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Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything Hardcover – February 25, 2014
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Interview with Donald Link
Q. Your last cookbook, Real Cajun, was a celebration of the culture in which you grew up. With Down South, what made you decide to get out of your comfort zone, so to speak?
Growing up I had a strong influence from my Mother's father who grew up in Alabama. When it comes right down to it, I probably ate more Southern-style food growing up than Cajun food. We didn't take a lot of trips anywhere to speak of growing up except for to the Redneck Riviera. My aunt Cynthia had a house (trailer actually) on the waterfront in Gulf Shores, Alabama, so we would eat with her and at other funky restaurants on the Gulf Coast. I've also met a lot of other Southern chefs and have been able to see very distinct subcultures of southern food.
Q. I know you routinely go to France and Italy, where you rent houses, shop the markets, and cook. And before you opened your fabulous new seafood restaurant Pêche, you and your crew went to Spain and to Uruguay for inspiration. Tell us about how those experiences translate into the cooking you do in your restaurants and books.
My favorite thing to do when I travel anywhere is to cook in those locations with their regional ingredients. People think I'm crazy to cook on vacation but I tell them that cooking is why I got into this business in the first place. It is actually one of my favorite things to do. There is no way to replicate the cooking from my house or even my restaurant. The ingredients, terroir, dairy, meats, etc., are all unique in different parts of the world with very unique flavors. Taste the butter in France or the meat in Uruguay and you'll immediately see what I mean.
Q. You also travel a little closer to home--as in the places showcased in the new book. Tell us about the trips and the influences that inspired Down South.
The Southern coast was probably the most inspiring of the trip. It's very difficult to find the old-school places that I remember growing up, but there are still a few. Most of the area has been taken over by some sort of crab-trap, generic-named restaurant serving frozen crab from Alaska. Just like the food overseas, the real finds on the Gulf Coast are the markets and the fresh seafood and making my own food with those ingredients. Burris Farm Market and Joe Patti's are great examples of this.
Q. The subtitle of the new book references pork, shrimp, and bourbon, but there is clearly a whole lot more inside. What made you decided to pull those three ingredients out?
When I first set out on this book, it occurred to me that most of my forays through the South involved some sort of pork and almost always ended up with bourbon, and on a few occasions the day started with bourbon. The shrimp part came after the great Gulf Coast trip. Whereas a lot of Southerners hunt religiously, my dad and I did a lot of fishing and shrimping.
Q. This is a gorgeous book with stunning photographs. Why did you feel like it was important to shoot each chapter on location rather than in a studio?
I've never been comfortable with studio shots. I don't feel it really represents the soul of the food I cook. Shooting on location with natural light always brings about a real and authentic sense of place to the food. The book is really telling a story about food. I think it would be hard to write about one's time in Spain if you've never been there. I feel the same about food and the photos that go with it.
Q. It really feels like "Down South," to borrow your title, is really at the forefront (or maybe it's the engine) of the current national food scene--a trend driven in large part by remarkable chefs such as yourself. One of my favorite new restaurants in Manhattan, Maysville, is named for the town in Kentucky where bourbon was invented, and it has some of the best little grits cakes I've ever put in my mouth. The chef isn't Southern but his influence clearly is. First, do you agree that Southern cooking has moved to the front of the culinary pack? And if so, why do you think that is?
For a long time, I think Southern food was considered a type of peasant fattening food. I think chefs now are seeing it's not all chitlins and cornbread. Southern food is, in my opinion, the most distinct food culture the United States has. It has a real history and a solid technique. I find the real trend going on right now is what is considered real. Early in my career at Herbsaint, I had moved back from a three-year stint cooking French California food in San Francisco and was hell bent on doing the same in New Orleans. I felt like the food I grew up with would never be received in an upscale dining situation. Then I came around and realized that cooking Southern and Cajun style was my God-given birthright, and there was no reason that I shouldn't let that come to the forefront of my cooking style.
About the Author
PAULA DISBROWE is the author of Cowgirl Cuisine and co-author of Real Cajun and Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking. She lives in Austin, TX.
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Top Customer Reviews
You know it's going to be a good cookbook when the first page you flip to you want to make that recipe and make it NOW! It just got better after that with recipes like Parmesan Bacon Gougeres, Grilled Ham Steak with Charred Blood Oranges, Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Kumquats and Chiles, Watermelon Gazpacho with Crabmeat, Gingered Apple Slaw and Banana Pudding with Moonshine Whipped Cream. With 110 recipes and 100 photographs in this cookbook my culinary trip to the South is going to have me busy in the kitchen and on the grill.
Donald Link is the chef-owner of Herbsaint and Cochon in New Orleans. He won the James Beard Award for Best Chef South in 2007.
No joke, on the way home I stopped at the market and made the baked cheese for dinner. My husband wasn't to sure about baked cheese but one taste and he said I could make that anytime I wanted.
If you love Southern cooking as much as I do you will not regret adding this cookbook to your collection.
I received Down South from Blogging for Books
With a subtitle of Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything, Donald Link's Down South is down, down south. There us a chapter called Heads, Feet, Necks, and Bones that brought me warm memories of my MawMaw' s old kitchen with parts boiling in stock pots all around. But Link elevates his dishes, and gives you the pictures and stories to prove it.
This is a love letter to a way of cooking and living that is close to this man's heart, in his blood and you know this by looking through hid book. Pictures throughout Louisiana, pig roasts, Aunt Sally' s Pie, regular customers at his restaurant, much less his son slurping up a cold Cream Soda Sherbet all showcase the inspiration for the food he lives and loves.
I suggest mixing a cocktail straight out of the first section and curling up with this beautiful book and savoring it. Read the notes and stories, examine the pictures, imagine the smells and flavors while you sip away. And then, share the food. Get the fire going. Buy this as a host/hostess or holiday gift and share the love. Unless you are inviting vegetarians over. DON'T give them this book. Don't ever give a vegetarian a book that has a chapter called Heads, Feet...Well, you know. Fix y'all another drink and get seconds of this one!
Provided by publisher
I am sure that you can tell by looking at the cover of this book that I am head over heels for it. Look at those prawns, y'all. They are so beautiful that I want to hug you. This book made me happy. Even if were not full of amazing recipes, the witty banter and food photography is enough to bring joy to your heart. I remember when cookbooks were just photocopied recipes. This is like a bonus book inside page after page of culinary delight.
From a cocktail entitled The Cherry Bounce, to gougéres, to rémoulade, beignets, and spicy grilled quail, this book has it all. It's a little bit fancy and a bit down home. Of course, there are crazy whole animal recipes that I could never conjure up the courage to cook. Perhaps that just makes me a semi-Southerner. People who cook whole ducks, alligators, and pigs are a brute force to be reckoned with.
Pick this book up. Even if you just set it on your counter and never open it up, it will make you happy. You can also decide to open it, slather something with butter and fall helplessly into pure bliss.
This book was graciously provided by Random House for review.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great reading cookbook..Not sure how many of the recipes I'll actually try to make, but I'm glad I bought the book!Published 8 months ago by Anne D LaCoste
I bought this cookbook for my boyfriend who loves cooking. It was his birthday present. He loves it and even made recipes out of it the very next day!Published 9 months ago by Hollie Robinson
Such a great book! I read it like a novel almost and the recipes are delicious.Published 13 months ago by Ashley McDuff
Yum! We are cooks and eaters too! Did I mention yum?
Thank you for great food and great words.
From George and Patty's World Famous