The first cookbook I ever bought was Feast by Nigella Lawson. She’s super-talented; it’s the romanticism she brings to food, and the whole experience of feasts for specific events. I love books that are technical, but I’m more interested in those with deep, personal stories — that’s what makes me want to make a dish.
My relationship with food has changed over the past two years. My new book, Let’s Do Dinner, is a reflection of that; it’s influenced by what I’ve learned from travelling to places like Italy and Japan. I always look at my life pre-Queer Eye and post-Queer Eye and see how much it’s changed.
The sushi and sashimi omakase in Japan blew me away. It was at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, inside a tiny townhouse among the skyscrapers. I went back twice! The level of care that goes into everything in Japan was so eye-opening — things like tonkatsu or crispy pork cutlet served in broth. We were filming there for four weeks, and mealtimes were always quiet because the food was so delicious.
Rome has some of the most beautiful, simplistic food I’ve ever tried. Like fresh pappardelle with just butter, lemon and pepper. Or cacio e pepe, which is on so many menus but often gets screwed up. It’s the simple things that, when done right, are incredible because you really taste every ingredient.
The single greatest lasagne I’ve ever had was in New York City. It was in I Sodi. It has like 30 layers and they torch it on the side so it’s crispy; plus it has the most wonderful, tender bolognese. I get it every single time. They also do the best carciofi fritti (fried baby artichokes with salt and lemon).
Let’s Do Dinner cover design and hand lettering by Laura Palese.
Published in Issue 13 (Autumn 2021) of National Geographic Traveller Food
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