Interview: Aki Kamozawa & H. Alexander Talbot of Ideas in Food
As food consultants, skilled food photographers, and the columnists behind Popular Science’s “Kitchen Alchemy,” Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot are among the most fascinating and talented food blogger couples (and individuals!) we’ve come across. Read more about Aki and Alex’s culinary adventures on their blog, Ideas in Food.
Some of your recipes are pretty adventurous. I loved reading about your Szechuan Peppercorn Marshmallows! What are a couple of your favorite food/ingredient pairings?
Everything spice blend (from the bagel) with just about everything. Ranch, a classic that enjoys being refined. In season now we are loving lavender flowers with blueberries, lemon verbena with mezcal, sea urchin and fresh corn.
Tell us about Ideas in Food, the book.
The full title is Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work. We are giving people a foundation for understanding what happens to their food when they cook it. The recipes are there to illustrate the science and then people can extrapolate the ideas in their own kitchens.
You’ve been invited to cook as guest chefs at a number of notable restaurants. Tell us about your most memorable experience so far.
Each restaurant has its own personality and we learn plenty from the kitchens we spend time in. Picking one would be like choosing a favorite child. Most recently we cooked with Tony Maws and his team at Craigie on Main, in Cambridge. It was an amazing place with a great staff and we were able to bounce ideas off each other and inspire each other in the kitchen. It was a truly special experience.
Aki, what’s your favorite dish that Alex makes?
Lobster. It’s one of my favorite foods and he always cooks it for me so that I can just sit back and enjoy it.
Alex, what does Aki make better than anyone else?
Mac and cheese, scrambled eggs, and pies of all kinds.
Can you share a few of your favorite local spots? What do you order?
We had a great meal at Stella in Philly. [Our daughter] Amaya and Alex friendly [sic] with a great variety of delicious pizzas from truffle and egg to spicy pesto.
Any restaurants you’re dying to try?
Tell us about a couple of chefs you respect most, and why.
We respect the chefs who are in their kitchens, teaching, exploring, learning, creating and crafting. To list them all would take too long and I am sure we would leave off a few by mistake. Where the food is delicious, the chef has instilled his beliefs and the results are evident.
Who were a couple of people who changed the way you think about food? How did they change your outlook?
Alex: Lenny Philips, who first showed me how to cook professionally, and Ken Oringer, who pushed me to learn and learn and learn.
Aki: For me, I can think of three food writers that were instrumental in shaping my outlook on food at an early age. They were MFK Fisher, Laurie Colwin, and John Thorne. Every chef I have ever worked with has left their mark, and every meal I’ve ever eaten has taught me something. It’s a constant learning process.
Congratulations on the success of Ideas in Food. You’ve done so much: writing a food science column for Popular Science online; authoring the Ideas in Food blog; running culinary workshops; catering and developing custom menus; writing for a variety of food-focused publications; appearing on The Food Network, and more. Tell us about your favorite role so far.
Thank you. Our favorite role so far is parents and learning to cook with our daughter Amaya. Now if we could get paid for that, we would be onto something.
As food consultants, what’s one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on?
Most recently was pairing deserts with cocktails and looking at the aromatic qualities of both.
Is there anyone in particular you’d love to work with in the food world? Why?
There are many individuals that would be a ton of fun to work with. Picking just one is not fair.
Latest food obsession?
Our latest food obsession is aroma.
If you weren’t multi-hyphenates spanning the worlds of food and science, what else might you be doing to earn an honest living?
We would be cooking.
Ideas in Food features some of the most mouth-watering food photography we’ve seen. Can you share your some of your secrets? Any food styling happening at the shoot?
We used a Canon Digital Rebel up until a few months ago, with a macro lens. Now we use the Canon TSi and the Canon 24-70 lens. There is no food styling going on with the food other than how we would present the dishes. We edit the pictures, mostly working with white balance and fine tuning the images.
What’s next for you?
More questions to uncover and new ideas to pursue.
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you for allowing us to share the insights into our world.