Weekly Podcast: The David Chang Show with Corey Lee

David Chang interviewed Corey Lee, chef at Benu, in one of the latest podcast episodes. Corey recently debuted his much-anticipated Korean restaurant with take-out concept only. David and Corey talked about the meaning of the job as a chef, David Chang’s new memoir, Eat a Peach, and the future of the restaurant world.

The podcast started with a discussion on artistry and craftsmanship. In order to hone in on artistry and craftsmanship in cooking, chefs go through years of training. Artistry and craftsmanship existed in two extremities in David’s perspective when he was a young cook; chefs are craftsmen who perform with consistency. Nevertheless, David’s bridged the two concepts through learning different cultures and foods, in which he sees cooking and feeding others could be done artfully with a chef’s own interpretation.

With the rise of celebrity chefs and the culinary profession, Chef Corey associates the boom in the restaurant industry as a bubble to burst imminently; restaurants have been opening at an exponential rate without much of thought in its economics; too many people are opening restaurants, which drives up the demand for quality cooks, yet the supply is not enough to support the industry as a whole, due to the constant struggles to give fair wages and benefits.

The expansion of culinary industry brings a new set of rules to the professionals. David and Corey debate on the “rule 17” written at the end of Chef David’s memoir, in a chapter called “33 rules for becoming a chef”. “Rule 17” is, don’t edit it in your head, which is his enouragement for chefs to stay curious and hands-on; results are shown from experiments and not hypothesis.

Last but not least, the conversation turns its attention to changes in our industry “post-pandemic”. David, Corey, and Chris (another guest on the podcast) discuss whether a “brigade system”, which was developed by Escoffier. still has its place in the future. There is no clear answer to its potential demise or permanence. The Brigade system’s worked because of its clear definition of hierarchy practiced in a highly stressful environment, yet, developed the controversy on its contribution to toxicity at workplace.

I highly recommend this thought-provoking, yet lighthearted, conversation on restaurants and chefs. The silver lining of the pandemic could be its power to open honest conversations on struggles and solutions. Chefs are courageous, resourceful, and perseverant. While COVID-19 has decimated the restaurant industry, I remain hopeful that what forced us out will get us back in with new attitude and perspective.


Weekly Podcast: Kevin Hart Interview, by Tim Ferriss

Kevin Hart’s interview is inspiring. Kevin challenges us to get rid of negativities and live with an intention; this interview gives an informative resource to stay mentally fit and continuously live a joyful life. 

I have 5 highlights from this interview. (I will also give you the time slot on the podcast so you could skip around and find the segment that resonate with me the most)

18:50, goes on for about 3 minutes
We are very much aware of own effort in everything we do.

Kevin was apathetic toward academic when he was young and he felt left out when his friends went to colleges. After being left out, Kevin cultivated a strong work ethic, which comprises of a healthy dose of self-critique and discipline.

27:00, and goes on for about 6 minutes
Seize opportunities and make long-term investment in yourself

Kevin’s goal was to become an international comedian; a goal that took years of doing low budget production shows, networking, and doing the grunt work. Kevin shows patience and stamina in investing in his career, which pays off eventually.

34:30, and goes for about 1 minute
Many successful people, ones who have done well for themselves in my definition, have rigid morning routines.

Kevin works out in the morning. Taking care of his health is his commitment to being the best version of himself everyday.

38:23, and goes on for about 4 minutes
In times of uncertainties, informative and useful contents are invaluable; they provide confidence in decision making.

Kevin pushed up his latest audiobook release, The Decision: Overcoming Today’s BS for Tomorrow’s Success, because he believes that his book could lend some wisdom during the current climate. Kevin’s book is about his trade secret in staying mentally fit and away from negativities or bulls*t (in his own word).

46:31, and goes on for about 2 minutes
Humans are attracted to negative news; we feed off the arousal from seeing the bad news and then get manipulated by the social media, which lead to making bad decisions (someone understood the power of social media and used that tactic to win the 2016 presidential election).

