Josh Sharkey [00:06:41]:
Yeah. Why? I think that there's poetry in that too. I mean, it just, you know, just in the same way haiku is basic, but still poetry and something, some prose that's very long is still poetry. You know, it's just true to who you are. Dan is that. Dan is. Can't just take an artichoke and, you know, perfectly poach it and serve it on a plate with some olive oil and, you know, lemon, like that's just not Dan is that's not who he is. Whereas that's, it's Allison, you lean more towards, you just appreciate that, you know, these things in life. And then of course, sort of what else you can do with them. But I think that's just who you are, which I think definitely shows in your writing as well.
Tamar Adler [00:07:18]:
When I first got to Chez Panisse, which I think was in 2006, Russell Moore, who had been a cafe chef for a long time was in the process of opening a restaurant called Camino, which is now closed. But when it was open, it was my favorite restaurant in the world. I think it was the best restaurant ever. And it was just spectacular and strange and perfect and idiosyncratic. Um, and Russ, at that point, Russ was kind of filling in as a cafe chef sometimes, I think just to make money while his, while he was waiting for his restaurant to be open, but he loves all of the odds and ends and bits and like this strange, deliciously flavored liquid as much as I do, or more than I do because he's, you know, older, like by as many more years as he has on me. And there was one time when he was filling in as a cafe chef. And I was working at the cafe, which is just upstairs at Chez Panisse. And, um, I'd braised a lot of artichokes. And then I think we were also doing either the artichokes were for a lasagna, like a really beautiful, like many layered lasagna. We're going to do like a thinly sliced layer of them braised I don't know. Or we were going to do a lasagna the next day.
And after I braised the artichokes, I saved the artichoke braising liquid, which I mean, as you know, it's like this super intense distilled, like essence of artichoke and garlic and savory and oil. It's just an elixir. It's amazing. And as I was pouring it, I was emptying it from a Rondo into a, like whatever, the six pound or something. And Russ came over and he saw me doing it and he said, Tamar, I'm so happy to see you doing that. I'm the only other person who insists on saving every single ounce of artichoke liquid. And then from then on, we like had this wonderful, every time he filled in. We had this wonderful thing where both of us were always like grabbing the very, very, very end of stuff and like drizzling them into everything.
And like cardoon liquid also, because it's so it's quite bitter and metallic tasting, but there's also something wonderful about it. And so whenever he was the chef, I would choose a dish to make that had the most like weirdness and most I don't know, the most flexibility. And then I would be like, Russ, I put the end of that, remember the, you know, whatever it was, I like combined the artichoke liquid and the cardoon liquid and a little bit of that weird vinegar that we had last week. And it's, I put it in the, and he'd be like, Oh, thank you. And that was just a wonderful, like to share that with somebody was both hilarious because we were both kind of joking all the time, but also dead serious that it was that that was going to make the dish, you know, as delicious as it could be, which I completely stand behind. I wasn't doing it to like prank the restaurant. I was doing it because I'm like, this has everything in it. We need, if we're going to even put a tiniest little like ladle full of water on this, we're not going to do water. We'll do this like murky liquid, but he and I would always have these like little cracks.
Josh Sharkey [00:10:34]:
I love that.
Tamar Adler [00:10:35]:
Containers of our, yeah.
Josh Sharkey [00:10:36]:
Yeah. I mean, Artichoke liquid is fricking delicious.
Tamar Adler [00:10:37]:
Josh Sharkey [00:10:38]:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Well, we're gonna weave in cooking and writing into all these conversations, but you also work for Gabrielle Hamilton for a while, who also has written, Do You Think Chefs Make Great Writers?
Tamar Adler [00:10:54]:
No, I think it's amazing when chefs are great writers, right? Like I think of Gabrielle, I think of Shana Lowe, um, Benayan from, I might say Benayan wrong. Benayan? Shana Lowe Benayan. Um, I think of Shana from Cafe Mutton who had a book come out, uh, last year called Illogy for an Appetite and Cal Peternell. But I, I don't think that, I think that chefs often have a medium already and it is food and that maybe if they were allowed to write their own cookbooks rather than having like cookbook writers sort of imagine a voice, it would be different. But I know, I think that when chefs are great writers, it is so spectacular because, um, you get them in a different, in a different medium, you know, like I think like my brother was saying on your podcast two days ago. Um, I think that we are all expressing ourselves through our food for sure. But it's so cool when you see when you're used to hearing somebody through their, you know, their bologna sandwich or their oyster omelet, and then you get them in words. It's such an awesome experience. I just don't think it's I don't, do you think that chefs make great writers?
Josh Sharkey [00:12:20]:
I don't think I have enough empirical evidence to say yes or no. I think some of the, you know, there's not enough stat sig, you know, to say, to say whether they are not, I think some of the characteristics of a great cook, you know, being disciplined, being self motivated, obviously being, you know, creative and being able to think independently are like really great traits of a writer. There's probably a lot of similarities to cooking and writing, but I mean, what do you think makes a great writer?
Tamar Adler [00:12:48]:
Hold on. I want to go back to that because you're, I think you're right. You make a really good point. And it's something that I've thought of every time I finish a book, there are these stretches of like really unbearable work. They usually come during the edit process, but it's sitting in one place at a screen, often for periods of like 10 hours at a time or 18 hours at a time. Meticulously reading with 100 percent concentration and attention every single word because you're, as I get close to the, you know, the last time I can make an edit, the last time I can change a comma, the closer I get to the end, the more of a sense I have of high stakes and that I want, that's when I'm like, I need to know that every word is in the right place and every idea is right. And if I say 25 minutes, yeah. It's 25 minutes and if I say a tablespoon, it's a tablespoon and like, there's a kind of endurance that comes into play at the end of writing a book, less so with articles, but a little bit with articles where like, you have to just be able to, it's a marathon and a sprint. Complete focus, unmoving, who cares what else is happening?
Who cares how you feel? Who cares how your body feels? I don't care if you want to go for a run. If you're hungry, then you can have some peanut butter. Like, that reminds me so much of service.
