"The only way you can learn, I told them, is to watch me cook it."
Sometimes video does not lie. If you watch one of Gianni's videos, you're going to see something pretty unusual — an authentic representation of the man himself, cooking something that is just as easy as it looks, and that tastes better than you might believe. I know, because in a bit of — I admit it, star-struckedness, I went to interview Gianni after having watched him in so many videos.
He lives on the top of the hill in Russian Hill in San Francisco. Parking was perilous, but possible. I lugged my one-man band show stuff upstairs (he's on the third floor) and when he opened the door a heavenly smell of garlic wafted out. He was making the cioppino recipe that he posted later that same day.
I had to check out his Italian tomatoes, a new brand he said, but authentic DOP Italian canned tomatoes, and it makes a big difference. He added then to the garlic roasting in the La Cruset enameled pot he was using. I remarked on the pot, and he told me that there was a Mario Batali equivalent that was supposed to be as good and considerably less expensive. (I'd looked at that same pot once and come away with sticker shock.)
He cooked a bit more while I set up, and then we sat down at his dining table and just started chatting about North Beach. It didn't take me long to realize that I was hearing words I wanted to record, so I turned on the recorder without telling him as he talked about his work restoring a classic North Beach mural. As he wrapped up that anecdote, I told him we were recording and off we went. It was a delightful hour that seemed like five minutes, as we talked about his childhood cooking background — which I think is very important to those of us who actually enjoy cooking — and how he reverse engineers recipes that he likes and remembers. You can hear that unedited conversation about food, family and the importance of talking in the kitchen by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
11-15-11 UPDATE:Podcast Update: Time to Read, Episode 18: Karl Marlantes, 'What It Is Like To Go To War'
Here's the eighteenth episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. The podcasts/radio broadcasts will be of books worth your valuable reading time. I'll try to keep the reports under four minutes, for a radio-friendly format. If you want to run them on your show or podcast, let me know.
My hope is that in under four minutes I can offer readers a concise review and an opportunity to hear the author read from or speak about the work. I'm hoping to offer a new one every week.
11-14-11:A 2001 Interview With Jeff Hertzberg, M. D. and Zoe Francois
Click image for audio link.
"I end up making all sorts of pizzas with this crust."
A good conversation shares a lot with a good meal; they're both best created and shared with others. That's a roundabout way of saying that I've been looking forward to speaking with Jeff Hertzberg, M. D. and Zoe Francois since we spoke about the last book, 'Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.' That's two years of waiting, but the result was worth it. When you have the authors of cookbooks in the studio with you (or you bring your studio to them), you have a unique opportunity to get pointers on the stuff you couldn't quite put together.
That's not a problem with 'Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day,' The recipes are dead easy, so much so that it is easy to go beyond them, which makes the cookbook really fun. As sat in an austere corner room of the Nikko hotel, Jeff and Zoe traded stories, and each talked about their own contributions to the books.
Jeff is the doctor, but he is also, and this is critical, "the guy," and he makes sure that the recipes will appeal to the other guys out there. He has a loose, sort-of dangerous feel when he talks, as if he might suggest something really off the wall. Zoe, the pastry chef, has a more than a hint of science about her, a sense of quiet precision.