This past weekend I was fortunate to be invited as guest chef for a pop-up dinner at Deluxe 1717. The owner, Onil Chibas is a talented chef who hosts these dinners at his space in Pasadena. It was wonderful to cook a multi-course meal for my friends, new and old. I was grateful to Onil and his staff; we all worked together to make it a success. At the end of the evening I gave each of our guests a short passage I wrote describing why I like to cook. I wanted to share it with you here.
This month marks a year since my daughter left for college and I find myself reflecting on all that has happened. Ever since I became a part of Elisa’s book project my days have been filled with preparing for events, book signings and meetings. Slowly my feelings of sadness at my daughter being so far away have ebbed. My son Haru, who is a junior in high school this year, has grown so much too. When it comes to cooking he is my greatest critic, and our playful bickering over meals has become a comedic staple of our relationship.
Having to speak about myself at the book events has made me ever more aware of what cooking means to me and what my work means to the people around me. Why do I want to teach cooking classes? Why do I want to host a pop-up, make a menu and serve my food to others? What do I enjoy most and what is most important to me? This world is already flooded with countless recipe books, notifications of new restaurants and chefs; even home cooking is no longer private, as proven by my own Instagram feed. For someone like me for whom cooking is about conversation and creating intimate community, being flooded with this stream of trends and food culture can be overwhelming.
Of course being in touch with the food community, discovering new things together is important. But in the past year I also have come to realize exactly how important the one-on-one is over food: the sense of sharing that comes from cooking out of love, of passing your stories in food on to your children and your friends. It feels strange to say this as I am only just starting to enter the more professional and business world of cooking, but often I have been feeling that the moments when I work hardest is when I forget that I’m working.
A few weeks ago I made one of my favorite pastries: a peach tart. As I looked at the tart on my table, my mind was filled with images of sharing it with my family or eating and laughing with those who came to Elisa and my events to try and share in our food and stories. And I also thought of the ways in which that joy can be passed on to those I teach in my classes when they go home and bake for their own families and communities. That’s why I cook.