Josh Sharkey [00:14:18]:
Yeah. The difference though, It's very hard that it seems so much harder to me because you can get through service, right? It's a you see the end of it. You can get through all the prep that you need to get done. It's tangible It's there's a line of sight to the end. What's terrifying for me with writing when you have to finish something is there is no line of sight to the end It's not like, okay, now I just need to, you know, in three hours, this will be done. It's, this could be three hours, but it could be 30 hours.
Tamar Adler [0014:48]:
No. Cause there are deadlines. It's the same thing. It's the same. It's the beginning, you know, think about like Saturday night. In a busy restaurant when it's like, this is, you know, this is impossible, right? Like that, this number of tickets will never be gone through that machine will never stop that noise, which is like, we can all hear in our souls. I am, you know, like it's seven o'clock and I'm at a pizza dough. All that. And you're like, I'm going to, okay, I'm going to make more dough while they're firing that ticket. And it's going to prove really just all insane things and get upstairs as quickly as I can. The things that you have to do are crazy, but at some point the last ticket comes in, you know that.
And it's the exact same thing when like they can say if it's due on the, on August 10th, you can push it by a day or two, maybe even push it by a week, but eventually. Your deadline has come and the last ticket comes in and it really it's always with books and I remembered it with this time I had forgotten because like I've gone soft and I haven't cooked in a restaurant in a long time and I haven't even done like a crazy event and I had forgotten how painful it is to finish to go through those periods of sitting in one place and doing nothing else and giving it your total focus and not giving up and being like there's still another 400 pages. This is impossible. And I was reminded doing it this time that it is super useful to have had various experiences that feel really, really, very much like this. And I think cooks are like the focus and like getting things done and determination thing. I completely agree that I think that if a chef does have a book in them, they're more likely to finish it than anybody else because they're not going to be like, you can't really deter a chef from doing something.
Right. My brother and I have talked about this so much that like in the zombie apocalypse, we would take, like, Chefs over Navy SEALs, because I don't know any, I don't know anybody else in whom I have such complete faith that like the problem will be solved. The thing will be done. I don't know how anybody's going to get there. And I don't know, like, it's going to be pretty wacky, but like. We're getting out of this, like the zombies will not get us if we're all line cooks.
Josh Sharkey [00:17:10]:
I'll take it.
Tamar Adler [00:17:11]:
We will prevail.
Josh Sharkey [00:17:12]:
Well, so obviously, you know, in cooking, we have this idea of mise en place. I read, you mentioned before that you've gone through phases of like how you plan for your books. Like you had this one sort of like three documents, things to go in and outline, and then what gets on the page. And then you have sort of more of a laissez faire approach at some, uh, like, how do you like prep for a book? Is there a semblance of your mise en place when you start writing, uh, on, you know, for the day or like, how do you prepare?
Tamar Adler [00:17:38]:
The true answer is I don't prepare well enough because mise en place works so well for everything that I should do better. I'm starting a project that is a secret project right now, but it is one that I am so intimidated by that I the only way for me to approach it was the mise en place approach. I'm approaching it like doing every single stage completely on its own, thinking about no further stage, which is kind of how mise en place works, you know, like, it's so much easier to approach cooking anything when the first you're just like, I'm just chopping the onion right now. That's chopping the onion, putting it over there. I'm chopping the tomato I'm putting it over there, chopping the garlic. I'm picking the herbs and you just do all of that. And when you're doing that, you're not worrying about whether you should put the basil in. Like there's some benefits to putting the basil in early, right? Because then it gets like really stewy, but then it tastes like cooked basil. If you put it in at the end, then it tastes like fresh basil, totally different. But when you're picking the basil leaves off the stems, you're not thinking about that. You're just thinking leaf, leaf, leaf, leaf. If I'm intimidated by a project, as I am by this current project, I totally, as a crutch, I will do that.
So like I wrote on post it notes, I'm in my office and one whole wall is covered in post it notes that are the, every scene that's going to be in this project. And so, like, and that's all I had to do. Not think about words, not think about anything else. And actually, before that, I, on big pieces of paper, wrote down, like, characters and their backgrounds. And then the next stage of it was going to be just transcribing the post-its, but that was too close to writing, and I got really thrown off course. And so a friend suggested that I dictate the post it notes.
Josh Sharkey [00:19:29]:
Oh, that's cool.
Tamar Adler [0019:30]:
And then have it transcribed. So I did that. So I just stood in front of the wall and I read them and then had them transcribed. The thing that I think really doesn't work for writing, just like it really doesn't work for cooking, is like, while you're in the middle of chopping the onion, being scared that you'll, that the onion will start caramelizing when you just wanted it to get to sweat, you know, like that just gets in your way. And I can't even, it's like helpful for me to, I feel like I'm in therapy right now because it's helpful for me to talk about how useless that is in cooking and how much that would slow you down if you were like, Oh no, but what if I, if I don't add salt until later? In the onion sweating, you know, it's like, no, no, just chop the onion.
And I think that's definitely when I have the most success in writing. It's when I do that, which is kind of like for article writing, it's everything I want to go in and then like, get it on screen and then worry about the, like a list of everything I want to go in and get that all on screen and then worry about, you know, making it all work together.
Josh Sharkey [00:20:40]:
Yeah, absolutely. There's a very famous writer by the name of Eminem. One thing I love about his practice is he writes every single day and 98 percent of what he writes he's fully aware that it will not ever be in a piece of his music But the act of constantly putting his thoughts down keeps him sharp Do you feel like with writing if you stop for a long period of time you get rusty? Are you constantly writing even if it's like going in something or?
Tamar Adler [00:21:10]:
I think I'm rusty, but I want to read where he said that. I think he's right, for sure. Yeah, I've written mostly cookbooks. That's not true. I've written all cookbooks. And so I haven't, I think when I was writing my first book, I probably wrote every day. Maybe it's lucky that I've always had like a concrete project to work on, so I've kind of worked on that. But I don't have a practice where I sit down and write every day. Uh, and I definitely should. And I'm definitely rusty and dull. Where did he write that?
Josh Sharkey [00:21:38]:
He said it in an interview somewhere. Um, maybe on like one of the, you know, radio shows or something. And I think then Dr. Dre also reiterated it. I found it fascinating because like,
Tamar Adler [00:21:48]:
Yeah, that's, yeah, I mean, that makes sense.
