In this issue of At the Table, we talk with Marc Matsumoto who is the founder of No Recipes. What we like about Marc’s approach in No Recipes is his focus on helping people learn techniques, instead of just providing recipes.
One reason we like checking in with what Marc is writing about is that there’s always an intriguing flavor combination, interesting technique, or new ingredient to try.
What is the last thing you ate that is worth telling us about?
A 5-minute sticky toffee pudding made in the microwave. If you’ve never had sticky toffee pudding before, it tastes way better than it sounds (our friends on the other side of the Atlantic like to call almost any dessert a pudding). It’s basically a cake made with lots of dates and butter with a ridiculously buttery toffee sauce that gets drizzled all over the hot cake. I figured out a way to make it in a microwave in about 5 minutes, complete with sauce and let’s just say I’ve been “testing” it every day this week.
What is the number one thing you want people to know about you?
That I’m an impostor. Seriously, 10 years ago, I was a marketing executive that was good at cooking; 10 year before that, I was a student that liked to cook; and 10 years before that I was a fat kid that liked hanging out in the kitchen. I’ve never had any formal training, but I like to eat and I like to make people happy, so although I never had any plans to cook for a living, life conspired to put me on this path.
What is your all-time favorite meal?
Gosh, that’s a bit like asking a parent who their favorite kid is. Honestly, it depends on my mood. But if you’re gonna corner me on this one, I’d have to say it’s noodle soup. Whether it’s a light pho or rich ramen with an oil slick on top, there’s a noodle soup for just about every mood, and they’re not only delicious, they’re fun to eat as well!
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Where do you feel the most creative?
When I’m outside of my usual routine. Whether I’m traveling or hitting up an ethnic market, it’s these shifts in perspective that get the ideas flowing.
If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be and where would you eat?
While I respect talent, I’m not really much of a fanboy when it comes to other people in the happiness industry (like chefs, musicians, and entertainers). For me, I’d rather spend time with the guys laying down the groundwork for the future of humanity as we venture away from our planet, guys like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.
What is something you want to learn to do?
I tend to collect hobbies like black velvet collects dust, so it might be better to ask me what I don’t want to learn to do.
Where is your favorite place to travel?
Tough call, again it depends on my mood. My favorite eating cities include Tokyo, Singapore, and Barcelona. Favorite places to gawk at the awesomeness of nature: Bhutan and New Zealand.
Why did you decide to focus on helping people learn techniques over recipes?
Recipes are like an Ikea manual for a desk. They show you how to put together one specific desk, but they don’t improve your carpentry skills and they’ll never teach you how to make desks in general. My goal with focusing on techniques is that you learn the basics you need to know to make any pan sauce, any gravy, or any braised dish.
What recommendations do you have for people who say they can’t cook, but want to learn?
Unless you have some handicap that literally limits your ability to cook, saying that you “can’t cook” is like saying that you can’t eat or you can’t breath. It’s a limiting negative construct that shouldn’t even cross your mind. I think what most people mean when they say they “can’t cook” is actually that they “can’t cook well.” That’s something I can help them with, by teaching them basic techniques and giving them the confidence to be adventurous in the kitchen. Honestly, the cost of failure in the kitchen is so much lower than just about any other activity in life, so being brave in the kitchen is a great starting point to being brave in life.
At the Table is a regular interview series on Umami where we help our readers get to know interesting people. Check out more At the Table interviews.