Kevin asks a thought-provoking question – why do we rather choose to read about a wife cutting off her husband’s genital than a brave man saving a child, if these two hypothetical stories were posted side by side? (I’d be guilty of choosing to read about the bad ones without a doubt).

Blog Recipes

Weekly Podcast: Nick Kokonas Interview, by Tim Ferriss

After spending nearly 6 months wfh, the timeline of events has become a blur. I listened to a podcast on an interview with Nick Kokonas, one of the founders at The Alinea Group. Nick has some interesting perspective and solutions on overcoming difficulties in keeping a restaurant open in the midst of the pandemic, and also on what tactics to avoid (or to reconsider).

I have 5 highlights from this interview. (I will also give you the time slot on the podcast so you could skip around and find the segment that resonate with me the most)

8th minute and 55 seconds, and goes on for 25 minutes
Right off the bat, Nick introduces the concept of “asymmetry bets or risks” to frame the conversation around surviving the pandemic while running a business. Asymmetric bets could either give you high returns in investment or wipe your investment to zero.

In the example of hospitality, an asymmetry risk is the possibility of having zero customers, which none of us would have never imagined (except on a slow night, maybe), until the pandemic hit.

The concept of “asymmetry bets or risks” is fascinating because many of us are often willing to take an asymmetric bet and hope for the high return, while neglecting the high risks that are involved with the bets.

The first 25 minutes is about how Nick had tried to re-assess the asymmetric risk of running a restaurant business and tried to anticipate the worst if the pandemic reaches Chicago, where most of his restaurants are based.

26th minute and 35 seconds, and goes on for about 7 minutes
In the event of a crisis, leadership shapes the culture, by either reinforcing the original beliefs or reshaping the group mentality. Nick shows great leadership by putting his employees’ personal and job security first. Nick was also adamant about firing people who were not on the same page to protect the company.

One may argue that the act was unfair, yet, he and his ownership team sacrificed their pay to ensure the entire staff was getting its final pay and the added benefit of $1000 heading into the pandemic. Nick’s conviction in doing the right thing shows great leadership when many people were cynical or felt uncertain.

46th minute, and goes on for about 3 minutes
The Alinea Group immediately pivoted their business to no-contact takeout. The restaurant group was one of the first to change their business model to stay ahead of the crisis. The Alinea Group’s ability to switch on demand is worthy of notice; the hospitality industry as a whole needs to stay flexible during the uncertainties.

1 hour 9th minutes, goes on for about 1 minute
Our current commercial real estate business has been doing poorly in conjunction with restaurants shutting down. Young or aspiring chefs will have the opportunity to rent commercial spaces for cheap in the future, which brings hope to the restaurant community where it’s in the re-set mode while waiting for a vaccine.

1 hour 10th minute, and goes on for about 5 minutes
Couple of interesting perspectives on bad tactics in surviving the pandemic for restaurants. And the way to survive the current climate is to plan ahead.

  • Selling/buying gift certificates is not the most ideal solution to help a restaurant stay afloat. Gift certificates are liabilities to the restaurants. Given the current climate, the money generated by the gift certificates will be used right away; therefore, the x-amount of gift certificate could potentially be the “free meal” that the restaurant can’t afford to make for your in the future.
  • Suing an insurance company for business interruption insurance is a long process. I am not familiar with this subject, and am going to trust that the “long process” is not favorable to any business.





Weekly Podcast: Jimmy Chin, the athlete who cheats death, by Tim Ferriss

Jimmy Chin might be the best athlete in the world that we have never heard of; he’s climbed to the top of Mount Everest and then skied down the entire way. Jimmy had attempted Shark Fin’s route twice in climbing Meru Peak, in which he failed the first time due to a severe weather condition, and then followed by a second trip where he and two other climbers had become the first to succeed at reaching the top, while filming the trip.

