Last week I shared an email about a new course I’m working on. I’m really excited about this, and I wanted to share a bit more about my motivation and thinking behind it.
My goal with this course is to help people develop foundational cooking skills so that they can cook confidently and easily at home. I believe that home cooking is incredibly powerful— so many things about my health, my social life, and my creative life improved when I learned how to cook.
I believe that anyone can learn to cook well— it’s just a matter of dedicating the time and energy to learn the fundamentals. And what you get in return is incredible. You save money on food. You get to eat healthier without sacrificing taste. You learn a new hobby that gets you away from screens and using your hands and senses. You get to create something from scratch daily. You get to connect with nature, with your roots, and with new cultures. You bring people together communally. You get to show your love for family and friends by feeding them something you made. The list goes on.
I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months thinking about how to best teach these skills in a way that’s fun and approachable, and I’m super excited to explore that in this course. I’ve decided to structure this as a cohort-based course. A smaller group of people will go through this process together with me as their guide— there will be lots of direct learning, a community of fellow students, accountability, and interaction. I personally think it’s the best way to create something where there’s real impact and learning.
I’ll be sharing much more information about the course soon! But if you want to get direct updates and access to the early student discount, you can sign up for those here!
Cooking as Art vs. Cooking as Science
Recently I’ve been reading Rick Rubin’s new book The Creative Act. Interestingly, the book mentions almost nothing about Rick Rubin or his life— it’s much more of a War of Art-style reflection on the creative process. And it’s gotten me thinking a lot about the creative process of cooking.
In the world of cooking there’s always been a bit of a dichotomy between two approaches to cooking— cooking as an art versus cooking as a science. There are famous examples of chefs who take both approaches. Francis Mallmann and Danny Bowien are artists, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt and Heston Blumenthal are scientists.
I’ve personally always approached cooking as more of an art. It’s true that understanding the science of cooking can help you to become a better artist, but I’ve found that food that leans too heavily into the science camp sometimes loses its soulfulness.
Nathan Myhrvold, the founder of Modernist Cuisine, wrote 1,708 pages about pizza in the Modernist Pizza series. He studied the science of pizza down to the molecular level, and he might know more about pizza than almost anyone on earth. And I’m sure he makes great pizza. But if I had to choose between eating a pizza made by Myhrvold or a pizza made by Chris Bianco, I’d go with Bianco ten times out of ten. There’s a certain something that comes from cooking not just with the mind but also with the heart. I don’t think it can be quantified, but it’s definitely there. And to me that’s the main difference between art cooking and science cooking.
Rooted Local Meats
My good friends Zach Batteer and Anthony Gustin recently launched an amazing new company. It’s called Rooted Local, and they source top-quality meats from small, family-owned ranches and deliver it to people’s doors.
It’s not a national service— right now they source from farms in Texas and deliver to Austin. But if you’re here in Austin, I can’t recommend their meats enough. Zach and Anthony care deeply about the work they’re doing. They’ve spent a ton of time thinking about how to best support small local farmers and source the best-quality meat available. They’re mission-driven people who built a company based on values, and I fully endorse them.
If you’re in Austin and want to place an order with them, you can use the code MYLESROOTED and you’ll get two free ribeyes or NY strips with your first order!
Traditional French Butter Houses
Must visit a traditional French maison du beurre.
Smoked Chile Flakes
I’m loving these smoked chile flakes from Daphnis and Chloe.
The Karatzova peppers used for our vastly popular Smoked Chili Flakes are nowadays cultivated by just a handful of families living at the northern frontier of Almopia. Once ripe, these mildly hot, fleshy peppers are washed, hand-sorted, placed on birch wood, and slow-smoked for 10 days.
This is my kind of product.
I use these in a bunch of different ways. They’re great over eggs, and I recently made some toasted sourdough with melted gruyere cheese and a hefty sprinkle of these. But my favorite use yet is simple— dice up some farmer’s market carrots, roast them with olive oil and salt, and then finish with lemon juice, lemon zest, and the smoked chile flakes. Easy and delicious.
Quotes I’m Pondering
In the past, I used to think about food as a way to impress other people. I think that I have been evolving and my food also has. I’ve got more confidence in myself and I understood that sometimes “less is more”. You can always improve. In the beginning, my mapo tofu dish was made of 33 ingredients, while now it's only about 12 ingredients. Right now everything is about slowing down, especially with social media, where everything has always to be so fast. - Danny Bowien
Danny Bowien is one of my favorite chefs, and I really resonate with this sentiment. When I first started taking cooking seriously, I’d combine all sorts of ingredients into various dishes. I was always going for more. And even though things often tasted good, the flavors were muddy. These days I’m much more interested in simplicity, parsing things down, and letting the clean flavors of individual ingredients shine through.
If you know what you want to do and you do it, that’s the work of a craftsman. If you begin with a question and use it to guide an adventure of discovery, that’s the work of the artist. The surprises along the way can expand your work, and even the art form itself. - Rick Rubin
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re: bowien quote-- what's the slowest, simplest dish that you still use to impress people?
LOVE the Rick Rubin quote…I tried to guess who said it before I reached the end. It’s a good one for sure! Curious if the smoked chiles are similar to Urfa which I cannot do without and use similarly…