Chef, cookbook author, and recipe developer Nik Sharma talks about his latest cookbook and his journey to understand the science behind flavours and food.
There is nothing that good food cannot solve. From a bad mood to ways to celebrate the smallest victory, food has it all covered. It is not just about the joy of taking each bite but about seeing people enjoy the food on their plates. It is also the process of prepping the food. Cooking is the art of knowing the science behind the flavours and enhancing it to bring out its best part of the dish. Chef, cookbook author, and recipe developer Nik Sharma and his latest cookbook, The Flavor Equation, is a journey to understand the science behind flavours and food.
Nik Sharma is a food writer, photographer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based out of Los Angeles, California. He is currently a columnist for Serious Eats, The Guardian, and Food52 and a contributor to The New York Times cooking section. Nik published his first cookbook, Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food, in 2018. With his latest cookbook, ‘The Flavor Equation‘, Nik jots down his knowledge of chemistry and how it works with the mysteries of flavour. He has laid down how one can convert the most basic of our pantry items like salts, oils, sugars, fat, and so on into tasty, simple dishes.
Talking about the book Nik said, “We’re all looking to understand and create food that’s flavorful and delicious. The Flavor Equation does just that by unravelling the answer to what flavour really is by taking you on a guided journey of how our emotions, along with our senses of sight, sound, textures, aromas, and taste, help us cook and appreciate food.”
We had a chat with Nik Sharma about The Flavor Equation and here’s what he had to share:
When did you realise your love for food and how did the journey as a food blogger begin?
“As far back as I can remember, cooking food has always caught my interest. The idea that ingredients can take on a whole new meaning not only in the way they look but also in their flavour is absolutely fascinating. Growing up in Bombay, India I considered attending culinary school, but my parents were keen on my being in a less-risk free and I pursued a career in biomedical research. While in research, I started a blog called A Brown Table and over the years one thing led to another, new doors opened, and I quit my career in food to work as a pastry cook and a food writer and photographer.“
Your journey is now reflected in your book, ‘The Flavor Equation’. Can you tell us more about the book and what it means to you?
“The Flavor Equation marries both my time spent in research as well as my time as a cook and food writer. Flavour is multidimensional and this books directly gets into that. Not only is flavour about the aroma and taste of food but it also involves our senses and emotions. Our emotions and memories are intertwined with our sense of sight, sound, and texture. All of this is also influenced by culture and experiences.”
What, according to you, makes your food content stand out?
“I can’t speak about that since I really don’t know, that’s for others to decide. From my side, I write about food I love and enjoy. Dishes I cook at home all the time.“
How would you describe the science behind preparing food?
“Everything about cooking is experimental and reminds me of being in a lab. The way recipes are written, the process of trial and error to get easier methods and delicious food, and the way ingredients and methods rely on science to get results. Cooking is an evolving process, what we once did a hundred years ago, changes over time to adapt to the present all through a process of iterative experimentation by cooks all over. I’m always in awe when I read classic recipes, for example, a lot of Indian recipes use yoghurt as a marinade for meat and leave the meat to brine and absorb the flavours overnight. The lactic acid yoghurt is quite different from other cooking acids like vinegar and citric acid and is much gentler on meat without leaving behind unpleasant textures. This occurs because animal meat produces lactic naturally and has evolved to deal with it. Yoghurt marinades might seem ancient, but the wisdom of our ancestors is reflected in its brilliance.“
What kind of cuisines do you like to prepare? Do you have any favourites?
“At home, I cook a lot of Middle Eastern and Asian food. Burmese, Malaysian, are some of my favorites.“
One instance/experience that made it all worthwhile?
“Hearing back from readers that either cook your food or learn something new for example an ingredient or technique and they now use it in their own cooking at home, is the most rewarding experience.“
Where do you find the inspiration for your food content from?
“I read a lot of cookbooks and some might say I own too many. Cookbooks, food magazines, and food shows all help me learn a lot. Older cookbooks are often a great resource to learn from.“
According to you, what is the most difficult ingredient to work with?
“I don’t think there are difficult ingredients, keeping an open mind with the goal of learning is key.“
If you can describe your book into one flavour, what would that be?
“An Experience – flavor is a multidimensional experience.“