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Tamar Adler - James Beard Award Winning Chef and Author

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About this episode

Tamar Adler is a celebrated author and chef with James Beard and IACP awards. She is known for her book, "Everlasting Meal" where she discusses her talent in transforming leftovers into delicious meals. She has worked with renowned chefs like Alice Waters, Dan Barber, and Gabrielle Hamilton, in addition to her editorial contributions to magazines like Harper's, New York Times, Vogue, and New Yorker.

In this episode, Tamar discusses the relationship between chefs and writers, the distinctions between chefs like Alice Waters and Dan Barber, her approach to mise en place in writing, the value of spontaneity, and the parallels between preparing restaurant family meals and cooking with leftovers at home.

What We Cover

(01:20) Working at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters and Dan at Stone Barns

(10:38) Tamar's opinion on if chefs make great writers

(17:12) How Tamar preps for a book

(20:46) If Tamar writes every day

(27:10) When to decide when a project is finished

(35:02) How running helps with Tamar's thought process

(38:23) How Tamar became inspired by leftovers

(25:12) How Tamar's upbringing affected how she parents 

(50:46) Tamar's favorite peanut butter

(53:20) How Tamar would feel if she wrote her greatest work but no one else could read it


Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]:

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.


My guest today is a celebrated author and chef. She has a James Beard and an IACP award under her belt and she may be the undisputed queen of turning leftovers at home into something absolutely delicious the next day.


Tamar Adler spent time working for incredible chefs like Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, Dan Barber at Blue Hill Stone Barns, and Gabrielle Hamilton at Prune. She's been an editor for Harper's Magazine and written for countless other magazines like New York Times and Vogue and New Yorker and many more. She's the author of several books, most recently a cookbook iteration of her award winning book, An Everlasting Meal.And Tamar and I talk about a lot in this episode. 


Things like why chefs can make great writers and why sometimes they don't. The similarities and differences between Alice Waters and Dan Barber, how Tamar thinks about mise en place in her writing, the value of being impulsive sometimes, and the similarities between making family meal in a restaurant and cooking with leftovers at home.


I had such a good time talking with Tamar. It had been way too long since we had last caught up, and as always, I really enjoy the conversation and I hope that you will as well. I'm going to wind up a little bit of your background and then throw a couple of things at you to get us started. Because you, Tamar, I mean, we're talking James Beard and IACP awards and just such an accomplished writer and chef, you know, Vogue magazine, New York Times. New Yorker, Harper's, and then you obviously worked in a bunch of kitchens, Gabrielle Hamilton at Prune and Chez Panisse and Stone Barn, so you have this incredible background. And the fact that you are, you know, writing now is such a treat for us as chefs in the industry, as well as I'm sure for everybody, you know, as, as home cooks. So I guess my first question for you is, maybe it's a little bit too direct, given all of your background, But because Chez Panisse is such a fabric of the food world, how did your time at Chez Panisse with Alice and your time with Dan at Stone Barns, how has that shaped you as a writer?

Tamar Adler [00:02:36]:

I don't think that's too direct. I think that's, maybe it's just super direct. It gets to the heart of it. Even though I feel kind of lame saying it. I really think that those two places shaped my outlook and my approach to food more than anything else. And then by extension, what I wrote about because I think that both Dan Barber at Stone Barns and Alice and all of the amazing cooks who work with her and, you know, she wasn't cooking obviously when I was there, so it was really all of the chefs and cooks with whom I cooked at Chez Panisse have an unbelievable appreciation of the materials themselves with which we cook.


The physical things that we turn into what we serve. our guests is what I think is like at the center in both of those places, the love of ingredients, but not in like a fetishy way, just what felt to me like, like a true materialism, a love of the material itself and an appreciation of every part of it in both places was so strong and suffused the menu and the way that we treated each thing and what we did with the tops and the bottoms and the little liquids left over so thoroughly that I really based on those two experiences started seeing food as like really started seeing every part of every vegetable and every part of every animal, like in the middle of the stage, like every single part of it seemed valuable to me, and maybe part of it was knowing, you know, in the case of, well, in both of those cases. knowing exactly who grew each carrot and exactly who grew each artichoke and the farmer themselves bringing it into the restaurant and visiting the place that they grew it and seeing their hands and sort of understanding everything that had gone into the cultivation of the vegetable or the animal.


And I think part of it is also that, you know, there was just a level at Chez Panisse, certainly, cooking is so simple that there's really time to deal with all of all of a vegetable and all of an animal. Um, and I think both of those have ended up guiding how I think of food, which is that every single part of everything you make is not only usable, but a spur toward another meal. Um, and I really credit those two, those two experiences. 

Josh Sharkey [00:05:13]:

Yeah. It's funny that Dan is almost like an extension of like the next thing after Alice and that Alice champions you know, these ingredients, the raw ingredients, and she's really just a champion of all of the, you know, the asparagus or the artichoke or the onion and, and she just wants to tell that story. And that's what she wants to do. And Dan wants to tell that story, but then he wants to, you know, create a new line of thinking of like, you know, that story about that artichoke. Well, guess what? Also, here's this new line of thinking about artichokes. And maybe that's a little bit of a story about me as Dan. Has all of that translated into how you... How do you actually write, write a story, write a book, start writing?

Tamar Adler [00:05:53]:

I think the way that I write mirrors the way Alice and Chez Panisse treat ingredients. Um, I think that the way Dan tells like sort of elaborates that story is much more like intellectual and crazy and like I feel like Dan's cooking is like totally, absolutely crazy, intellectual, beautiful, all over the place, conceptual, poetic, all these things. I don't think I've ever written like that. And I don't ever cooked like that. Um, I think I'm much more basic, you know, I think that the connections that Dan draws are awesome. I don't always have like even the attention span for them. Like I just, I think I'm just a person of simple pleasures. 

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