This conversation between chef Edward Lee and Sam Sifton, food editor for the New York Times, was from the Portland Book Festival in 2018. The Portland Book Festival 2019 schedule has just been announced! The Festival will take place on November 9 in downtown Portland. For more information about the author line up, schedule, and tickets visit: literary-arts.org
American food is the story of mash-ups. Immigrants arrive, cultures collide, and out of the push-pull come exciting new dishes and flavors. But for Edward Lee, who, like Anthony Bourdain or Gabrielle Hamilton, is as much a writer as he is a chef, that first surprising bite is just the beginning. What about the people behind the food? What about the traditions, the innovations, the memories?
A natural-born storyteller, Lee decided to hit the road and spent two years uncovering fascinating narratives from every corner of the country. There’s a Cambodian couple in Lowell, Massachusetts, and their efforts to re-create the flavors of their lost country. A Uyghur café in New York’s Brighton Beach serves a noodle soup that seems so very familiar and yet so very exotic—one unexpected ingredient opens a window onto an entirely unique culture. A beignet from Café du Monde in New Orleans, as potent as Proust’s madeleine, inspires a narrative that tunnels through time, back to the first Creole cooks, then forward to a Korean rice-flour hoedduck and a beignet dusted with matcha.
Sixteen adventures, sixteen vibrant new chapters in the great, evolving story of American cuisine. And forty recipes, created by Lee, that bring these new dishes into our own kitchens.
Edward Lee is the author of Smoke & Pickles and Buttermilk Graffiti; the chef/owner of 610 Magnolia, MilkWood, and Whiskey Dry in Louisville, Kentucky; and culinary director of Succotash in Penn Quarter, Washington D.C. and National Harbor, Maryland. He appears frequently in print and on television, earning an Emmy nomination for his role in the Emmy Award–winning series The Mind of a Chef. Most recently, he wrote and hosted the feature documentary Fermented. He lives in Louisville and Washington, D.C. Visit Edward online at chefedwardlee.com