Book Q&A with Saveur's James Oseland

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James Oseland. Photo: Darrell Hucks
James Oseland. Photo: Darrell Hucks

The famed fireplace at Camino restaurant will sizzle this Saturday, November 10 for a book luncheon featuring Saveur's James Oseland. He may be familiar for his recent judging appearances on Top Chef Masters but he brings serious journalistic food cred to the table as well. Under his watch, Saveur has raked in more than 25 awards, including eight James Beard awards. Oseland's newest culinary tome is heavy on food images that will make you ready to cook and, of course, eat: The Way We Cook: Portraits from Around the World. Yes, you can catch Wolfgang Puck smiling for the camera but the participants are mainly home cooks who are non-professional, and there’s a cozy warmth to their stories. Bay Area Bites interviewed Oseland recently to find out more.

Bay Area Bites: How did this book project come about?
Oseland: This book is a tribute to kitchens around the world and the people who make them hum. I'm fond of saying, cooking connects us, and I think what I love most about Saveur is its mission to tell human stories. Even if it's a story about a type of dish or technique, it's also a story about the person putting food on the table. I'm amazed every day that at the heart of it all, the desire to cook is fantastically similar whether we’re in a remote village or in the midst of a big city. Looking back through hundreds of stories and photographs we've collected over the past decade, I feel lucky to be part of such a wonderful community with a hearty appetite and respect for global cuisine and culture.

The Way We Cook

Bay Area Bites: What are you most passionate about food-wise?
Oseland: There is nothing that settles and satisfies me at the same time more than the act of cooking in my own kitchen. I also must admit, my husband is Brazilian and he has gotten me completely hooked on the country's pickled chilies. They have such depth and range of flavor -- it's like I've never had a chili before! They manage to sneak their way into the vast majority of my meals.


Bay Area Bites: Who are your culinary mentors?
Oseland: I most admire the folks out there who make an impact on the food world through their unyielding passion for creating great meals. Ultimately, thoughtful chefs develop sophisticated yet simple cooking techniques. That extra care results in artful and intentional food I want to eat and share with those I love.

Bay Area Bites: What are the best things about being a writer and editor? And the worst?
Oseland: The best part's easy -- I am paid to do what I love most. I was a contributor to Saveur for almost seven years before I got an impeccably timed call from Colman Andrews (the former editor in chief) asking if I was interested in the executive editor's position. At that exact moment, I had just completed a final draft of my book about living and eating my way through Indonesia and had about 800 dollars to my name. I hope I didn't sound too desperate when I accepted on the spot!

I'd have to say that the worst part of the job is choosing what stories make it into each issue and which ones don't. I wish we could assign a thousand stories every year.

Bay Area Bites: Do you have any favorite Bay Area food spots?
Oseland: Incanto is one of my all time favorite San Francisco spots and it's hard to pick one dish -- anything Chris Cosentino makes is bound to be fantastic.

Bay Area Bites: Where do you think the U.S. is for appreciation of other cultures?
Oseland: Let me start by saying that as a New Yorker, I'm a little biased -- this city has tons of affection for global cuisine and talk about easy access! It's stunning how quickly you can get your hands on a good bao sandwich or satisfy your empanada craving here. However, I do think as a whole, Americans are a little different when it comes to food. We foster a kind of "eat to work" attitude that is the opposite of many countries where people "work to live." I've noticed in many places I've visited, folks carve out a significant part of the day to share food together, and it's this sit-down-at-the-table ethic that The Way We Cook champions. I'm proud of that, and I think the tradition to make time for eating with family and friends is on an exciting upswing in the U.S. too.

Event Information:
An Evening with James Oseland at San Francisco Cooking School
Friday, November 9, 2012 from 7pm to 9pm
690 Van Ness Avenue (Corner @ Turk near Civic Center)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Purchase Tix: $15 admission only, $40 admission + book

Lunch with James Oseland at Camino
Saturday, November 10, 2012 from 11:30am to 3pm
3917 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
Purchase Tix: $64.17 ($50 lunch + $9 tip + $5.17 tax) + $2.59 (tix fee) = $66.76 per person
Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event
courtesy of Omnivore Books