Chefs Max and Eli Sussman are out to prove that impressive restaurant fare is easy to master at home with a little experimentation. That’s the message in their new cookbook This Is a Cookbook: Recipes for Real Life, which encourages everyone to try new dishes and techniques. I asked them for their best kitchen advice, their favorite go-to meals and why more young people are interested in cooking than ever before. Find out what they had to say in the responses below.
Who or what inspired you to start cooking? How did you get started?
Eli: Max and I have always been in the kitchen. We were very involved with family dinners and got hooked on cooking when we worked at a childhood summer camp. We cooked everything from scratch each night, with no frozen foods. It was exciting – it opened my eyes to unique, awesome possibilities.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out in the kitchen?
Max: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try things differently. Always be ready to throw out the recipe and improvise, that’s how the greatest discoveries are made.
What were your favorite things to cook as kids?
Eli: We would help out with whatever our mom was making for dinner. We never had a microwave growing up, so my mom cooked with very fresh ingredients, shopping the same day. We never even had pizza for dinner.
What inspired you to write your cookbook, This Is a Cookbook?
Eli: This Is a Cookbook caters to a slightly older crowd than our first cookbook and features more difficult techniques. We want to inspire people who already enjoy cooking to try more interesting things, such as making pasta by hand. It’s a little more labor-intensive, but it’s about getting closer to the food and using excellent products, spending a little more time and care for a much more delicious dish.
Why do you think young people are becoming more interested in cooking?
Eli: TV has created a cultural significance attached to chefs that didn’t exist five years ago. I think that’s a good thing whether you like the celebrity chef culture or not — people are looking at cooking as an exciting profession, seeing things they want to try at home and using products they’ve never been exposed to before. It pushes people in a more creative cooking direction. Also, food blogging: everyone wants to look at what everyone else is eating.
What are three ingredients you always have on hand in your kitchen?
Max: Salt — with just salt and heat you make a great meal. Olive oil — it’s the best and most versatile fat for sauteing and adding richness to any dish. And balsamic vinegar — it’s great for making salad dressings and dipping bread.
What are your favorite go-to meals to cook at home?
Eli: Usually on my day off I try a different restaurant or make simple, fast pasta dishes and sandwiches. Just buy a really good loaf of bread and meat and keep it simple.
See delicious recipes from up-and-coming chef Max and Eli Sussman in our new book, This Is a Cookbook: Recipes for Real Life.
About the author: Olivia Terenzio grew up in Mississippi, where she cultivated a love of sweet potatoes, crawfish and cloth napkins at a young age. A passion for sharing food with friends and family led her into the kitchen and later to culinary school, where she learned how to roast a chicken and decorate a cake like a pro. As a Williams-Sonoma blog editor, she’s now lucky enough to be talking, writing and thinking about food all day.