Berke­ley belle

Samin Nos­rat’s Bay Area kitchen

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Samin Nos­rat is a chef and the au­thor of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (Si­mon and Schus­ter); writer Samin Nos­rat

Ilive in North Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, a few blocks from Chez Panisse. I moved here about 9 years ago. I’m 38 now, and I feel like the apart­ment – cer­tainly the kitchen – has grown up with me. The front door opens right into the kitchen; it’s small but it has a lot of win­dows, so it’s beau­ti­fully light. I use the pa­tio as an ex­ten­sion of my cook­ing space. I have a lot of plants – my liv­ing room is like a jun­gle. I like the idea of bring­ing the out­side in.

I al­ways joke that if I write a mem­oir it’ll be called A Bay Leaf in Ev­ery Pot. Of­ten recipes will call for a bay leaf, and I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand what the bay leaf was do­ing un­til I had fresh bay (1) for the first time – it blew my mind; the aroma was so in­cred­i­ble. So I bought a small plant, and now I put a leaf in ev­ery­thing I cook.

I went straight from col­lege into restau­rants so, from the be­gin­ning, my idea of what a kitchen should be was the high­fa­lutin restau­rant type – and what I had at home never mea­sured up to that. When I left restau­rants, I had to learn to be a home cook. I re­alised that I didn’t ac­tu­ally need that much: my stove is small and my fridge is old, but I’ve cooked so much in here. I’ve tweaked the space slowly – the wooden sur­face (2) I in­her­ited when a friend ren­o­vated his kitchen. I re­de­ployed an Ikea fil­ing cabi­net (3) to or­gan­ise my spices. And then there are all the things peo­ple have given me: an artist friend made the spoon rest (4) and the twine (5) is from Dario Cec­chini, the world­fa­mous butcher in Tus­cany. He’s a good friend of mine, a real char­ac­ter and was my men­tor when I lived in Italy.

My best friend trav­els the world for his re­search and we share a love for ob­nox­iously large uten­sils (6) , so he al­ways brings me one from wher­ever he goes. My col­lec­tion is housed in an old Chez Panisse amarena cherry tin (7).

I grew up in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia, which is sub­ur­ban, ster­ile and su­per­pol­ished. If you need some­thing, you go to the store and buy it. Un­der no cir­cum­stances would my mom have al­lowed me to go through trash on the street and bring it home. I’ve since be­come a rum­mager, a mag­pie of sorts. In Berke­ley, there’s a cul­ture of leav­ing un­wanted items on the pave­ment, and I’m al­ways bring­ing things (8) home: a cop­per bowl, a black crepe pan, two red milk warm­ers … The big­gest of my knives (9) is one I got for six bucks in a junk shop. I had it fixed by a cut­ler, who told me it’s from the 1940s in Chicago, to­tally hand­made. Work­ing at Chez Panisse and liv­ing in the Bay Area has re­ally taught me how to see the po­ten­tial in things.

8 6 3 5 4 1 2 9 7

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