Meru is a documentary about the breathtaking (literally and figuratively) experience of climbing Meru Peak by taking the Shark’s Fin route. I find Jimmy’s story inspirational because he’s founded a career in climbing, photography, and film making by living through the process of learning those skills from scratch.

I have 5 highlights from this interview. (I will also give you the time slot on the podcast so you could skip around and find the segment that resonate with me the most)

12:14, and goes on for about 2 and half minutes
A passion is only practical if you could do the work and learn the craft, and support yourself with the earnings from selling it.

Jimmy is asked to choose and keep one of his three professions, climbing, photography, or film making, he’d choose to keep climbing because extreme sports inspire him to do the other work. Extreme sports are Jimmy’s passion, and his creative process in photography and film making is rooted in his exposure to nature.

28:00, and goes on for about 2 minutes
Alleviate the perceived fear in climbing by teaching the safety system and practice it often

Jimmy tells about his approach in teaching a beginner to climb. Jimmy would have his student start with bouldering to get familiar with the movement and techniques, and then follow by teaching the student on manuevering the ropes. Fear in climbing is often rooted in perceived risks, and if the beginner were able to learn the basics and safety early, then he or she’d be better at managing the fear.

59:16, and goes on for 2 minutes
When face with obstacles, draw from experiences and temper expectations, and focus on the tasks on hand.

In the film Meru, there is a sequence of climbing that is called House of Cards; Jimmy had to climb a section of the mountain with extreme care because any uneven distribution of his weight could cause the rocks to peel off and take the entire expedition team down the mountain. With such difficult task on hand, experiences and rational decision making are critical in staying alive.

1:04:54, and goes on for about 5 minutes
Mountain climbing and reading are beneficial in acquiring new skills and stimulating growth

Mountain climbing involves teamwork and organizational skills, and also promotes self-discovery. Reading, not exclusively to books, leads to creativity, and ultimately leads to better output at work.

1:18:58, and goes on for about 2 minutes
Giving advice to a 30-yr old self: think of the long game, and chill out. Accept the ups and downs of the life

The interview was conducted when Jimmy was about 40-year old. When asked about giving some advice to a 30-year old self, Jimmy says that he’d tell the younger self to “play the long game” and enjoy living through the ups and downs. His own advice resonates with me because I share a similar sentiment of slowing down on life and enjoying it for its highs and lows, and also to cherish the privilege of eating good food and reading great books.


Weekly Podcast: Michael Lewis – The Seven Minute Rule

The inability to pay off the student loan is a frightening truth in America; Americans are duped to believe that our government has the best interest in helping us get the finest education by lending us the money, yet it has rarely shown any interests in relieving our burden.

Federal government passes off the menial student loan management to private companies where they’d receive portions of fees in managing debt. However, student loan servicers often give the wrong information, process payments incorrectly, and fail to act when consumers file complaints. The above negligence has led to tens of thousands of Americans struggle to come out of their debts, which amounts to both emotional and physical pain.

In this podcast episode from “Against the Rules”, Michael Lewis explores the corruption in the consumer financial industry, where middle-class Americans are often the victim to the greed and apathy of capitalism.

My 5-takeaways are below, which resonates with me the most from personally being in debt with student loans and credit cards for a decade. (I also jotted down the approximated time slot in the podcast to help you skip around and listen to the juicy parts of the episode)

  • 9th minute, and goes on for about 30 seconds

There are 44 million Americans who owe about 1.5 trillion in student debt (about 75% of the CARES act that the Congress had approved to help the Americans during COVID). More than 4 million Americans are already in default, with more people going broke sooner or later.

  • 13th minute 43 seconds, and goes on for about 3 minutes and 30 seconds

In 2007, Congress passed Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, in which any public servants could have their student loans forgiven after serving 10 years in a qualified field and make 120 payments on time. However, loan servicers, such as Navient (the biggest in the U.S.), often gave the wrong information, processed the payments incorrectly, and failed to act when borrowers complained about loan problems, which prevent our public servants from getting out of their debt. 