Josh Sharkey [00:21:49]:
What was fascinating about it was the idea that it's okay, that most of what I'm going to write is not going to go anywhere because that's scary, right? It's like, wait, am I wasting time? And no, you're just the act of actually doing the thing.
Tamar Adler [00:22:03]:
And I mean, especially with, yeah, that's actually really helpful to hear, especially because I always think that like hip hop is such a, it's like such a refined form in that, you know, things have to work in such clear, specific ways. It's, you know, it's poetry, right? So like, because it's so refined, you're not going to get, I mean, sure. Maybe sometimes people get straight there, but of course you need to. like have a block of marble before you can chisel. I mean, that's how I would picture hip hop being made because it's so the word choice is so specific and the rhythm is so specific. Um, and I think that, you know, probably every time I think I have a good sentence in a book, it is because I've written like a thousand words around it. I don't think I have a practice like Eminem and Dr. Dre and I think I should, but I do know that for every good sentence, I've written like conservatively a hundred, but probably more versions that are not right.
And then at some point it's right, or the sentences that end up in the book took one second to write, but I wrote all this other crap that was never going to end up there.
Josh Sharkey [00:23:18]:
When I heard it, it made me think about cooking because his reasoning behind it was, the idea of the rustiness was, his superpower, his job, is to take ideas and turn them into really pleasant things to hear. And so he has ideas every day, and so the idea... The notion of writing down his ideas every day means that he knows that 98 percent of his ideas are bad. Whenever he has a really good idea, he's so adept at being able to write it down and be able to like translate his idea into words that those 2 percent are going to be great. And it's the same thing in, you know, I think about cooking and being, you know, being so sharp and cooking every day. And I remember when Brandon and I were developing recipes for Bark, there was, you know, we have this, this idea of chefs of like, Oh yeah, sometimes you just. You just create a dish, and it's right the first time.
And you think, well that's just, we just got it right. And no, usually what that means is just like, you have so much practice, you've done this so long that you just, you know the amount of salt you want, and acid, and heat, and sugar, and you just happen to be in that zone when that happened. I feel like that zone is really in any of these creative processes. If you can get yourself to be in that zone, when exactly, when you need to be, it's a huge skill set, which is really freaking hard because you have to be kind of on all the time and I'm sure for writing, it's hard because you don't, you can't have a project every, every week.
Tamar Adler [00:24:41]:
Cooking is so much easier for me than writing and it's so wonderful to not, I've thought about it so little. I mean, I think everything I've thought about cooking I've published. I don't actually think about it very much. It's a very self contained act for me. Like I cook constantly. And I feed people constantly, but I don't analyze it a lot. And so to hear you, like just to talk about the, the analogs between cooking and writing is so interesting because I've almost never thought about it. And I think you're totally right that lots of times, I mean, I, I have conversations in my kitchen all the time where people are like, Wait, how did you know that was done? You know, we'll be in the middle of the conversation and I'll stand up and go over to the, to the stove and turn something over or turn something off and, you know, or like, I'll just like make something and they're like, I don't, this is, I don't get, see, this is why I don't cook.
Like, I don't get it. And I think I'm bringing to bear every single thing I've ever cooked. Right. It looks, all you see is like the Chinese calligraphy, single line. But in fact, it's the like thousands of hours that are being brought to bear. So I know that, like, yeah, I know the eggplant's done because I can smell it. And so it's like, I just know, but that's not because I'm a genius. That's because like, I've, I've made so much eggplant.
Josh Sharkey [00:25:58]:
I'm glad you brought that up because I wanted to talk about your creative process and things like how you know when something's done, and I want to read a quote that you said, because I really liked it specifically because it helps in thinking about the process of creativity and like getting stuck in analysis paralysis, although it has nothing to do with writing. Uh, so I'm just going to read this because I actually wrote it down. So you said, we settled on our son's name in less than a minute. I don't know if this is improvisation or impulse, but I think I sort of believe on a cellular level that no matter what I decide, there will be good and bad perks and drawbacks.
I'm always yearning for something else and I'll always find something worthy in what I've chosen, no matter what. And I think what, when I read that, I was like, okay, so you picked your son's name in like a second. And your thought was, yes, this might be the wrong decision, but it also might be the right decision, and no matter what, we're just going to make a decision, and we're going to be happy with it, and that's really hard, and like the idea of, when I think about writing, it must be monumentally harder than cooking, of just like, okay, what am I going to write, and you could spend hours thinking about the way in which you want to articulate this idea into a paragraph, and With that said, I'd love to just understand your creative process. Like, how do you know when something's done that you're writing? And what is the process of ideation like for you once it's, like, on the page?
Tamar Adler [00:27:18]:
You're such a good interviewer.
Josh Sharkey [00:27:19]:
Oh, thank you.
Tamar Adler [00:27:21]:
Um, you're really, really great at it. I appreciate that. I don't think that I ever feel like anything is done. I think there are, like, You know, small instances of feeling I can think of probably every moment I have felt like something was done. I think most of the time it's closer to what I said in that quote, which is that it is not done. It is better than it was before. And maybe it's still worse than what in my mind exists as the ideal version of this, which still exists somewhere. But all I can do is get as close to it as I have the physical and spiritual like endurance to do and then say, this is enough. I don't think I've ever made the thing as it exists in my head. A very simple cooking analogy, although I think this can be done, I think cooking is so much easier is like, you know how I think we all have, or at least like, you know, those of us that grew up in contemporary North America, especially like on the coasts, have some idea of like the platonic tomato basil sauce, right?
Like there's some marinara or, you know, whatever, some, or some like tomato, basil, garlic sauce that tastes, or you can imagine the taste. And I remember when I started cooking, like when I just graduated college, I lived in a house with six people and we had to each cook dinner for the whole house once a week. You know, I was 21 years old. Or 22. And I was like, I'm just gonna make tomato basil sauce. And every time I made it, it didn't taste like it tasted in my head and I was so frustrated by that, that I went on a like slightly manic bender and made tomato basil sauce every day, even when it wasn't my day to cook, I would just be like, don't worry about it.
