“Why does a recipe have to be easy?” chef Jeremy Fox of LA’s Rustic Canyon restaurant asks. “Why does dinner have to take 30 minutes to make?” Fox’s first cookbook, On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen, lands on shelves next week. It’s a gorgeous array of recipes, focused on flora rather than fauna, with a surprisingly sober edge.
Nearly a decade ago, Fox — who was nominated for a James Beard Award this year for his work at Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon — experienced a rapid rise to fame while chef of (now-closed) Ubuntu, a lauded vegetarian restaurant in the Bay Area. He writes of that 2008 rise — and his subsequent fall — in the foreword of the book. While media and diners were telling Fox he was “a really big deal,” he was simultaneously “miserable.”
Sometimes (but not always) Ubuntu’s dining room would be nearly empty despite Fox’s fame: a Michelin star, incessant media attention and accolades, speaking engagements across the country — and it all started to add up. A doctor put him on a full course of pills, “stimulants for my ADD, tranquilizers and sleep aids to help me at night, and antidepressants for my overall mood... I was supposed to be representing this health-forward restaurant and lifestyle, and I was going to In-N-Out after work, scarfing down cheeseburgers and anti-anxiety pills.”
Fox has emerged whole from that lonely path, something not everyone who has experienced such darkness can say. “I started writing this book a long time ago, while I was at Ubuntu,” Fox says. “It took a long time to get here.” But he notes that this isn’t the same book he started all those years ago. It’s not strictly vegetarian, and it’s organized alphabetically — not by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Think of it as a peek into Fox’s process, which is neither straightforward nor “easy.” Maybe it’s time to rethink all of those hacks and shortcuts; as Fox suggests, maybe it’s time to relish our time in the kitchen.
“Just because a dish is thoughtful or you’re putting care or time into it, doesn’t mean it’s hard,” he says. “I think people need to shift their perspective a little bit. It’s a matter of spending a little more time with your food. Food is important, it’s what keeps us alive; cooking shouldn’t be something you rush through.”
On Vegetables: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen is available for pre-order now; the book hits bookstores on April 17. Preview it below:
• All Cookbook Coverage [E]