  • 18th minute, and goes on for about 4 minutes

There is a “7-minute rule” that whenever anyone calls Navient, the agent on the opposite end of the phone will end the call within 7 minutes without giving the customer a solution. The agents from Navient are also trained to not help customers apply for loan forgiveness. Government pays Navient a fee to help it manage federal loans, and the more clients (which are ordinary citizens) that Navient has, the more fee they’d collect; therefore, Navient has no incentive to help Americans, and yet tries to bury them with interests for as long as possible. 

  • 28th minute 10 seconds, and goes on for 3 minutes

Not only have the students been exploited by our financial institutions, but military members oversea have also been tormented by the wrongdoings of big banks. Service Member Civil Relief Act that has been around since the Civil War forbids banks to foreclose homes owned by military members. However, financial institutions would bet on the troops not knowing the law and foreclose their houses while they are serving abroad.

  • 36th minute, until the end of the podcast, about 10 to 12 more minutes 

The last part of the podcast revisits the subject on the student loans; a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau staff had predicted the catastrophic outcome due to the incompetence and negligence of our government and loan servicers, yet, our current administration further denies American access to loan forgiveness and buries evidence on the wrongdoings by loan servicers.




My Rules…a Continuing Effort to Be Better

Thailand 2017, by Reggie Soang

I used to think the career of a chef is simple and straight forward; you work your way up the rank and you become a chef, and then you’d enjoy the perks that come along with the hard work, the end. However, the road to becoming a chef is rather winding and surprisingly, without a summit. Being a chef does not conclude my journey, but rather just another pit stop off a long, exhausting, and yet rewarding climb in my pursuit to eat and cook good food. And at some point, being a chef and earning a title is no longer that important, and engaging in the work inside of the food industry becomes my sole motivation to wake up everyday and do it repeatedly.

Over the years, I had many lows. I had debts and I drank, and I hated the vicious cycle of waking up hungover and going to work, and doing it again, though at times that the camaraderie was worth it. I started on the recovering journey when I realized that what I wanted did not exist and never will. “Making it as a chef” is as abstract as “being successful”, at what point does my success complement the role I embody when I take off my chef jacket? To me, the greatest chefs are the ones who take an interest in other subjects, who are family-oriented, and who devote their time to teaching and mentoring. Being a chef embodies the role of a counselor, an entrepreneur, an innovator, and a great parent.

I am a patient of my own after seeing the worst of myself through job losses and breakups. I grip onto the faith that my continuous effort to be the best version of myself will lead me to a more joyful life. To achieve honesty, integrity, and accountability, I continuously write rules for myself in order to steer me towards a more pragmatic path. I’d like to share my rules here.

