Nosrat doesn’t call herself a chef, despite her many years in restaurant kitchens (including California’s temple of farm-to-table food, Chez Panisse). Instead she considers herself a teacher, one whose tricks and techniques are “within reach and possible for you at home.” Her mantra has a sort of Michael Pollan-esque simplicity: ”Be thoughtful. Be curious. Good cooking is within reach for everyone.”

The gospel Nosrat teaches in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is that any cook who really understands and harnesses those elements in the kitchen can cook delicious food, no recipes required. It’s an idea that evolved over years of work in kitchens, built on the knowledge that comes from frying 100 batches of chicken in a single evening, or prepping vats of vegetables for service, night after night.

At a market in Mexico
At a market in Mexico
Image: Netflix

In this food-obsessed moment, Nosrat stands out from the piles of cheffy cookbooks that lead home cooks through the elaborate production of a restaurant’s famed dishes. And unlike many globe-trotting TV hosts, her travels are not an eternal quest for either “authenticity” or novelty. Instead, she’s working to illustrate the commonality that good food shares around the world. Rather than teaching viewers the recipe of pavo en escabeche, Japanese fish stew, or crispy Persian rice, she invites them to observe the way these dishes build and balance flavors.

Ultimately, Nosrat wants you to figure out what your personal version of deliciousness is, to discover what your palate is all about: Rosemary, basil, thyme? A light hand with salty flavors? No meat or fish? “I’m not the one who’s at your house, who eats this,” Nosrat said. “You don’t have to do it my way.”

Perfection isn’t the goal; it’s about iteration, process, improvement, and enjoyment. “If I can get people to do anything, it’s try a bunch of different ways and figure out what your way is,” she says. “That’s the amazing thing about cooking and dinner—is that you always get another chance tomorrow.”

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