Monday– it changes how you shop Because I think when I was going on Friday or going if I went on Saturday, it’s like I’m just shopping for a meal, so I need to just buy something for a meal What am I going to make? I don’t even know I’m so overwhelmed Whereas you go on a Monday, you just grab things and you don’t even have to think about what you’re going to make You just have to give yourself a license to buy stuff, because I think that’s the key For me, I wouldn’t give myself permission to spend money on those heirloom tomatoes because I wasn’t sure how I was going to use them But when I changed my attitude about it and I was like, no, I’m just going to buy them, they look beautiful, I’m going to bring them home and I will figure something out when I get home And I think that’s the key So you just buy– a good strategy for me is that I’ll take a $20 bill out of my wallet, I’ll put in my pocket, and that’s what I’m spending today at the farmer’s market I’m going to spend $20, and I’ll just walk around and I’ll just buy things I take the change, put it in my pocket, and just buy, buy, buy Sometimes I just buy fruit I don’t just buy fruit, but I’ll buy fruit to snack on just so I have that in the house So that’s something to buy at the farmer’s market that will always taste better than something at the grocery store And then other times, though, I’ll try to make myself buy something I don’t know what it is or how to use it, and I’ll learn Like, garlic scapes are a good example Garlic scapes are these crazy looking things that grow on top of garlic And so I bought those once I had no idea what they were I brought them home and I looked up a recipe There’s actually one in the book for garlic scape pesto, where you just blend it up with olive oil and some nuts and you can make a delicious pasta sauce So, $20 in your pocket, give yourself license to just buy anything and everything Bring it home, put it on display, and then make yourself cook from that during the week and use the internet Does that answer your question? OK, good MALE SPEAKER: Do you think you can share on seafood and barbecuing? ADAM ROBERTS: A specific, I mean–? MALE SPEAKER: Any anecdotes, stories of chefs– kind of that kind of combination Those are the things I’m very interested in ADAM ROBERTS: Seafood is interesting, because I didn’t cook a lot of seafood before I wrote this book, because I found it difficult– because I think seafood, more than anything else, matters to get it really fresh And so I would go to the grocery store near where I lived, and it would always be wrapped in plastic I didn’t have the energy to go drive to the really nice fish place all the time But one of chefs in the book is Jonathan Waxman, who’s a chef at Barbuto in New York, and he was on Top Chef masters And they called him Obi-Wan, because he’s sort of a Zen master When I was cooking with him, he had a fishermen that came in with this giant swordfish It looked like that, like a wheel Parmesan cheese, but it was a swordfish What was really fascinating was he improvised this fish stew– it’s in the front of the book– where he sliced big fillet off the fish, he cut it into cubes Actually, he had me do all this, because that was what was great about him, is he’s a great teacher, so he had me do all the cutting, all the cooking And so into a pot, we cook some garlic and some fennel and some onions, then we added the fish and we added in some mussels and clams and some white wine, put the lid on And he made it seem so casual, as if it was just the easiest thing in the world The key to it, the key step– this might be useful– is just to just cook it just enough Whenever I made seafood before, I tended to overcook the seafood, and overcooked seafood is terrible So the key is just to cook it just enough that it’s just cooked and you take it out So I think with fish especially, what I sort of learned is it goes from translucent to opaque So you look at the color and if you could see through it, it’s not done– so using the color So he basically– we poured that out into a bowl, and it

was the most beautiful, fragrant, delicious, seafood stew And it was really all about having that wonderful fresh fish and using it in a really simple way and cooking it just the right amount to make something delicious So maybe that’s helpful to you, I don’t know But really, getting the best fish you can get and cooking it just enough is sort of the best advice I can give about seafood To me, the thing that makes the book great or what I’m proudest of about the book is really trying to capture these people’s lives, these chefs’ lives, who they are, and how that ties into the food that they taught me And to me the most moving or probably the most emotional was Gina DePalma, who’s the pastry chef at Babbo in New York, which is Mario Batale’s restaurant And when I cooked with her, she was recovering from stage four ovarian cancer And she was in remission, and she was going through all that And so her mother had been making her this lentil soup to feed her during her recovery, and that was the soup that she ate as got better from cancer And so basically that was the dish that she taught me how to make when I was in her kitchen And even though it’s a lentil soup, whenever people ask me what my favorite recipe in the book is and I say lentil soup, they kind of give me a look– like, lentil soup? But to me– first of all, it’s a delicious recipe It has garlic oil that you drizzle on at the end and it has sausage and it has kale, it has lots of great stuff in it But much more importantly, was the emotional– how meaningful this recipe was to her It made it very meaningful for me So it wasn’t the pyrotechnics of a handful of flames, it was more this really meaningful recipe that somebody shared with me And the fact that she opened up her life and story to me– that’s the dedication at the front of the book, is to all the chefs who let m me into their kitchens and let me into their lives, because that’s what they did They really opened their doors and I got to meet them and meet their families and really hear their stories That’s probably how I’d answer that question MALE SPEAKER: One of the big differences I’ve seen between a lot of restaurant cookbooks and cookbooks that are more meant for home cooks is a lot of the restaurants will make up large batches of individual components that are finished in some way and then mix and match them Have you find any good ways of adapting that for home use, or have you tried to go towards things that don’t have as many ingredients? ADAM ROBERTS: Yeah, I’m more of a one pot guy Like when I have people over for dinner, I love to make a braised dish, where you can cook, like, short ribs or some kind of fatty meat for a long time so it breaks down And you just have that pot simmering on the stove when people show up and you can just spoon it out Because that other kind of cooking, which is very restaurant driven– and I think there are a lot of people at home who like the challenge of making that kind of food, which is why books like Eleven Madison Park Cookbook or Alinea cookbook or the El Bulli cookbook, all those books do well, because I think there are fanatics who will make all crazy components So one of the chefs in the book is Curtis Duffy, who is a Michelin starred chef He had restaurant called Avenues in Chicago and now he’s opening up a different restaurant called Grace So when I came to cook with him, he sort of got nervous, because he’s like, Adam, I have to tell you, these dishes that I make at this restaurant, you’re never going to be able to adapt them for the home cook I was like, what are you talking about? I can adapt anything He was like, this is my corn soup And this corn soup has a dome made with liquid nitrogen that’s made with coconut milk and burnt corn husk oil that you dip on the back of a ladle and dip into liquid nitrogen and you put the dome on top of the corn soup and then you shatter the dome into the soup You’re never going to be able to do that And I was like, how do you make the soup? He’s like, the soup is corn that you blend up and then you strain it and then you cook it and you blend it with sugar and olive oil I was like, teach me that So he taught me just how to make the corn soup, and it’s absolutely the best corn soup I’ve ever had in my entire life So in the book when you see the corn soup, it’s just corn soup But it’s a great corn soup, and it’s a corn soup that you can make for your family, you can make for a dinner party, and it doesn’t ask you to buy liquid nitrogen, it doesn’t ask you to make burnt corn husk oil And so those are things that I’m not interested in The book is sort of my point of view– taking these recipes and filtering them through my point of view And my point of view is to cook more crowd pleasing, comforting sort of realistic dishes, not the dishes that have 30 components on them So that’s a great question And yeah, it’s not my cup of tea to do that, but I really admire those who do Thanks Well, thank you guys so much for having me here today I really enjoyed talking to you And I’ll be signing the book afterward, so go buy a copy and thanks again