  1. Life is not easy and fair, and don’t try to make it so.
    • I knowledge my privilege and therefore will not play the victim card in any circumstances. The secret is…I had played the victim card quietly in my own world for some time and it’s only hindered my progression to be a better friend, a more thoughtful partner, and a more understanding chef. I will not allow myself to do it again.
  2. Do not be surprised by the absurdity of this world
    • Humans are capable of loving and hating; don’t let others surprise me with their effort to bring me down. Use their negativity to learn about compassion and develop a growth mindset. On the other hand, believe that others are capable of loving me as I am capable of loving them.
  3. Happiness is the byproduct of my hard work. If I don’t work hard, I don’t deserve to be happy. Nevertheless, I can be joyful and content with my life during the process.
    • I find happiness after winning a pick-up basketball game. I find happiness after cooking a delicious meal for my friends and anonymous guests in the restaurants. These happiness are the byproduct of my consistent practice and training. To achieve any of these happiness, I first have to find joy doing the work, and be content with my total effort, even if I fail.
  4. Turn the page
    • I am the author of the book on my life. Own up to my mistakes, make amends, and then turn the page and start over, but never forget.
  5. 10,000-hour mastery only gets you a better job, not the best job
    • Everybody can cut or dice an onion, what makes my onions better than his or hers? The best job does not need the “perfect diced” onions, but the finest onions for the job.
  6. Dissect opportunities through gratitude because chances are…I was lucky.
    • None of the jobs I have ever had was because I deserved it. No one is entitled to a job regardless of his or her experiences or background. Opportunities show up because life is a lot like luck. Be consistent, and keep doing what I am doing, let luck takes its course and grab onto the opportunities.
  7. Give my obstacles credit
    • Obstacles and fears push me to be creative and to overcome challenges. I have been defeated by fears and overwhelmed by obstacles, and I have had many bad days. I have also learned that obstacles and fears don’t sympathize with my circumstances, my pride and ego will only feed my own denial, and it’s only my acquired humility and growth mindset that will help me navigate through my time on this planet.
  8. Time is the most expensive currency
    • There are two items in my world that I won’t get back: the death of my loved ones and time. Death and time work hand in hand. Life is short…but how short? Time is precious…but how precious? I don’t have the answers and time does not wait for me to figure that out.
  9. My role is to support
    • One of the best ways to lead is to support. Being in a supportive role, I could empathize with the pain, create a joyful environment, and live with no regret. The most dreadful thought is to have lived but not have lived to be the best and kindest.
  10. Constantly define and refine the concept of success for myself
    • Currently, being a great support, being content with myself, living with intention, and looking after my health are on my scorecard for being successful. I have to feed each category with a healthy dose of attention to achieve my own success.

I practice these rules everyday. Through my own practice, I’ve become more confident and assured of myself. I embrace uncertainties, and these rules guide me through the noises and bring out the best version of myself even on a bad day.


Raising My Fist – Archive From my Weekly Newsletter (6/3/2020)

Vote Trump Out, by Reggie Soang

There is no better way to start this newsletter by being completely truthful about my current feelings towards the state of our nation.

I am saddened, angered, and outraged at what has happened in our nation.

First and foremost, I am saddened by the killing of African Americans due to police brutality. I am outraged by the constant injustice African Americans have to endure because of our broken legislative, executive, and judicial branches at all levels. I am saddened that our nation has been complacent* about racism until today. And today, I am writing to admit that I am one of the reasons to blame because I never took the time to understand and learn about racism.

Merely having black or Hispanic friends does not make me anti-racism. Racism is rooted in legislature and institution, which means, laws are made unfairly to grant advantage and superiority to a certain ethnic group. Without showing the deepest sorrow and compassion towards the disadvantage, and using my privilege to help them take another breath, I am not being anti-racism. I have been complacent*; I focus on being a fair boss and a good friend to everyone, but I fail to walk in black people’s shoes. I do not know what it feels like to be a black person. I do not know what it feels like to be racially profiled to the extent where physical harm is executed on me. And let’s not forget the Hispanic people who have been publicly taunted by our elected President.

I am angered and outraged by the spin that people have put on to change the narrative. Americans protest for injustice and brutality, not against the nation, the flag, and what the country once stood for. Stop worrying about the flag and protect its citizens. This is the exact reason why police brutality is condoned, the focus is shifted, and the wrong leaders are elected, and this is also the textbook play used by our armed force to maneuver the media and corrupt our minds. Ignorance is bliss, and we have chosen to be blissful over grieving for our loss; equality and humanity. Do not change and maneuver the narrative, because she isn’t and hasn’t.

I am taking actions, and I am very new at doing this. I am spending time to understand the structure of our government. The elected officials who matter the most in the immediate reforms in police department and criminal justice system work at the state and local levels. I have the privilege to stay home and do my research. I can pay for my internet and log onto social media. I have to start somewhere, and this is where I choose to walk the green mile with all the African Americans. And I hope you could do the same.

Last but not least, I am ending this letter with a few resources that I used today to start the healing process.

