Hungry Onion Drooling Q&A with J. Kenji López-Alt. (Nov 11, 2016 11am PT)

Q&A with J. Kenji López-Alt

Nov 11, 2016 at 11a-12p PT/ 2-3p ET

J. Kenji López-Alt is the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, a columnist for Cooking Light, and author of the James Beard Award-winning, New York Times Best-Seller, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science—which was named the International Association of Culinary Professional’s Book of the Year for 2015.

A Northeast native, Kenji cut his cooking chops the old-fashioned way by working his way up through the ranks of some of Boston’s finest restaurants. With an education in science and engineering and as a former Senior Editor at Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, Kenji is fascinated by the ways in which understanding the science of every day cooking can help improve even simple foods.

Twitter: @thefoodlab
Instagram: @kenjilopezalt

Hungry Onion Drooling Q&A is a place where you can interact with your favorite cookbook authors, food critics and chefs and ask them in-depth and thought-provoking questions about their areas of expertise. It is a great venue that lets us explore the interviewees’ thought processes, how they approach their professional work, and what drives their passion.

Got a question for Kenji? Click ‘Reply’ and ask! Kenji will join us on Nov 11.

Don’t forget to also check out our great Q&A lineup as well as our community members’ knowledgeable discussions on restaurant recommendations and cooking techniques!



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Kenji, thanks for doing the Q&A. In your book you mentioned that in restaurants, people are taught to skim scum and fat from a stock. Other than making the stock not as clear, is scum bad healthwise? Some people told me its ‘dirty’ and taste bad. I am inclined to think they are harmless stuff from the bones that is perfectly edible if I don’t leave too much in the stock.


Obviously you experimented a lot to write your book. With most home cooks, failure is not necessarily desired for the practical reason that whether the final product is a home run or a dud, one still has to eat it and most likely even have to endure whining from spouse and children. I remember as a child, I complained when my mom’s dishes didn’t come out as expected, and I expected great tasting every time. I complain now that people eating my food should cut me some slack.

Probably a way too general question, any tips for experimenting while minimizing the risk of a catastrophic failure?


Not a copper guy? Or, phrase it differently, will you ever dig into the science of cookware, material, conductivity, etc. etc.? You will fit right in with the cookware aficionados here.

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You are working on your second book. What is it about?

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My observations were mostly anecdotal, but when I tried to convince my spouse to cook differently because of certain somewhat scientific observations, I was mostly ignored. Granted, I can’t claim street cred and don’t have a cookbook, but assuming you have the same futile tendency as me to actually try to convince your spouse to improve cooking, do you have better luck?


Was ‘age of egg’ an attribute considered in your hard boiled egg peeling test? I think more freshly laid eggs (like certain ones from farmers’ markets) are more challenging to peel, but I don’t have enough observations to definitely conclude.


When making clear bone soup, I found salting (the same amount) in the middle of the simmering process yields a better tasting soup versus salting after the cooking is done. But my spouse told me cooking salt in heat is not healthy. Thoughts? Any truth to the health claim?

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You’ve mentioned that you’re allergic to certain raw fruits and vegetables. I’ve got the same thing and suspect that’s one of the reasons I find your vegan recipes more accesssible than those from other authors. Has your allergy affected what you chose to cook and write about, and if so, in what ways?

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It sucks when a recipe bombs. When you are doing background research, besides things like typos that your average cook may notice, what are some of the more subtle red flags that you encounter that signal a recipe won’t work or hasn’t been tested in a home kitchen?


Cultural appropriation has been a hot topic recently. Can you give us some insight into how you approach writing recipe introductions that balance respect for a culture while adding your own non-traditional spins?


Do you have any plans to develop a vegan meatball, or better yet, the holy grail— a vegan, not-necessarily Chinese in seasonings, adaptation of Fuchsia Dunlop’s cast-iron skillet Sheng Jian Bao?


How did your time in a professional kitchen and ATK shape you as a cook and an author?

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How was it like to work in a professional kitchen as an MIT grad?

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Hi Kenji - Longtime fangirl here. I followed the Misen knife phenomenon/debacle/thingy from the morning you first wrote about it (I was one of the first 100 backers). It’s obvious that your article was what caused their Kickstarter to explode. What was it like to realize you had that much power and influence as a writer, and did you ever have any big anvil+head moments like that before - like, “Wow. People are listening to me!”


Not a question, but a comment: I’ve written to Serious Eats maybe three times with questions and have always received a prompt, personal reply. Just wanted to say thanks for that.


Kenji, thanks for doing the Q&A- Are there any classic comfort food that you see can easily be improved by making very simple tweaks?

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Since you pay lots of attention to the details of cooking techniques/ science and was a chef, when you eat out, are you more critical?

What kind of reactions do you get when you attempt to tweak food that people deeply believe should be prepared certain ways? Ever tried to tweak food from your wife’s family?

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