Below is a transcript of a live online chat with Jeffrey Saad of The Cooking Channel, which took place on Friday, March 8, 2013. The one-hour talk focused on all things cooking, including techniques, equipment, and tips and tricks (a bit of talk about restaurants also took place), and it included some viewer participation, with folks asking Jeffrey questions throughout. [Note: The original discussion can be replayed at the following link: http://www.hiddenboston.com/online-discussion-0313.html and please go to the restaurant discussions link to check out our other chats.]
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Hello, and welcome to another live online discussion! Usually, these chats include a panel of local folks in the media and restaurant industry talking about dining out in the Boston area, but today things are being switched around a bit, as this discussion will be about all things cooking. And this morning I'll be talking with a special guest from the West Coast--Jeffrey Saad, who is a host on the Cooking Channel, as well as an author, chef, and restaurateur (and you may have seen him on various shows on the Food Network as well). Jeffrey, welcome to the chat!
Jeffrey: Good morning! I hope everyone is off to a delicious day.
Marc H.: Thanks so much for taking time out to talk, Jeffrey. I was actually concerned this might not happen, as we're in the middle of a major snowstorm, with lots of power outages, but it looks like the lights are still on here. :-)
Jeffrey: Best wishes to all. I hope everyone is safe and the biggest challenge is making coffee due to power outages
Marc H.: Ha ha, thanks. Actually, it looks like one challenge is that things are running slow online perhaps due to the storm, but hopefully it'll pick up a bit.
Jeffrey: When I think of Boston I always think of Hungry Mother. Had such a great meal there. Still good?
Marc H.: It's often mentioned among the top restaurants in the area. The folks behind it are apparently looking to also open a deli of some sort, by the way.
Marc H.: So before we get into food talk, perhaps you could tell us a little bit about yourself. Were you interested in cooking pretty much from the start? Did you have anyone who influenced you at an early age?
Marc H.: Oh, by the way, just a quick note--a few folks (including cooks, chefs, and food writers) are viewing this and may have questions for you along the way if you wouldn't mind taking a question here and there.
Jeffrey: bring it on. with pleasure
Jeffrey: My favorite new spice toy http://bit.ly/10gCKwu
Marc H.: That's a great idea! I cook a number of ethnic cuisines myself, so this would be perfect for me.
Marc H.: You don't want to even know how my spices are organized right now. :-D
Jeffrey: I have found that organizing spices by country or "flavor profile" is a lot easier and stimulates recipe ideas...
Jeffrey: LOL, like most people.
Marc H.: That would be a big help doing it that way. Speaking of spices, a question from one of a viewer:
Nancy Grossi from CA: Hi Jeffrey, If you could only choose 5 spices to have stocked in your kitchen, what would they be?
Jeffrey: Kind of like asking me which chile I love the most :)Cumin - the culinary chameleon, Coriander, the "citrus" of spices, Smoked paprika, makes everything beautiful and adds a great chile flavor, 5-spice, to add a Chinese signature to anything,
Jeffrey: And whole fennel seed - adds great texture and that lip licking licorice kick to tomato sauces and salads
Marc H.: I use all of those as well except for the 5-spice. What's in that?
Jeffrey: It is a blend of the baking spices-clove and cinnamon, star anise (woodsy, licorice flavor), fennel seeds and the mysterious Szechuan peppercorn (actually a dried "flower") that numbs your tongue and opens up your tastebuds!
Marc H.: I've had that peppercorn in a Chinese cooking class, actually. It really made for a strange sensation on my tongue, that's for sure.
Jeffrey: It does! Used in balance it is great. you will now recognize it in many Chinese dishes
Marc H.: So before we get more into cooking talk, what are you up to these days? It sounds like you've been pretty busy of late! Could you talk a little bit about your Cooking Channel show?
Jeffrey: Had a blast filming this recent episode of Food Rush with Ryan Scott. Crab fishing under the GG Bridge and cooking up some great dishes http://bit.ly/W1jHmN
Marc H.: Crab is a big favorite in the Boston area. I'm guessing that the crab in SF is different from the crab around here (and in Maryland, for that matter).
Jeffrey: I have been really busy at my restaurants www.thegrovesf.com we just introduced Social Hour - killer small plates of food from 3:00-6:00 every day. Housemade Giant soft pretzels with beer-cheese dipping sauce, grilled veggie bites, meatball sliders...
Marc H.: That all sounds good right now, especially since I'm eating whole-wheat crackers as we speak. :-)
Jeffrey: Oh yes! The crab battle! East vs. West. I can play it safe on this one and say I love um both! Can't beat those softshells out East!
Jeffrey: My recent show United Tastes of America on Cooking Channel was a blast. We did 40 episodes of traveling across America to taste the best versions of America's iconic foods
Jeffrey: I had a blast shooting at Moo Modern Steak House in your hood
Jeffrey: slather those crackers with something :)
Marc H.: Ha ha, maybe a bit of butter if I can find some near me.
