Q&A: Cookbook Author Steven Raichlen

Grill master Steven Raichlen shares insights and recipes from his new dude-food cookbook, Man Made Meals.

June 2 2014, 3:30 PM

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Steven Raichlen, author of Man Made Meals.

New Shrimp Cocktail

Sangria For Grown-Ups

Candied Bacon Sundae

Steven Raichlen, author of Man Made Meals.

New Shrimp Cocktail

Sangria For Grown-Ups

Candied Bacon Sundae

Television cooking personalities are usually a boisterous group. On camera, the Bobby Flays and Gordon Ramsays sell themselves with their in-the-trenches authenticity, hooting and hollering like they’ve just stepped out of their restaurants to give us louts a lesson. 

Steven Raichlen, host of PBS's Barbecue University, takes a different approach. What Bob Ross was to the canvas, Raichlen is to the grill. (You can almost hear him now: “We’ll just put a little cracked black pepper over here. That’ll be our little secret.”) Where others yell and fuss, Raichlen just is. That's not to say his cooking isn't without the odd gimmick, but he’s no nonsense. His food does the talking, and boy, does it talk: Raichlen’s cookbooks have made him a James Beard award-winner five times over.

For his newest manual, Man Made Meals, Raichlen steps away from the grill and focuses on everything else guys need to know about cooking. There are a few grill how-tos, but the emphasis is on the kitchen rather than flaming charcoal. “One of the motivations to write this book is that I heard from so many readers who said, ‘Hey, how about us. We live in condos and we don’t have grills' or 'We live in Michigan and it’s too cold to grill in the winter.’” 

If our Q&A whets your appetite, click on to the next page for three recipes from Man Made Meals. Still hungry? Check out Raichlen's website, or catch him on the Denver stop of his Man Made Meals Tour on Tuesday, June 3, at 6 p.m. at the Littleton Williams-Sonoma. 8405 Park Meadows Center Drive, Littleton

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5280: Do guys like grilling, or do they like everything that goes along with it—shooting the [breeze], drinking beer?

SR: I think it’s even more primal than that. Guys love to play with fire. I don’t know about you when you were a kid, but as soon as my parents left the house, I was building fires, setting things on fire, making cannons, loading model airplanes with firecrackers and blowing them up. I think that’s one of the big gender distinctions between men and women. So in a sense, when you grow up and learn to cook, you’re sublimating that primal urge to play with fire.

5280: What was the rubric for selecting the recipes in Man Made Meals?

SR: I made a number of lists. For the first list, I thought of all the essentials that every red-blooded male should know how to make. Every male should know how to shuck an oyster, cook a steak, make breakfast for his kids, have a fail-proof romantic chocolate dessert for that night when he has a date over. When I was interviewing all the food dudes for the book and asked what romantic dinner they’d recommend, the answer was just the fact that a guy knows how to cook.

5280: Do you think men today are more capable in the kitchen than in the past?

SR: I think this generation of men is probably the most food savvy in American history. But guys sort of universally suffer from this “afraid to ask directions” syndrome. Some of us need instruction on how to do it, and others need reassurance that we’re doing it correctly. So I tried to do both. I give guys not only recipes but also a lot of information on how to shop, what to look for at the market, the meaning of organic and grass-fed. There’s a pretty strong activist message in the book.

5280: Do you think there's been a definite paradigm shift for men in regards to cooking?

SR: Total paradigm shift. When I was a kid, guys worked on cars, they built stuff out of wood, they took shop classes. Today, men express their manliness through cooking. 

I believe we live in the best time in human history for men to cook well and eat well. If I could sum up what I tried to do in the book in one phrase, it would be, “In order to eat well, you have to know how to cook well.” We all want to eat better. We want better flavors, bolder spices and tastes. We want our food to be healthier, more fun, more international, hip, and cool. And the best way to accomplish that is to know how to cook. 

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