How to Cook Like a Local

Houston chef Chris Shepherd wants you to learn from, not ‘discover,’ local restaurants

By SAVEUR Editors

Published on October 21, 2019

While the term "local" has become overused to the point of cliche in the restaurant world, for James Beard award-winning chef Chris Shepherd of Houston's much-lauded Underbelly Hospitality, it's about so much more than seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients. As Shepherd explains in the introduction of his new cookbook, Cook Like a Local: Flavors That Can Change How You Cook and See the World, "'local' is just as much about the people who live in my community, the people who inspire me and teach me and work with me, and how they like to cook and eat."

A Tulsa native, Shepherd moved to Houston in 1995, and what started out as a curiosity about the city’s food turned into a full-on education: he went from becoming a regular at local immigrant-owned restaurants to training in Korean grocery stores, Vietnamese phở shops, Indian kitchens, and Chinese mom-and-pops. Shepherd celebrates these lessons not only in the way he cooks, but also by shining a light on the people the food comes from and helping them tell their stories.

His approach to the SAVEUR Supper last week was no different: he made a point of bringing out the kitchen team who helped him bring the dishes from Cook Like a Local to life that night: chefs Estefania Brito and Josue A. Sanchez of New York’s Cosme. And while you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of Houston, Shepherd told guests that “at the end of the day, any city in America can be this. This cookbook isn’t a love letter to Houston. It’s a love letter to our world. I want people to see that by going out and sharing stories and eating dinner, you can grow your family a little bit bigger.”

Chef Chris Shepherd with his new book, Cook Like a Local, in the SAVEUR test kitchen.
Shepherd kicked off the evening with an ultra-luxe canapé: tostadas with Keluga caviar from Regalis Foods, crema, and chives.
SAVEUR editor-in-chief Sarah Gray Miller welcomes guests and introduces chef Chris Shepherd.
The secret ingredient in Shepherd’s salad? An umami-packed fish sauce vinaigrette.
Shepherd’s signature ddukbokki (Korean rice cakes) with braised goat.
Shepherd’s take on Korean japchae with onions, peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and for a pop of acid and color, plum sesame seeds.
Cosme chef Estefania Brito’s riff on Shepherd’s crispy ham ribs was finished with a sriracha glaze, serrano chiles, cilantro, scallions, and sesame seeds.
Brito and fellow Cosme chef Josue A. Sanchez work on Sanchez's smoked mushroom tamales with salsa verde, a vegan version of the fried chicken tamales in How to Cook Like a Local.
Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi and Bartaco president Sabato Sagaria.
The cheesiest tater tot casserole.
Chef Anita Lo and Dynamite Shop owner/former SAVEUR editor Dana Bowen in conversation; James Beard award-winning cocktail author Dave Arnold of Existing Conditions and Booker & Dax.
Vietnamese fajitas made with seared Colorado wagyu marinated in fish sauce, palm sugar, scallions, jalapeños, and lime juice.
Shepherd and Brito working on dessert.
The last course: vinegar pie curd made with sugar cane vinegar and Korean apple cider vinegar, served with cookie crumble and salt brittle.
Wines from Empire Estate, Caraccioli Cellars, and Failla were poured throughout the night.

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