If you live in New York***, and are on board with me, please either call or e-mail the following senators or assembly members to urge them to repeal 50-a (A2513/S3695) fully, without any amendments or modifications.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senator, Majority Leader
Carl. E. Heastie, New York State Assembly Member, Speaker
John J. Flanagan, New York State Senator, Minority Leader
Joseph A. Griffo, New York State, Deputy Minority Leader

I chose to reach out to both majority and minority leaders because I firmly believe both sides need to hear what a person has to say about protecting humanity. It will be in his or her conscience to decide if he or she would like to protect basic human rights.

***If you don’t live in New York, please follow the same format, call your senators and assembly speaker in your states and urge them to reconvene and pass legislation that will end shielding police from getting disciplined and investigated for violating our constitutional rights.

If you are like me, who only has a basic understanding about civil rights movement (not talking about the literal movement back in the late 40’s to 60’s, but the overall continuous effort throughout the American history), Obama Foundation offers all the resources and information that you need to know about fighting for justice. Change is a journey and process, and if I can’t fall in love with the process, then results will always disappoint me.

If you have gotten this far, I thank you for your time and patience. I chose to change. I will not allow my children (I will be a father one day) to witness my complacency* and cowardliness. I stand for Black Lives Matter.

On the lighter note, on this date in 1992. When I need to take a deep breath, I look for sports highlights!

With much love,

*Updates are made on 6/5/2020.
     – Complacent has replaced Complicit from the original content
     – Complacency has replaced Complicity from the original content     


A Single In New York on Living (and Cooking) Under Corona Virus Lockdown

(Sometime in January, by Reggie Soang)

This blog entry is inspired by an interview done by Helen Rosner, New Yorker’s food correspondent. All the questions in this blog belong to Helen Rosner and The New Yorker.

New York City has been given the mandate to shut down all non-essential business activities. For the most part, people must work from home. Though restaurants that offer delivery or take-out are considered essential, most of the restaurants have shut down because opening for business is no longer sustainable. Without restaurants, many New Yorkers have to cook at home for the first time. Reggie Soang, a New York City chef, decided to give cooking lessons on instagram and share recipes on his website. Reggie wants to help people with different needs when they pick up their knives for the first time or dust off their cookie sheets since last Christmas. Since the mandate, cooking at home could be seen as a necessity rather than a hobby. Even Reggie, who doesn’t normally cook at home for more than two consecutive meals, finds cooking at home challenging because of the limited space, limited fire power, and the lack of a reliable dish washing machine. I had a quick conversation with Reggie over the weekend about his current living status and mindset for riding out the pandemic.

What’s it like now, being under lockdown?
I have to plan my meals at home and I haven’t had to do that in 10 years. For the majority of my adulthood, I’ve lived and breathed restaurants. Home cooking is another level of challenge…water takes forever to boil, oven is only big enough to bake 12 cookies at a time, dishes get piled up too quickly…I miss big powerful machines. But I am grateful…supermarket is near by and it is restocked quite frequently. In addition, I could manage to cook for 1 person and still be able to share leftovers with few friends who live few blocks away.

How did the lockdown in NYC unfold?
Things happened quite quickly. I was only told to operate the restaurant at 50% capacity few days before shutting it down entirely. I wasn’t all that surprised and I am grateful that my former company was fast in making the call without jeopardizing our health and safety. In regards to the city…it felt like everything happened overnight. I think our timeline aligned with the city’s…first came the big restaurant groups, and then it was done in matters of 24 hours.

Walk me through a trip to the store to buy food
I put on my mask, which is a winter hat-mask gear for running outdoor, and then I make sure to have my keys by checking them twice…a little bit of OCD there, guess that’s what a pandemic could do to our mental health. I am lucky that the closest supermarket is within a block. Also, I have always been an efficient shopper – I’d mentally draw a map of my route in the store (of course, with a list of ingredients written down) and I’d find a spot near the section where I shop and “park” my basket, and then I’d go grab whatever I need without having to “basket pump” everyone else. I’d only move my basket if the items are too far away. Also, having a culinary background allows me to change plans on a whim…if they run out of flour…then I just won’t bake! I am in and out of the store in 10 minutes or less.

