What’s the big idea: An interview with Aki Kamozawa of Ideas in Food

I… am a geek.

The label tormented me in my formative years. Now, in my early 30’s, it is a badge I wear with honor! That being said, though, my geekiness never came through in my love of food. Like most people, I have always had a basic understanding of cause and effect in the kitchen. For example: Crack an egg on to a hot griddle and it is going to cook. Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you what is happening with the egg, or even why.

So what’s a person to do when they want to get their geek on in the kitchen? Enter Ideas in Food.

Ideas in Food, the brain child of Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, is a blog, a book, and a culinary consulting business. More than that, it’s a huge stepping stone for anyone that has a sincere interest in better understanding the whys and hows of cooking. If you’re like me, you probably don’t have the time to figure it all out. Ideas in Food will give you the head start you’re looking for (next up for me will be their crispy chocolate mousse and brown butter ice cream).

I had the opportunity to check in with the better half of Ideas in Food (nudge, nudge Alex!), Aki Kamozawa. We discussed Aki’s love of food, why getting geeky in the kitchen is a good thing, and why kitchen science isn’t just for the professional chef.

Aki Kamozawa & H. Alexander Talbot – Photo by Ideas in Food, LLC.

Foodie Journal: When did food stop being “just food” to you? At what point did you really decide you wanted to make food and cooking your life’s work?
Aki Kamozawa: Aki KamozawaWhen I was a kid my mother worked nights and one of the first things I learned to cook was the scrambled eggs that she liked for breakfast. It made me feel very grown up, to be able to take care of her in my own small way. As I got older my aunt would bring home groceries for dinner and I would cook them as she got changed and took off her makeup. It was fun for me and and it made me feel as though I was doing something important because she loved having me cook for her at the end of her day. I started reading cookbooks by Pierre Franey, MFK Fisher, James Beard and John Thorne and from there the sky was the limit.

FJ: There’s a lot of science behind the work we see in “Ideas in Food” – Do you consider yourself to be a geek? Where did you get the inspiration to mingle the two, and really start to experiment with food?
AK: Geekiness is a good thing. It shows passion and dedication to solving the mysteries that intrigue you. The food science was a natural offshoot of wanting to be better cooks. We needed to understand what was happening to the food in order to take better care of it and the more we learned the more questions we had and so on and so forth. It’s a never ending cycle, which is a good thing, because the questions are the motivation to keep pushing new boundaries and trying new things.

FJ: Do you think its important for every day folks to broaden their cooking ability?
AK: I think that anyone who loves to cook should try new things. It’s easy to fall into a rut and cook a few favorite dishes over and over. I do it sometimes. The problem with that is you lose the joy of tasting something new and different and discovering new favorites. You can always go back and make great dishes but undiscovered flavors, whether its a fresh goat cheese drizzled with honey or grilled lobsters with garlic butter, will always be a mystery if you don’t seek them out.

FJ: What would you recommend as a good starting point for a home cook to start playing around with food and science in the kitchen?
AK: I think that most cooks are already playing with food science in their kitchens. They just aren’t looking at it that way. Take scrambled eggs, depending on how much you stir them and how hot your pan is, you get very different results. Slow cooked scrambies are soft and creamy, almost custardy in consistency and quickly cooked, whipped eggs are much firmer, with a lighter texture. That’s food science because the heat and friction affect the way the proteins in the eggs react during the cooking process, which determines the texture of the finished dish, but we just think of it as good cooking.

FJ: Finally, do you have a particular food experience or memory that stands out in your mind? Something you remember fondly that really locks you in to wanting to cook for the rest of your life?
AK: I don’t know if there was an actual “a ha” moment for me. I always enjoyed cooking and it was something that I was good at. I tried a variety of other jobs before I discovered that I preferred doing something with tangible results. I worked in the restaurant business before going to culinary school and got the bug. It’s a fast paced, high stress environment and you either love it or hate it. Obviously I loved it and even though I don’t work in a restaurant any longer, my love of cooking and the pleasure I get from feeding others has led me to where I am today.

All photos courtesy of Ideas in Food, LLC.

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