I got your day, if you're okay eating pasta with tomato sauce, and I made it putting in the basil and then like putting in a hand, an immersion blender and like pulsing it a little bit so that the basil would get like more dispersed throughout and like pounding raw garlic and adding it at the end, slicing the garlic, chopping the garlic, pureeing the tomatoes before putting them in. I was trying to get to this kind of original tomato sauce. And now I think it's not just one thing. You don't need one trick. It's just about the tomatoes caramelizing and there being enough fat and a good balance. And so I think you can do it a bajillion different ways. And I know when I'm there and there's so many ways to get there, but it's about like, yeah, caramelization and fat.
But I didn't know that then. And that process is really, really close to how I think most writing is. For me, we're like, I'm, you know, I'm trying to get at this like platonic tomato basil sauce and I get as close as I can and then when it's close enough to that, because then when you get when you really, really, when you really think about it, right? And you go, okay, well, what, how would you know if you were there? The answer is you would never know. Tomato basil sauce does not exist in the mind. It only exists in real life. And so like the platonic book or whatever that I imagine or the perfect house or the perfect child's name does not, it doesn't exist there we are always going to be, you know, short of it because it's in a plane that can't contain it. And so I think it's that like good enough point. And I've certainly been, yeah, I don't know if it's like to the benefit or detriment of my writing as I've gotten older and been in more therapy.
I have more and more embraced the idea of good enough. Am I headed, am I working as hard as I can, headed in the direction that I want to be going? Yes. How close am I to the deadline? Yes. Okay. Like, all right, I got to stop now.
Josh Sharkey [00:31:28]:
Perfection is the enemy of good, right?
Tamar Adler [00:31:29]:
Josh Sharkey [00:31:30]:
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The thing with writing, you know, that's tough about this is. What I do now in technology, perfection is the enemy of the good. You want to get something out and you want to get people touching it and feeling it and responding to it so that you can iterate and keep changing it. And the same thing is with cooking, right? You can put a dish out and then start to tweak it over time because of feedback that you get. What's fucking terrifying is you can do that internally all you want, maybe you can crowdsource ideas, but like, you write a book, it's out, it's done, like, there's no like, okay, now I see that the response is this, I didn't articulate this well enough, or this came across the wrong way, like, you're done. That feeling must be, like, really, like, when you ship it off to the editor for the publisher for the last, you know, round, that's gotta be scary, right?
Tamar Adler [00:33:09]:
It's so terrible, and with my first book, I'd never written a book before. And so this is a cautionary tale to whomever is listening to this. Don't do what I'm about to describe under any circumstance. After my first book, right when it came out, so when I first had it in, you know, hardback form, I obviously every night after that happened, I would like sit around and drink a lot of wine with people and just like try to, I don't even know if process or like avoid the fact that I had just published a book. And then when I went to bed, I would read parts of the book that I had just published and almost to a T. One night, I would Like, let's say it was a Tuesday, drink a bunch of wine, go to bed at midnight, whatever, and lie in bed reading these pages that I had just published. And every other day I would feel so proud and feel like, Oh my God, I have done it.
This is genius. Like, look at what I've done. I'm like, want to climb up to my roof and, you know, crow. And then the alternating nights, I would feel physically sick and cry. And just like feel ill, not because of the wine, but because of the book writing and be like, this is so horrible. This is such a failure that I don't know what to do. Like, can I take it off of shelves? It's probably not on that many shelves. Like, what if I should I change my name? Should I, maybe nobody will read it. Nobody will read it. I failed. This is my one chance. And so I learned that the better thing to do is spend all of your time reading what you have written in the lead up to its publication. And then, depending on your strength of will, try to never read it again.
Josh Sharkey [00:35:02]:
Yeah. Well, and I think, well, first of all, it was incredibly well received, so I'm sure... It's a lot like opening, you know, a new restaurant and... You know, for anybody that's opened a new restaurant, your own restaurant, every single corner, you're like that paint is, you know, is messed up in that little corner and this chair is a little bit off and the things that you are able to pick out, no one else does. And the overall messaging is what matters most. But, uh, yeah, I have to imagine that that's scary, but in terms of like, I know you run or at least you were running and then maybe you got hurt a little bit. How much does running with your thought process?
Tamar Adler [00:35:39]:
One hundred percent. When I get kind of injured, I used to run a lot. I run less now, but I'm, I'm trying to embrace like old lady running where I just like go super slow and listen to podcasts and just don't worry and just kind of try to not measure myself up against the runner that I used to be just because there's nothing better. That's been all ideas. Yeah. That's when all ideas happen. Do you run?
Josh Sharkey [00:36:04]:
Oh, yeah. I mean, I love running and it's really the only way. Anytime I'm, I have to block time actually for my work day because it's my strategy time. It's when I, if I have to solve a problem, if I'm something I'm working through, I don't run, I don't listen to music or podcasts. I just run. And that's how I, I just decide on what problem or what idea I'm going to work through on the run. And that's. That's the length of the run, and that's it. Sometimes I, once a week I run barefoot, and so it's harder to stay focused.
Tamar Adler [00:36:33]:
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
Josh Sharkey [00:36:34]:
Oh, no, it's great. Once you, once you get used to it. It's really, I wear socks. But yeah, running is like, oh my gosh, like it is the best way to think. Now that said, I don't know how therapeutic it becomes, because it's really, I think about, you know, work every single time I'm running. It's more for me of a tactic, for thinking through problems.
Tamar Adler [00:36:56]:
Yeah, but it's also therapeutic because it actually has been and we talked a little bit about therapy at the beginning of this interview, which I hope stays in because I love talking about therapy. But, um, yeah, somebody I was talking to a therapist friend recently about why EDMR, is that what it's called? There's a thing where you like move your eyes to the right and left while like to deal with trauma. And it's supposed to rewire your brain. And she, my therapist friend was like, do you know why that works? And I said, not at all. And she said, it's the same reason that going for a walk or going for a run helps. And it's that when you're moving your eyes around to see what's around you. Like when you're walking or running somewhere and you have to engage with your peripheral vision that is in and of itself that is changing the electrical flows in your brain, your neural networks.