You’ve been living like this for three weeks now. Does it feel normal now?
Only somewhat…I still can’t get used to the fact that my exposure to nature and sunlight could be life or death. Worse, I feel like my life is a roulette sometime…I could be taking out my trash and catch the virus. I try not to be paranoid every time I touch the door knob or my face. I am doing everything I possibly can to be clean and healthy. But I have accepted that nothing will ever be the same anymore, and that took a while to sink in.

What other adaptions have you made to how you cook and eat?
I have been cooking 1-pot meals because my friend would like to learn few dishes that he could easily execute at home. My friend still works very hard everyday, and he needs recipes that require minimal steps and equipment. I find this project to be challenging and rewarding. I no longer enjoy taking many steps to make a dish at home because of the amount of dishes I have to do. I also think that kind of cooking belongs to restaurants where everyone helps out. At home…cooking should be simple and straight forward, and the food should be just as delicious.

What do you miss the most?
Personal life? my friends and swimming pool. I really miss drinking and sharing a meal with my friends…like crazy. I love nothing more than opening a decent bottle (or two) of wine and passing the food around. I miss swimming because it is one of the only workouts that pushed me to the limit and felt accomplished at the end. I also miss going on dates occasionally…not that I have ever been successful in that department, but I enjoy meeting a new person and learning about her work and interests. If it didn’t workout, at least I’ve learned about a new line of work that is outside of the restaurant world.

Work wise? It wouldn’t be called work if I loved it. Let’s just leave it at that.

Have you been talking about lockdown in the videos?
No, it’s not my platform. I decided to be more visible on social media because I want to offer ideas to help people adapt to our new lifestyle. What I know about lockdown is pretty much the same as everyone else. I watch/read CNN, NY Times, Washington Post…you know, all the fun and liberal fake news. (j/k).

Well Reggie, thanks for your time! Keep cooking because someone will need your 1-pot recipe sooner or later!

Thank you for spending some time with me! Pleasure is all mine!…I guess this is what Tom Hank must have felt like when Wilson was the only friend.

Blog Bookshelf

COVID 19 Cookbooks

Last two and half weeks have been life changing. I haven’t had to cook at home for more than 2 consecutive meals since I started working in the restaurant industry. I dug out some of my favorite cookbooks and adopted couple news ones. I look for cookbooks that could help me formulate simple meal plans, ranging from making a broth for noodles, to baking a cake for myself and friends. I rarely follow a recipe verbatim, except in baking, yet these cookbooks give me ideas for using simple and common ingredients. I only hope to create contents that could be just as resourceful and helpful as these cookbooks. Please enjoy my selections:

  • Ratio, by Michael Ruhlman
    This is not a traditional cookbook, but a great reference to basics in cooking and baking. The title of the book says it all…cooking and baking is all about combining the right ratios of ingredients in order to make a dish shine. Not only does the book teaches textbook ratios, but it also goes in depth about choosing the right technique for recipes. One of the most fascinating lessons I learned is by using different mixing methods, my baked goods could end up tasting very differently in texture when given the same ratio of ingredients.

  • River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
    River Cafe Cookbook is one of my favorite cookbooks because its recipes are so simple and easy to execute as a home cook. River Cafe is a well known English-Italian Restaurant in London. The River Cafe’s food is seasonal driven. The chefs cook with local farm produce, meat, and dairy while paying homage to rustic Italian dining. My favorite section in the book is on cooking poultry. While making a Sunday Roast (chicken) is a British tradition, some recipes use popular Italian ingredients such as sage, prosciutto, lemons, or parsley to elevate the simple dish.

  • Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang
    I love Momofuku’s cookbook because of its eccentric recipes of combining Asian flavors with American Ingredients and Western Cuisine. The book is divided into three sections based on the first three Momofuku restaurants in New York, Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, and Ko. I must have read David Chang’s ramen recipes a dozen times, and the recipe never fails to inspire me to add depth and flavors (not more ingredients…big difference). Also, though some ingredients are unobtainable in retail, such as foie gras, most of the recipes are simple and serve as guidelines to cook simple food.

