The James Beard Award–winning chef of Underbelly Hospitality, a champion of Houston’s diverse immigrant cooks—Vietnamese, Korean, Mexican, Indian, and more—shows you how to work with their flavors and cultures with respect and creativity.
JAMES BEARD AWARD FINALIST
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.
For Houston chef Shepherd, cooking local means employing "techniques and ingredients from a spectrum of immigrant influences," which he expertly illustrates in this tempting, accessible debut. The six chapters are organized not by key ingredient (each of which is easily sourced) but by essential flavoring. Chapter one focuses on fish sauce, and the recipes, including pork riblets in fish sauce caramel, are primarily Vietnamese. The second chapter, "Chiles," is more diverse and includes recipes for green beans with Japanese curry and a chile tater tot casserole. Soy, in its many guises, is examined in the third section, which includes green curry pancakes that are drizzled with a syrup of sweet soy sauce and honey. Shepherd's signature dish, Korean braised goat and dumplings, is the star of the section on rice, with its dumplings made from pan-fried cylindrical rice cakes in a stew flavored with beer and the red chile paste called gochujang. Throughout are profiles of the markets that Shepherd frequents and their proprietors. Flavors from around the world redefine the concept of home cooking in this rich and satisfying collection.