At that moment, you are building new neural networks by looking around. So anytime. You're looking just in one place whenever you get out and about and you're, you know, looking around so you don’t trip or you have to to make sure you don't like trip or, you know, you're looking at a tree, um, you are doing something akin to like massaging your brain because you're just making new little connections where before neurons were just being connected in the same way. So it actually is therapeutic even if you're working on a problem.
Josh Sharkey [00:38:23]:
That makes a lot of sense. Okay, I'm going to shift gears a little bit here, because you said something when we chatted last that was like a light bulb for me about when I think about your book, because when I think about both of your books, you know, well, we can talk about either one, but leftovers, it's a big thing, and I think that people get hung up on the idea of you are teaching people how to use leftovers and things, but you said something that was so awesome. Like, holy shit for me, because it's actually the, you're basically just emulating how family meal works in the restaurant, and the idea of just taking whatever is on hand and making it delicious. Was that sort of the impetus for how you started down this path or was it something that you always loved or how has family meals sort of like impacted how you sort of promulgate this message you have about, you know, leftovers and using everything in the kitchen?
Tamar Adler [00:39:12]:
I had a restaurant in Georgia with friends. It wasn't my restaurant. I ended up as the executive chef. It was a restaurant owned by a bunch of friends of mine and I had a cook named Noah Brendel who now has a restaurant in Athens, Georgia. An oyster restaurant that Seabear. So Noah now runs Seabear restaurant in Athens, Georgia. He, there was a long period around when I took over the kitchen where I was tasked with, uh, we had, we had been in the red that month. We had lost 10,000 dollars and my mission was to get us back to zero losses. So I make back that 10,000. I had to cut costs and increase revenue and I had like kind of a month because we had lost so much money in the month prior and one of the things I did was like make it so that nobody threw anything out and nothing new was ever used or consumed by anybody who worked in the restaurant and I made family meal every day because I, I knew that I could, I could trust me.
I was just trying to spend zero money. You know, and so, which can be kind of like a game. So I didn't let anybody else make family meal. And I always made something that Noah would call the pie. And he got so miserable.
Josh Sharkey [00:40:39]:
Tamar Adler [00:40:40]:
The pie. The pie. Because every single day I would take leftover grits. From the night before, because we were in Athens, Georgia, and I would always do some kind of a reconstitute grits, do a layer of grits, do like some kind of middle layer, so it was kind of like a polenta or grit lasagna, and then do another layer of reconstituted grits, and I was like, look, we're feeding everybody, it's always delicious, like reconstituted grits, and then like, ragu or, you know, collards with pepperoncino and another layer of grits and maybe like a little salsa verde or something.
Those things are always good. And I was like, this is how I am going to feed my staff without spending any money, which was like delicious the first three days. And then Noah was like, T, if I eat one more pie, I'm going to, like, I'm going to die. And I was like, well, we have to wait until we get there. You know, we need to get the numbers this month before we can move off pie. That was like the extreme, the most extreme version of it. But, you know, seeing the way family meal was done at Chez Panisse, which was after um, Athens, was another much less extreme, but really illuminating iteration of the same method, which was the garde manger at Chez Panisse is responsible for making family meal for the entire staff, including the office staff.
And they can essentially use You know, anything that is left over that isn't on the lunch menu for that day, um, which just meant, you know, being really creative and there would often be like, like a cheese plate because there was leftover cheese from the downstairs menu and they would kind of do much more sort of balanced and less repetitive versions of the pie and it was always delicious and it had to be beautiful, right? Because like it was part of Chez Panisse’s ethos that you can't we couldn't do like, you know, at Franny's and, and a lot of other restaurants, there would be things like chicken wings and ranch you could do for like for family meal once or like deep fried pizza or like Detroit style, you know, that was not an option at Chez Panisse.
It had to be a Chez Panisse-esque meal. And there always had to be a salad and cooks were not allowed to eat standing up. Everybody had to sit down at tables. And so because of that, it was a really great view into how to use what was left over from the night before service to make a Chez Panisse quality meal. And the meals were amazing. And I think so much of what I sort of transcribed after working there. was what garde manger’s did every day so that, you know, all 50 of us could eat Chez Panisse style food at the same time.
Josh Sharkey [00:43:30]:
It's a skill set that also really highlights a good cook from one that's not. If you can make, you know, family meal, and I think in the, I remember, you know, the pressure when you, you know, you go to a new kitchen and you're making staff, staff meal, family meal for everybody. It's a lot of pressure and you are using, you have to use leftovers. Although, I mean, look, there's, let's be honest, there's a bunch of restaurants. Where you kind of do whatever you want, but still it had to be delicious. And it was always something simple. And that's skillset is most times, I think a lot harder than the thing you're serving to the guests because you have a lot more discerning, you know eater and everybody is you know, there's pressure and yeah I mean doing chicken wings is a little bit easier but when you really get into it that family meal, it's it's a whole there's a whole culture around it and I love that you're yeah, sort of like now sort of teaching people at home to do the same thing
Tamar Adler [00:44:21]:
I totally think it's one of the hardest things one does in a restaurant though if you do it well, I mean, I think we've all probably been in the restaurant. We all as cooks have been in the restaurant kitchen where like it's time for family meal and then there's some like I don't know why it's always like minute rice with chopped up undercooked, like peppers in it or something. You know, there's like a hotel pan of like rice with peppers and you're like, we're serving such good food to people. Why are we eating like that? Definitely exists. That did not exist at Prune. That did not exist at Chez Panisse. And I once asked, I think it was Beth Wells, who I believe is now a chef of the cafe at Chez Panisse, why the garde manger had to do family meal every day. Because I think I was just like sticking up. I, garde manger is a position there that doesn't work service yet. Um, it's a pre-service position. And she said, it is like the ultimate proofing ground. You have to get so fast. And so good to get a meal for 50 cooked from leftovers between they have work that goes up until like 10. They have between like 10 and 12 to get a beautiful meal, which like Alice will come in and eat.
