How to Cook Like a Local

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

Cook Like a Local
Chef Chris Shepherd's Cook Like a LocalRima Brindamour

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.
Chef Chris Shepherd with his new book, Cook Like a Local, in the SAVEUR test kitchen.Rima Brindamour
Tostadas with Keluga caviar from Regalis Foods, crema, and chives.
Shepherd kicked off the evening with an ultra-luxe canapé: tostadas with Keluga caviar from Regalis Foods, crema, and chives.Rima Brindamour
SAVEUR editor-in-chief Sarah Gray Miller welcomes guests and introduces chef Chris Shepherd.
SAVEUR editor-in-chief Sarah Gray Miller welcomes guests and introduces chef Chris Shepherd.Rima Brindamour
Shepherd’s salad with an umami-packed fish sauce vinaigrette on table.
The secret ingredient in Shepherd’s salad? An umami-packed fish sauce vinaigrette.Rima Brindamour
Shepherd’s signature ddukbokki (Korean rice cakes) with braised goat.
Shepherd’s signature ddukbokki (Korean rice cakes) with braised goat.Rima Brindamour
Shepherd’s take on Korean japchae with onions, peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and plum sesame seeds.
Shepherd’s take on Korean japchae with onions, peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and for a pop of acid and color, plum sesame seeds.Rima Brindamour
Cosme chef Estefania Brito’s riff on Shepherd’s ribs marinated with sriracha, palm sugar, serrano chiles, cilantro, green onions, and 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.Rima Brindamour
Brito and fellow Cosme chef Josue A. Sanchez work on Sanchez’s smoked mushroom tamales with salsa verde.
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.Rima Brindamour
Superstar chef Christina Tosi of Milk Bar and bartaco president Sabato Sagaria with clean plates.
Milk Bar owner Christina Tosi and Bartaco president Sabato Sagaria.Rima Brindamour
The cheesiest tater tot casserole.
The cheesiest tater tot casserole.Rima Brindamour
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.
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.Rima Brindamour
Vietnamese fajitas made with seared Colorado wagyu marinated in fish sauce, palm sugar, scallions, jalapeños, lime juice.
Vietnamese fajitas made with seared Colorado wagyu marinated in fish sauce, palm sugar, scallions, jalapeños, and lime juice.Rima Brindamour
Shepherd and Brito working on dessert.
Shepherd and Brito working on dessert.Rima Brindamour
Vinegar pie curd made with sugar cane vinegar and Korean apple cider vinegar, served with cookie crumble and salt brittle.
The last course: vinegar pie curd made with sugar cane vinegar and Korean apple cider vinegar, served with cookie crumble and salt brittle.Rima Brindamour
Wines from Empire Estate were poured throughout the night.
Wines from Empire Estate, Caraccioli Cellars, and Failla were poured throughout the night.Rima Brindamour