Last night at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Momofuku chef David Chang led a discussion with Husk chef Sean Brock. The occasion: Brock's first cookbook, Heritage, which hit shelves earlier this week. Their conversation meandered through the challenges of cookbook writing, Brock's obsession with Southern ingredients and cuisine, and what, as Chang put it, "a good ol' white boy [is] doing opening a taco stand." Below, the best quotes from the evening:
1.) Brock, on using modern techniques in his earlier cooking days, which he still uses at McCrady's: "I loved the idea of being a technician, that was really really cool to me. And I loved science. It all made sense to me, but I was doing it with this beautiful products from Tennessee and Virginia. I guess I'm still doing that."
2.) Chang, on modern cooking: "When we're talking about modern, I think a lot of what gets lost in being a modern-day cook is wanting to know how and why everything works."
3.) Chang, on cookbook writing: "This is the problem about making a book... So many of the stories you want to tell never get told. You could write a whole other book about the stuff that got cut out."
4.) Brock, on his cookbook writing philosophy: "The stuff that's in there, in my mind, is written in stone...When you approach the book that way, you really have to think that you're putting this stuff in the book you better be able to stand behind it."
5.) Chang, on Brock's heirloom ingredient obsession: "What is always amazing to me is: Ingredients that I would never want to necessarily cook with unless it was Armageddon, Sean finds a way to make delicious."
6.) Brock, on choosing which recipes to include in the cookbook: "I really want each dish to either tell a story about a lesson I learned or about a person I met or something I grew up with or a new discovery."
7.) Brock, on his goals for the cookbook: "I wanted it to appeal to everyone, I wanted it to be useful to everyone. I wanted it to be something that inspired people to explore their own roots and think about where food comes from and write their own book."
8.) Brock, on whether he ever "gets bored" of cooking Southern food: "I'm a pretty obsessive person and the overall practice of cooking, I love ... I think it's illegal for me to get tired of cooking Souther food."
9.) Brock, on why he opened a taqueria: "I'm addicted to that kind of food. Two things are so attractive to me about that: One is simple, humble, poor people food. I love comfort food, that's soul food for me. That's what I crave. But, the foundation of that cuisine is dried corn, which also happens to be the foundation of the Southern food that I cook."
10.) Chang, on innovation versus tradition: "I think that if you push it forward just far enough, you're actually paying the greatest tribute to what came before. It's finding that right balance."