When I turned to "Capital of Heat" in SAVEUR's March 2013 issue, it reignited that same sense of possibility. The article laid out the ingredients that make up the fiery cuisine of Chengdu in China's Sichuan province. Reading about ma la, the combination of chiles and tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns that creates the province's signature flavor, it hit me that the American palate has evolved even further since my arrival here two decades ago, embracing not just global cuisine, but hyper-regional ways of cooking and eating. Their enjoyment is attuned not only to "Mexican food" but to the cooking of Oaxaca, the Yucatán, and Sonora, too. Americans now understand that "Asian food," for example, is subdivided into Northern Chinese, Southern Thai, and Sichuan, home to one of my favorite spicy dishes, dan dan noodles. For a chef like me, this sophistication is immensely liberating. The culinary landscape is broader and richer than I could have ever predicted. I feel like I'm in my 20s again: excited, inspired, and eager to cook.