Everybody will come in and eat and it's got to like look good and taste good. And she was like, this is. This is like the main training. When you're done with this... It's way harder to do that. It's also, it's something new every single day, and you have to, you know, figure it out, and, yeah, there's always that pressure, so, I always would want cooks to, to really understand, you know, the skill of a cook. Just cook family meal. I don't need to, I don't need to work a station. You can, you can learn the station, but can you make something delicious for everybody with what's the walk in? Yeah. Speaking of leftovers, I wanted to, we're weaving in a little bit, so I hope that's okay. But I heard a story, we talked about you and John, your childhood, but I heard a story about You and your dad and that he would make you walk barefoot on pebbles to the calluses on your feet, which reminds me of my dad as well.
Tamar Adler [00:46:22]:
Josh Sharkey [00:46:23]:
I'm sure to make you stronger and build.
Tamar Adler [00:46:24]:
Josh Sharkey [00:46:25]:
Like, you know, metaphorical calluses as well as like physical ones. But you're a parent now. Has that sort of, you know, affected how you parent and do your kids eat leftovers? Because mine don't.
Tamar Adler [00:46:40]:
Um, it is totally affected how I parent, but only in that I don't do it. I'm really, I don't know if my brother brought this up, but, um. We were brought up, me more than him, he had some childhood illnesses that made my father take pity on him, but when I was really little, the main sort of line in our house was troopers don't, like the idea was that I was supposed to be a trooper, which I think is like, you know, like a soldier.
Josh Sharkey [00:47:02]:
Yeah, he was a soldier, right?
Tamar Adler [00:47:03]:
He was a soldier, yeah. Troopers don't get cold, troopers don't complain, troopers don't cry. When I got big cuts, I was never taken to the hospital. He would just pour like high octane alcohol on it. Like literally, I remember literally like, like having a huge cut that I still have a scar for full of rocks, like rock all through into my arm. And he had me biting on a rag. Rather than, you know, and he was pouring alcohol over it and taking out the rocks one by one. So I definitely grew up thinking that like, you know, being in pain was weak and being weak was bad. So all this stuff and I'm like very, very, as a mom, focused on not doing that.
It's a great handicap to not be able to think it's bad to have sad emotions or.
Josh Sharkey [00:47:52]:
Tamar Adler [00:47:53]:
Bad emotions or experience things badly. So I do, I do none of that. And I try to like embrace, not do, you know, it's not weakness to cry. And yeah,
Josh Sharkey [00:48:02]:
I totally agree. And same, I think, you know, in some ways I had a very similar upbringing where we just, we didn't talk about those things and the emotions did not come into play. And there wasn't like, Oh my gosh, are you going to be okay? That must be so scary. That just never happened. And it's affected me why I'm in therapy, but It's also why we have this diametrically opposed way of parenting our kids, which is everything that happens is we want to understand their feelings and why and and make sure that they are able to be in touch with those.
It's probably part of just how parenting happened back in the day. I mean, also, if you have an Israeli soldier as a father, it's probably exacerbated a lot, but You know, hopefully we're, this new generation is just getting a, a very different form of parenting because of the old way, but I couldn't agree more. It's just so hard to like, even to get in touch with your own feelings if you don't start from a young age, being able to.
Tamar Adler [00:48:53]:
Yeah. To even like know what they are, you know, so now we're in. It sounds like you're in a you are trying to do the same thing as we try to do, which is like we try to validate every field without judging it like you're feeling this that doesn't make it like good or bad or just like, you know, and I don't have an emotional vocabulary. I'm Trying to get one, but without one, like I don't so much of the time. I just don't even, I have no idea. It's like, how are you feeling? I'm like, I don't know.
Josh Sharkey [00:49:25]:
It's totally the same. So funny.
Tamar Adler [00:49:28]:
And so I think that that, like, I think the great benefit of this is that hopefully our children will be able to identify feelings that they have. And, you know, I'm sure we're, we're messing up horribly in another way that we don't even know about. So we can't talk about it, but right now, this feels good as a kind of response to the opposite, but I'm interested to see what horrible thing we're like, what our version of this is.
Josh Sharkey [00:49:54]:
I know, right? It's all an experiment because you have no idea. We got some problems, right? I'm similar. It's hard to identify the feelings that we're having, but there's other things that, you know, the resilience and endurance does, hopefully that doesn't go away with this. So who knows?
Tamar Adler [00:50:09]:
I know. And my feet were so calloused. I could walk on anything. I mean, I probably could have walked on coals. So strong. No, he doesn't eat leftovers. What are you talking about? He eats toast like everyone else, toast and butter.
Josh Sharkey [00:50:22]:
I mean, luckily now my kid will eat toast. So that's good. It used to be, my son will eat, will only eat very, very high quality feta. So do not try to like, you know, put one of the sort of like pre cut or the dry blocks. It's got to be in the brine. If he doesn't know the brine is there too, he's not eating it. And nuts. And now he'll eat some, you know, bread and butter. That's about it.
Tamar Adler [00:50:45]:
I mean, correct. On all counts. Correct.
Josh Sharkey [00:50:46]:
Tamar Adler [00:50:46]:
My cousin might hear this, but that's okay. We were at, Louis does not eat, does not eat much of anything. Which, like, I'm basically down with. He will eventually. My brother and I both didn't like food very much, and we're both professional cooks. So, I'm just not that worried. But we also. I really love peanut butter and I'm very specific about peanut butter. I really like crunchy, salted, but unsweetened peanut butter.
Josh Sharkey [00:51:17]:
Santa Cruz. You down with the Santa Cruz?
Tamar Adler [00:51:18]:
Um, I don't. Oh, yeah, yeah. That's fine. It's fine. Um, yeah, that's fine. Teddy's is fine. Um, the best is the one out of Michigan that we can find the name of. It's been family run for a long time. They sell it at Zingerman's. It is called Cream Nut.
Josh Sharkey [00:51:36]:
Oh, yeah. I mean, also just, I mean, let's be honest.
Tamar Adler [00:51:37]:
Oh, Cozy's is the company. Yeah.
Josh Sharkey [00:51:38]:
The cream nut chocolate, though. There was a dark peanut.
