As the first winner of Bravo’s Top Chef and owner of New York restaurants Kin Shop and Perilla, Harold Dieterle is no stranger to innovative food preparation. However, as evidenced in his new cookbook, Harold Dieterle’s Kitchen Notebook, when it comes to creating recipes, this chef is decidedly old school: as in pen and paper. Indeed, Dieterle started writing down recipes in his royal blue Mead spiral notebook in high school cooking classes, and he’s stuck with it ever since.
“My cowriter and friend Andrew Freedman and I had a hard time coming up with that hook that made our cookbook accessible to the home cook, but that didn’t lose the refinement of a traditional cookbook,” he says. “So, we thought my notebook was a clever way to meet in the middle.”
As a result, Dieterle and Freedman’s new cookbook is a miscellany of traditional recipes, beautiful photographs and, most importantly, notebook entries on different dishes that encourage readers to think of food in a different way.
As Dieterle notes: “Everyone finds himself getting into a rut, staying in a comfort zone of what he can make and what he can make well. I think with the notebook feature, we’re trying to get people to break the mold a little bit, branch out and try something new.”
The informality of the notebook section allows cooks wiggle room in the kitchen. Its flexible measurements and ingredients encourage home cooks to experiment with recipes, something that’s often discouraged in other cookbooks. “We’ve all bought a full pound of basil or cilantro for a recipe, but only had to use a little bit of it,” Dieterle says. “Then we ask ourselves, ‘Now what do I do with this?’ This book is great for those answers.”
Dieterle might call it his kitchen notebook, but he admits, “It’s definitely a very recipe-centric diary,” complete with random brainstorms, doodles and notepad papers from the various hotels where he’s stayed. “There was a point on my trip to Thailand that I was writing not just about food, but everything throughout the day,” he explains. “It helps me remember what I was eating and the romantic experience I had on my first trip there. I didn’t want to forget anything.”
Luckily for us, Dieterle doesn’t keep his “recipe-centric diary” top secret, but uses it in most of his Thai and Asian-inspired recipes at Kin Shop. As a result, his dishes go far beyond the kitchen or cookbook, telling the story of the time they were first discovered. Likewise, Dieterle hopes to motivate home cooks to take their own kitchen notes. Whether it’s spiral, marble, or leather-bound, it’s clear that any kitchen notebook can bring more than just ingredients to your home-cooked meals, but the memories that go along with them.