  • A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield
    I have read this cookbook front and back few times. Chef April’s recipes are thorough, yet easy to execute. Although the title of the book might suggest a heavy collection of meat recipes, a good portion of the cookbook dedicates to making salads and roasted vegetables. My favorite recipe in the book is Caesar Salad. Her flavors are bold and portions are generous; a hearty bowl of Caesar Salad might just be the perfect dinner choice when I don’t have the patience to cook.

  • The Art of Simple Food by Alice Water
    This is one of the first cookbooks I own. I’d highly suggest this book to all levels of cooks. Most of the recipes have only 3 to 5 ingredients, excluding the seasonings. Alice Water is known as a pioneer in promoting Californian Cuisine, which focuses on sourcing and cooking local ingredients. Her cookbook covers a broad range of repertoire, which is helpful to anyone who is either looking to begin or advance his or her household culinary skillset.

  • The Whole Beast, Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson
    Another great cookbook written by a British chef. As the book title suggests, Chef Fergus Henderson is an advocate in using and eating every part of animals. Nose-to-tail eating is also a lesson on managing food waste. When our budgets are slim and costs are high, we could be creative in utilizing all part of ingredients in our meal. One of my favorite recipes in the book is “Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad”. I will not be able to get my hands on bone marrow in retail, but the essence of the dish is animal fats mixed in with herbs and pickles…kind of like eating a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickles.

  • All the Presidents’ Pastries, by Roland Mesnier
    Last but not least, this is a memoir written by Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier, who served under 5 U.S. Presidents, from Jimmy Cater to George W. Bush at the White House. At the end of the book, Roland gave out 12 recipes that were favored by the Presidents. During his time as the Pastry Chef of the White House, Chef Roland often made elegant desserts for banquets and receptions. Nonetheless, the recipes at the end of the book are for “home cooking”; these were desserts served to the First Families on daily basis. Did you know Bill Clinton is allergic to chocolate?

Enjoy my selections! Let me know if you have any great suggestions on cookbooks!


Tracking Personal Finance

Since pandemic COVID 19 has turned this world upside down, not only are we vulnerable to the virus, but we have also become vulnerable to our well being in the immediate future. People have lost jobs or have been reduced to lesser roles with lesser pay. With my future being uncertain, I immediately set up a system to track expenses and create a budget for the next 3 to 5 months.

*All numbers below are fictional

To track my daily expenses, I created these columns: Month, Date, Expense, Item, and Category. My spending is to be recorded everyday, and I could use this data to generate a summary on purchases, which is followed in the next step.

I record my daily spendings in this table. I could use this information to generate a summary.

Excel has a “Pivot Table Analysis” function that helps you summarize a large quantity of data. I found a very useful website to help me build a Pivot Table, which extracts my expenses from daily input and show me where I spend most of my money.

This is a game changer! Pivot Table Function gathers all my daily purchases and categorizes my spendings. In my fictional data, I’ve spent most of my money on Amazon, which is sort true.

Last, but not least, a Cash Budget spreadsheet allows me to see where I’d stand financially in the next few months. If you study my fictional cash budget closely, you’d see that I strive for consistent spending every month. At the end of every month, the “Excess Cash” will go to “Estimated Cash” at the beginning of every month, and be added with salary to help me budget for the month. With formulas built in, I could simply type in any number to predict my future in various scenarios. (And of course…I could quickly see the worst in matter of a second)

This is my Budget Sheet – with this, I could predict “okay”, “not bad”, “almost bad”, “ohhh shit” scenarios…kind of cool!

Creating a solid financial tracking system helps me stay calm. I have learned over the years that anxiety is built on my loss of control in any dire situation. I have also tried to only control what I can control, and adapt quickly to reality. My personal struggles have always been about managing expectations and being present. With COVID 19 lingering on my front lawn, I need to be present and focus on living purposefully.