Tamar Adler [00:51:43]:
Everything. Everything they do. The Cozy Company. They've been doing it for a long time. So that's. That's our usual peanut butter, but we will, we will go, Santa Cruz will be a, a backup. There are like B team, Santa Cruz, Teddy's, whatever. Obviously as a cook and like Hudson Valley caricature, I make my own strawberry jam and we get spelt bread from a local bakery. And so Peanut butter and jelly in Lewis's head is like, you know, cream line, crunchy peanut butter, homemade strawberry jam, and spelt bread or other, you know, bread that you buy and you slice and da da da. And we were at my cousin's house over the weekend and he was hungry and I said, okay, I'll make you a peanut butter jelly sandwich. And it was creamy, skippy, and then like purchased strawberry jam and, you know, like peppers from bread or whatever. Just like what most people have for peanut butter and jelly.
And I gave it to him and he took one bite. He said, what did you put in this? Shh, just eat it.
Josh Sharkey [00:52:41]:
I mean, here's the thing is for me, I'm down with wonder bread, a PB and J. If it's there, but it still has to be good peanut butter. I can't do like the Jif or the Skippy, like, it just doesn't even taste like, you know.
Tamar Adler [00:52:57]:
Right, but back when you hadn't had like, you know, the Cream Line and the Santa Cruz and all that, it was what peanut butter was. And so it was, it was fine. It's just about context. Like if you hadn't, you know, you corrupted your son. By giving him good feta, and now you have to deal with the consequences. He can never eat that other stuff, but that's on you.
Josh Sharkey [00:53:15]:
Yeah, that was a wrong decision,
Tamar Adler [00:53:16]:
Yeah, that was a mistake.
Josh Sharkey [00:53:17]:
But yeah, I want to wrap this up with a little more writing. So I did want to kind of talk about who some of your favorite writers are before we do that though I'm just curious because I think about this a lot. I think I've asked this question a couple times: You write and then you publish things and you're writing for magazines. You're writing books You obviously are a discerning critic of your own writing if you could write your greatest work ever like and you knew it was the greatest thing you've ever written and it was pure surprise worthy And you knew it and you wrote it But no one else could read it except you. How would you feel? Would it still be satisfying for you?
Tamar Adler [00:54:01]:
That's a wild question.
Josh Sharkey [00:54:02]:
I can tell you the origin of it if you want.
Tamar Adler [00:54:03]:
Yeah, yeah. I would love to know the origin of it.
Josh Sharkey [00:54:04]:
You'll resonate with this. It's those times when you're in the kitchen and you're alone and you make something and you're like, holy fuck, this is so delicious. And no one's there except you. And you're just like, you're kind of like looking over your shoulder to like, you might want to taste this and there's no one there to taste it. You know, when you sort of parallel that to being a chef and what that means, I think about sort of like the reasons why we're a chef. But the same goes for writing, so I'm just curious like, how you would feel.
Tamar Adler [00:54:33]:
Yeah, I'm thinking, I'm so glad you told me the genesis of it because I am thinking about the specific moments when I have been in the kitchen and made something that is the most delicious thing I've ever made or on some occasions, I've even thought this is the best bite I've ever had, right? This is the most delicious thing I've ever eaten. And then I often fantasize. I'm thinking about where my mind goes and I will fantasize about having a restaurant where I serve that to people. That's a regular. That's like a clear pathway. It's like a way of coping with because it's first delight than mourning. Then, as you said, like, so maybe it's delight and then denial. Denial is looking around. Maybe there is somebody else here, right? And then after that sense of mourning, no, I'm alone here, nobody else. And then I think I fantasize with like, imagine that other people would be able to taste it. And then that fantasy, I think helps.
Me move through it with cooking. I even, I had that this morning before this call, after therapy and before our interview, I had breakfast and I had, I had made aioli two nights ago and it's garlic season right now. So. It's with garlic that is as good as garlic gets because it's fully balled out, not green garlic, but just picked and not cured yet. So Aioli with good olive oil and that garlic is I think one of the most delicious things. One can eat and I had leftover boiled potatoes and a few leftover half cherry tomatoes and leftover boiled beans and fairy tale eggplants all cold in the, in the fridge. And other than the fact that refrigerated potatoes are not as good as newly cooked ones, which was an issue.
Um, it was so. Mind blowingly delicious that I went through this whole process while I was eating breakfast. If I ever had a restaurant again, on the breakfast menu, I would put, like, Aioli with leftover vegetables. They'd have to be, like, cooked the day before and then refrigerated, except, of course, for the potatoes. And, like, if I had a restaurant, could I boil them the day before and then leave them out overnight? No, that's, like, bacteriologically, like, you know, the whole thing. I went through the whole thing. And by the time I was done, I was like, okay, I'm fine. I can just eat now. And it, I don't know how that would, how that works with writing. I don't know. I know that I experienced that with cooking.
Josh Sharkey [00:57:07]:
It's a little bit more devastating, I think, with cooking, or at least more tactile in that it's gone.
Tamar Adler [00:57:08]:
Josh Sharkey [00:57:09]:
Food has a shelf life, so you can't give it to somebody later. And if you could, it wouldn't be the same. Writing, technically, you could, but you know, who wouldn't love winning a Pulitzer Prize? But if you, you had the Pulitzer Prize winning book. But only you knew about it. Would you be happy? Would you die a happy person?
Tamar Adler [00:57:33]:
Maybe noticing how one answers that question on a day to day basis would be an interesting exercise, right? Like to understand why one was writing that day. Like maybe there would be some days where it would be like, yeah, that would spur something.
Josh Sharkey [00:57:50]:
It forces you to think about why you write, right?
Tamar Adler [00:57:52]:
Yeah, right. And I think that for kind of a long time now, I think when I was, when I was younger, I think I wrote for me. But certainly, I mean, I've been doing, you know, essentially culinary instructive writing for like a decade and that's with a specific aim to try to transform the way people think about something so that by the time they're done reading it, they are transformed. I'm trying to enact transformation so that when they're done reading a chapter, they, they feel different. And they think of things differently. And that's what I'm trying to do, you know, based on how I've been approaching writing, it would be like, no, hell no. All I'm doing is trying to communicate with people, but then it also sounds really tempting.
