July 31 2020
Chris Shepherd, James Beard Award-winning chef of Houston’s Underbelly Hospitality, is a champion of that city’s incredibly diverse immigrant cuisines. In his restaurant, he calls out the names of the cooks—Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, and others—who have inspired him, and in his book, he teaches you how to work with those flavors and cultures with respect and creativity. Houston’s culinary reputation as a steakhouse town was put to rest by Chris Shepherd, the Robb Report’s Best Chef of the Year. A cook with insatiable curiosity, he’s trained not just in fine-dining restaurants but in Houston’s Korean grocery stores, Vietnamese noodle shops, Indian kitchens, and Chinese mom-and-pops. His food, incorporating elements of all these cuisines, tells the story of the city, and country, in which he lives. An advocate, not an appropriator, he asks his diners to go and visit the restaurants that have inspired him, and in this book he brings us along to meet, learn from, and cook with the people who have taught him. The recipes include signatures from his restaurant—favorites such as braised goat with Korean rice dumplings, or fried vegetables with caramelized fish sauce. The lessons go deeper than recipes: the book is about how to understand the pantries of different cuisines, how to taste and use these flavors in your own cooking. Organized around key ingredients like soy, dry spices, or chiles, the chapters function as master classes in using these seasonings to bring new flavors into your cooking and new life to flavors you already knew. But even beyond flavors and techniques, the book is about a bigger story: how Chris, a son of Oklahoma who looks like a football coach, came to be “adopted” by these immigrant cooks and families, how he learned to connect and share and truly cross cultures with a sense of generosity and respect, and how we can all learn to make not just better cooking, but a better community, one meal at a time.
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