Interview With Chef Samin Nosrat |

Inside The Mind Of Chef Samin Nosrat – Star Of Netflix Series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

The food writer speaks about her world, ahead of a trip to the UK.

Posted on

23 April 2019

Chef Samin Nosrat

All Credits: PA

If you have seen food docu-series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix, you’ll know that host and author of the cookbook of the same name, Samin Nosrat, is quite possibly the most wonderful person in food TV.

Whether cooing over Parmesan, excitedly dousing everything in extra virgin olive oil or just tasting something rapturously, the Californian chef – who started her career at prestigious Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse – New York Times food columnist, teacher and speaker is mesmeric to watch and listen to.

We caught up with her ahead of a visit to England, to find out how her brain, and her stomach, tick…

On why she wants to encourage everyone to cook…

“It boils down to: Just cook anything,” she says. “The underlying message for me is always that it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect, or beautiful, or if it’s the fanciest thing. You could just make a plate of eggs and toast for dinner, and that’s great.”

On explaining how to use Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat every day…

“People might say, ‘Salt, fat, acid, heat – this is such an abstract conception that I can’t understand,’ and I always say, ‘Well no, you already intuitively understand it, you just don’t have the words for it.’

“Every time you eat Mexican food, you put on salsa and sour cream and guacamole, and those things are salt and fat and acid. Your body and your mouth know that’s what makes food taste good, and you already know when you get a burrito that might be a little dry or bland, how to make it taste better – you just don’t know you’re doing salt and fat and acid. So if I can explain that to you, so you can understand this idea, and apply it every time you eat, then maybe eventually that’ll become something you want to apply when you cook.”

On having always loved eating…

“There’s this story. I was probably one and a half years old [and poorly], and all of the adults were standing around the kitchen counter eating something that was really delicious, and they were making all of these yummy noises. I looked up at them and I knew that I wasn’t allowed to eat it, so I didn’t ask for any, I just looked at them and I said, ‘Is it delicious?’ Haha, I just wanted to know if it was good!”

On her mum’s cooking…

“My mum is an extraordinary cook. My family is from Iran, so my mum cooked us the most extraordinary Persian food my whole childhood, it so delicious. That was really important for her to cook for us in that way, to give us this immersion in our culture, even though we weren’t at home.”

On feeling out of her depth in kitchens as a beginner…

“I was so anxious, I messed up so many things, I always felt like I was in the way,” says Nosrat, recalling her early days at Chez Panisse. “There’s a physicality in a restaurant kitchen, the corners are really tight, and you have to be able to anticipate ‘is somebody going to walk by me with something hot?’ I was lumbering around like a bug furry dog, I didn’t know how to move in a kitchen.”

That feeling didn’t subside for a good two years: “Every day was sink or swim for a long time, and it was very, very overwhelming.”

On finding her own way as a home cook…

“One of my great pleasures is going to the grocery store and just deciding what I’m going to make,” says Nosrat – but don’t think her kitchen at home is restaurant standard. “I live in a tiny apartment, with a little stove and a lot of the stuff I took for granted in a restaurant – there’s not someone here washing my dishes, I can’t make a huge pot of stock and use it all week long, my refrigerator is kind of broken, everything is a little bit wonky – and I just have to make the most of it.”

On taking cues from your body when it comes to what you eat…

Following several months of travelling and work commitments, and the fast, often unhealthy eating that comes with that, Nosrat started a process of “honing my ability to listen to my body, and use the cues of my body to make decisions. [So] if I think about an opportunity and immediately my stomach clenches, then it’s probably a good sign to not do it.

“Whereas if I think about something and my heart is soaring, then maybe I do want to do it,” she muses. “That same methodology applies to what I want and should eat – it’s just so interesting because I’ve never been the person who chooses broccoli first, haha. But now I find myself strangely motivated to eat broccoli.”

On ‘clean eating’ and conflating food with wellness…

“I do feel really sad about the messaging of clean eating, and of wellness, which is the new language that covers up the old language of dieting,” says Nosrat. “One thing I can do is represent the pure joy of cooking and eating, and help people feel a little bit freer about that – and that doesn’t always mean eating things that are unhealthy, it just means we shouldn’t have to be wrestling with guilt every time we take a bite of something.”

On the brilliance of vegetables…

“For me, anything that encourages people to eat more vegetables, and less meat, is good,” says Nosrat. “To me, vegetables are the most extraordinary thing to cook, and a good vegetable dish is the most fun thing to eat, and certainly to feed other people.

“We have this feeling about vegetables, like, ‘Oh god we have to eat our vegetables,’ but to me, the broadest spectrum of flavour is to be found in vegetables, whereas you eat meat and it all just tastes the same.”

Samin Nosrat is author of SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT, published by Canongate, available now.