Josh Sharkey [00:58:37]:
It's funny. It reminds me of, um, Tim Ferris, uh, said something about writing that I found analogous to entrepreneurship or really just like creating anything, he said, you should never write a book unless you can't not write that book. And I think a lot of that was creating a business as well, like starting a business, like you should never start a business unless you can't not because both of those things are incredibly hard, very unrewarding for the most part. And, you know, will tax your whole soul. And I imagine you have to have some of that as well, given how much you live and breathe so much of that you couldn't see what you’re doing that relates to your writing that you couldn’t see yourself not doing this.
Tamar Adler [00:59:14]:
I think that’s such good advice. Micheal Pollan once said that to me when I was, I forget if it was before my first book or after, but he said, don't ever start a book that you're not madly passionately in love with, because no matter what you will hate it before it's done. You have to start so in love that by the time you're experiencing like pain and loathing, you've been in love long enough that you're going to keep going. But if you're not a hundred percent set on it at the beginning, it will be painful beyond belief because it hurts no matter what that deterred me from doing a couple of projects.
Josh Sharkey [00:59:54]:
Yeah I bet.
Tamar Adler [00:59:55]:
He was like if you don't if you can't If you can avoid it, avoid it, right? Like if you can't stop yourself then do it and then that's the only way that you'll be able to handle everything that comes and i'm sure it's the same with your company because it must have sucked so many times
Josh Sharkey [01:00:00]:
Oh, yeah, just grueling. It's like anything you'll only hear the bad things for the most part, and there's every reason not to do it, and there's every obstacle in the way. And so you have to be, you know, okay with that to continue, like anything
Tamar Adler [01:00:32]:
I have said to numerous people who have sought book writing advice from me, I have said, and I don't, I've never know if this is like comes across the right way, but I have said many times, The world is not waiting for your book. Nobody wants your book. Nobody wants you to write your book. Nobody's waiting for your book. So take that out of your mind completely. Right. Some people will say they're waiting for your book, but like, that's cause it's a, you know, that's, they mean that, but it's like mostly, that's mostly a way of saying like, I like you, but in truth. No, nobody is. And so to make your decisions based on that idea, doesn't mean that when it shows up, they won't love it and it might transform and, and reshape and, you know, could change their lives. But don't think that like, if you're late with your book, don't freak out about it. No one's really waiting. It's all on you.
Josh Sharkey [1:01:29]:
Tamar Adler [01:01:30]:
You know, I don't know if that sounds like tough love, or it sounds like, I mean it in a loving way. It should help to know that.
Josh Sharkey [01:01:38]:
In the same breath, like, and I give similar advice, not necessarily advice, but when people ask about a company they want to start, the same thing I would probably say if someone asked if I should write this book, No, don't do it.
Tamar Adler [01:01:50]:
Josh Sharkey [01:01:51]:
Because if I tell you no, it's not a good idea, and that, In turn makes you not do the thing, write the book, start the business that you shouldn't have done in the first place. The best advice I can give you is don't do it. Yeah, and then if you have to, you will anyway. Yeah, yeah. Which is, that's what you're going to need in order to do it.
Yep. Well, you have another project coming out, which I think you can't talk about much. But is there anything else you want to share with our audience of vagabonds and chefs and whoever the heck else is listening to this?
Tamar Adler [01:02:21]:
Yeah, there actually is. So there is my secret project, which will be a long time coming because right now it's transcribed post-it notes on my computer screen, but I'm going to start an advice column, a culinary advice column, and I am really excited about that. So that's what I want to say. And I think, I don't know, I don't know the exact format yet, but I think I'm going to, for anybody who's in the Hudson Valley. I think I'm going to have a pop up, like, Lucy from Peanuts style advice stand that will sometimes be maybe at Talbot and Arding, because it's indoors, but like very sporadically where people can come and ask me anything. And I'm going to try to do it. I know that the world is not waiting for my advice column. It's something I've always wanted to do. I love, I love answering people's culinary questions and I love hearing what they're struggling with. I love being on the receiving end of that and being trusted with those like quandaries and queries.
So that kind of like over the last two days, I realized that that's what I really want to do. Um, so I guess, yeah, anybody who hears this and wants to write down a particularly vexing culinary query. I look forward to explaining to the world how to get that query to me and then answering them. And that's like. You know, I've been, since my book came out, I've been like, I just don't know what I'm going to do next, but I have been trying to be patient with myself about not knowing it. And then I was like, wait, I totally know. So yeah.
Josh Sharkey [01:03:59]:
I love that idea. That's awesome. Well, if you ever want to turn it into a, to digitize your advice, turn it to an app, then let me know and I'll, we can do something there.
Tamar Adler [01:04:07]:
There could be an app for that. Huh. Okay, great.
Josh Sharkey [01:04:08]:
Well, Tamar, this was an absolute pleasure and I really appreciate you taking some time to chat with me today.
Tamar Adler [01:04:19]:
I had a great time. You are an incredible interviewer and so flippin smart. It's amazing. I feel like I only ever knew you in like the back of your restaurant. So this is just a wonderful conversation. I want to know if I did better than my brother.
Josh Sharkey [01:04:37]:
Oh, of course. Come on. Right. I did, right? Yeah, absolutely.
Tamar Adler [01:04:38]:
Josh Sharkey [01:04:39]:
You had some, uh, you know, you had some advantages there. Couple extra things under your belt, so.
Tamar Adler [01:04:41]:
Yeah, even with those advantages taken into consideration, I just wanted to be clear that the Elder Adler...
Josh Sharkey [00:42:52]:
I'll send him a note. Um, that says great job at being the second best, um, Adler on this podcast. Um, well, thank you so much.
Tamar Adler [01:04:51]:
Thank you, Josh. This has been wonderful.
Josh Sharkey [01:05:09]:
Thanks for tuning into the meez podcast. The music from the show is a remix of the song Art Mirror by an old friend, hip hop artist, Fresh Daily. For show notes and more, visit getmeez.com forward slash podcast. That's G E T M double E Z dot com forward slash podcast. If you enjoyed the show, I'd love it if you can share it with fellow entrepreneurs and culinary pros, and give us a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcasts. Keep innovating, don't settle, make today a little bit better than yesterday, and remember, it's impossible for us to learn what we think we already know. See you next time.