A Louisiana expat friend in DC passes along this interview with New Orleans chef John Besh, commenting that Besh’s is probably the best ambassador the Great State has for itself right now. Excerpt from the interview, in which Besh talks up his new cookbook designed for the home cook:
Your business advisors must not be happy that you’re encouraging people to cook at home. What’s the idea here?
The genesis of the book was my personal discovery of making the transition from restaurant chef to home cook. I would always cook these Sunday suppers, but it was something I cooked for myself. In some ways that’s my own therapy of jumping in my own kitchen without any distractions, where I can connect with food. But I was still cooking like a restaurant chef. And one day I questioned my wife about what she was feeding the boys — with four boys and the restaurants, our lives are insane. And she’d quickly pointed out that I’d go to the ends of the earth to find that special something to serve our restaurant guests, but I’d neglected my family in the process. That really hit home.
So it’s the one time that nagging has paid off?
[Nervous laughter.] No, It made me really reflect. It’s a maturing process in my life, where my responsibility is first to my family, and how am I going to change my ways? Really simply put, the first couple of chapters of the book focus on kitchen logic—taking two decades of professional [experience] and applying it to the way I’d run my own home kitchen. One comment I hear about my first cookbook, My New Orleans, was that the recipes were so long, that it takes so much time to go out and shop just to get the ingredients. That made me think—you should have a lot of these things in your pantry. The average home cook shops for the recipe. They don’t keep this parstock of things in the pantry.
A lot of people don’t necessarily have access to great ingredients, so they take the easy way out.
As I was going through this I read a Michael Pollan article in the Times that spoke to the tragedy of people not cooking their own food, and the further we get away from that, we’re losing something critical to every part of our culture, our society, our being. We need to commune at a table — not only for sustenance, but I think our souls crave sitting down and breaking bread.
More local food news: I was thrilled to see that in the past year or so in St. Francisville, a butcher shop has opened in town. The butcher, Marty, is really knowledgeable. It turns out that he and his veterinarian wife also homeschool their kids, and his wife, Sonya, a veterinarian, advises the 4-H program (our kids will join the poultry club, once we can figure out a place to raise chickens, which aren’t legal for backyards inside town). Can’t wait to make my first brisket from his shop. What a great thing it is to have a butcher in town. I lived in one of the most prosperous parts of Philadelphia, and we didn’t have one nearby.