Red-Hot Andy Ricker Talks New Cookbook

By Leslie Kelly  |  November 12, 2013

Andy Ricker is on fire. The James Beard Award-winning chef has restaurants in Portland, Oregon and in Brooklyn, as well a brand new cookbook, Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand written with Jj Goode. It features amazing photos by Austin Bush and a forward written by Thai food cookbook pioneer David Thompson. Zagat Seattle caught up with the hyper busy chef-slash-author as he was deep in the process of moving the Pok Pok on Columbia in Brooklyn down the block, wrestling with paperwork and jumping through hoops.

Zagat Seattle: Was there one book or hundreds that inspired the journey to write this?

Andy Ricker: There wasn’t just one cookbook, but there weren’t hundreds either. I read my mom’s dog-eared copy of Joy of Cooking when I was 13 or 14 and actually attempted to cook out of it. I liked the way it was laid out, with the introduction and then the instructions, it let you know how it was supposed to turn out and that’s the format we used. It’s a lot like the way I write recipes for the restaurants because when you’re on the line, you cannot be going back and reading things over and over again. It has to be linear. Luckily, Thai food is a very prep heavy cuisine that comes together really quickly, so it lends itself to that style of recipe. From an aesthetic perspective, back when I was into thrift shopping, I collected the Time-Life cookbooks. They look dated now, but I like the way they were shot, from overhead. We tried to capture that spirit.

Zagat: What was the process of writing the book like?

Ricker: We did it in chunks. It took about six months to put the proposal together and once it was accepted, it was about two years. When I had time, I’d write and send that off to Jj. We’d talk and email, even if I was in Thailand and we were talking over Skype. When it was time to do the actual cooking, we spent five weeks staying at a home of friend in Thailand. I’d cook and Jj would transcribe and then we’d take it outside for Austin to photograph. Then, there was the editing.

Zagat: What’s your favorite feedback so far?

Ricker: The blurbs on the book jacket tell the story, but I am pretty happy hearing from the folks who bought it, the people who’ve been posting pictures of the dishes they’ve made on social media.

Zagat: Finally, are you worried the world’s going to run out of wings after you’ve made them such a big deal?

Ricker: When McDonald’s announced they were putting wings on the menu, the price went up. But, no. We have our suppliers. We’re not going to run out. The wings pay the rent, but they’re not the most interesting thing on the menu. I almost never order them. I usually order the Northern Thai stuff like the larb.

Andy Ricker will talk about his new book at 6:30 November 14 at Book Larder in Seattle. The event is free, but an RSVP on the shop’s website is appreciated.