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There was too much good stuff to fit in my Q&A with Sam Zien, aka Sam the Cooking Guy, that ran this weekend. So here’s the rest of the stuff that was left on the cutting room floor.
I’ll start with the rest of Zien’s answer to the question: How do food snobs respond when you do stuff like open a Fritos bag, fill it with microwavable chili, cheese and hot sauce, and eat it out of the bag?
You know, I taught a class at a cookware school. One of the guys put up his hand in the middle of the class and said, “I take exception to one of the things you make.”
I go, “What?” He said, “I’m a pastry chef. Well, you make a fake crème brulée.” I said, “Yes, that’s correct, I do.”
So he says, “I can’t stand the fact that you do that.” I go, “Well, then why are you here?” He said, “Because I really like the show.” I said, “OK, so that thing I do bothers you, but nothing else?” He said, “No, nothing else bothers me.”
Well, about six, seven months later I get an e-mail from the guy. He says, “My wife made that last night. It wasn’t amazing crème brulée, but you were totally dead-on with what you said.”
What I had said was that I love crème brulée. I’m a crème brulée fan. Well, once, I was in arguably not the kind of restaurant where I should have been ordering crème brulée.
That’s one of my rules, don’t order something at a place that probably isn’t really good at making it.
Anyway, as I was eating it, I realized it just tasted like, sort of OK vanilla pudding. A little light went off, so I came home, I took a little ramekin and I got one of those Kraft pudding cups that my kids would eat, put the pudding in the ramekin and put it in the fridge and got it really cold. Then I took it out, sugared the top of it, took a little torch and burned it. It was crème brulée, just not really great crème brulée.
So I did that on the show once, and it seems like that got more e-mails in a positive sense than almost anything, that kind of stuff.
So, yeah, I think there are people out there that have issues with the fact that I have a show, that I do these things, that I have a book that will be out, that kind of stuff, people that say, “How did he get where he is with that kind of nonsense?”
Then I asked Zien: Your kids seem to give the thumbs up to almost everything you make. Is there anything your children don’t eat?
Well, it turns out, we’ve been making this pasta here for I don’t know how many years, that I just realized last night, none of them likes the sausage we put in it. They come back for more and all of the sausage is pushed over top one side of the plate.
Well, the middle one (Zien has three boys), last night, I asked him “What are you doing?” He said “I don’t like the sausage.” I said, “Well how long has that been?” He said “None of us like it.”
Here’s the thing. They pretty much eat anything, because that’s how they’ve been raised — to try everything. I’ll take my kids to Chinese food, everything gets consumed. I take the neighbor kids with them to Chinese food, one of them said, “Can I get a bowl of white rice and butter?” One of our friend’s kids said that the other day and I said “Dude, I don’t even think Chinese restaurants have butter. I don’t even know what they would do with it.”
Lastly, I asked Zien where the best place is to get ingredients in San Diego. After making a disclaimer that the grocery store Henry’s Marketplace sponsors his show — and adding that he gets all his fruit and vegetables there — Zien got on to his other passion, Asian food.
I really like the Asian markets. I buy a bunch of stuff at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Kearny Mesa. I also like 99 Ranch Market for some stuff. They handle all the “ese’s:” Chin-ese, Japan-ese, Vietnam-ese, Korean-ese, it’s like a little bit of everything.
Mitsuwa is mostly Japanese, but it does spill over into the other “ese” categories. Ranch 99 is mostly Chinese.
Ranch 99, to the Chinese people, is what Mitsuwa is to the Japanese. Ranch 99 is big, with huge fluorescent lights, noisy, boisterous, with fresh fish, live fish, fresh crab, live crab. It’s huge.
For the first couple of years I drove past it I thought it was a 99-cent store. Now I know what it is. You can buy fish live in some cases and take them home and do what you want with it. Or you can buy a fish and hand it to them and they have like a menu behind the counter. They’ll do as much or as little of the cleaning and prep work as you want. They’ll take it all the way down to fillets, or they’ll just de-scale it if you want to just bring it home and stuff it with rosemary and lemon and throw it on the barbecue.
They have all sorts of great stuff, great spices. I’m a shiitake mushroom fan. If I buy them at Vons or Ralphs, they can be anywhere between $10 and $18 a pound, which is really stupid. There, they’re like $5 a pound.