Marc H.: When were you at Mooo?
Marc H.: Boston has so many steakhouses now, but that's considered by many to be near the top among them.
Jeffrey: Let's see... that was about a year ago? The chef made a killer Wellington
Marc H.: Jeffrey, here's another question, this one coming from a fellow food writer here in the Boston area.
Michelle Collins: Hi Jeffrey! What was one of the most memorable meals you had while filming United Tastes?
Jeffrey: Hello Michelle, so hard to pick one... it was often about the great experience between all the people involved. The fried chicken at the Busy Bee in Atlanta was great, the pie from Alan Carter at Mission Beach Bakery in SF was the best I ever had (now serve at my restaurants)
Marc H.: Thanks, Jeffrey. One more question and then we can move on...
LH: do you have "soul foods" in your cuisine, such as we have: for example' mac and cheese. If so. could you please give them names and a brief description?
Jeffrey: We do a killer Mac/Chz at The Grove. Is that what you are referring to? All of our dishes warm your "soul" :)
Marc H.: One more question just came through! Then we can get back to a bit of cooking talk. Here's the question.
Mmmm pizza: Any food "trends" you feel are just a waste of food time?
Jeffrey: Anything executed well is worth the time. I have never been a fan of foam. I prefer to keep spit in my mouth :)
Marc H.: Let's get back to talking about cooking...it sounds like you've studied a lot of different cuisines from around the world, but which cuisines in particular do you tend to focus on when you cook for yourself, if any?
Jeffrey: I have culinary ADD! I have travled extensively in Mexico so that is always a go-to. I went to China two years ago and have not stopped cooking that since. Thailand last year and that was added to the repertoire, Italian is a must as my lovely wife grew up in Rome and needs her fix. I cook it all based on the mood, the weather, the guests and my curiosity...
Marc H.: When you're cooking at home, do you have any favorite tools/equipment? Any specific brands that you like to use?
Jeffrey: I live for my All-Clad. It is hands down the best. I have to have my mortar and pistil at hand for grinding spices
Marc H.: I've been grinding my spices more and more in that manner as well, especially with Indian and Mexican cooking.
Marc H.: Are there any tips or tricks that you'd like to share with folks? I recently asked this question in a cooking chat with cooks and chefs from around the country and they definitely came up with some pretty interesting ones. :-)
Jeffrey: The simplest - cut butter into small squares and keep covered in fridge for quick finishing off a sauce, etc. Always toast your spices in a touch of oil to bring out their flavor. Oil - onions/veggies then spices. then add liquids
Marc H.: Thanks! It looks like LH has a follow-up about soul food:
LH: I thought that you might have a particular "soul food" which is a part of cuisine coming from another culture, rather than from Western origins. Is mac and cheese THAT powerful throughout the world of cuisine??
Jeffrey: Mis-understood. sorry :) Every country has it's "soul food" usually in the form of a stew of some kind.
Marc H.: I'll throw in one of my favorite soul foods--Singapore noodles, which I know you can get at most Chinese restaurants, but when it's done right there are few things I like better when there's 15 inches of snow coming down (like today).
Jeffrey: Love noodles! wow, I grew up in Chicago and miss those snow storms. Heading out to surf today!
Marc H.: I didn't need to hear that. ;-) Which beaches do you surf at, by the way?
Jeffrey: Latigo and Zuma in Malibu, County Line (ventura) is best in the winter
Marc H.: Ohhh, nice. Have fun today! Before we wrap up, I was wondering--do you have any favorite restaurants in L.A. or in other parts of the country? Have you been to any spots in New York or Boston that you like (in addition to Mooo)?
Marc H.: And Hungry Mother, of course.
Jeffrey: NYC Restaurants Pok Pok Wing-137 Rivington Street (Norfolk Street); (212) 477-1299; pokpokwing.com Andy Ricket Rubirossa Pizza-mulberry and spring Cafe Sabarsky Neue Gallery 1048 Fifth Ave (86th St) - Austrian.
Marc H.: I'm taking notes. (I go to NYC a lot.)
Jeffrey: Another NYC favorite! Raoul's - 180 Prince Street (Sullivan and Thompson) - Soho; Quintissential French bistro.
Jeffrey: Interested in dragging your tongue across the globe? Check out my book :) http://amzn.to/Wa3fUs
Marc H.: Yes, that looks like a must-read for lovers of ethnic fare! Do you have any plans to work on another book at some point?
Jeffrey: We shall see. My palate and repertoire are constantly evolving and I love to share so at some point for sure.
Marc H.: Well, it looks like it's about that time. Thanks again for chatting today, Jeffrey. It was a lot of fun! I'll be writing a transcript of this later today and will send it out to folks to read. Have a great day, and enjoy the surfing!
Jeffrey: Thank you all. Cheers
Jennifer @ 1840 Farm: Thanks! It was fun to follow along!