World Chefs: Saad puts global spin on familiar dishes

Tue Jun 12, 2012 7:25pm EDT
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American chef Jeffrey Saad likes to play with flavors from around the world and to liven up soups, sandwiches and everyday food with Asian and Middle Eastern spices and sauces.

In his first book, "Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders," the 45-year-old co-owner and executive chef of The Grove restaurant in San Francisco provides recipes inspired by his travels and influenced by the traditional Lebanese meals cooked by his grandmother.

Saad, who grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago, spoke to Reuters about must-have spices, favorite meals and the versatility of eggs.

Q: What is your idea of global cuisine?

A: "To me, global cuisine is how people are eating now. It's not about I want Thai food and I'm going to a Thai neighborhood to have Thai food ... I think the difference between global cuisine, or what I call cooking without borders, and fusion is not mixing two cuisines together to come up with something new. It's borrowing from the different cultures and trying to create a signature profile.

"In my book, for example, in the Mexican chapter, you use cumin, coriander, ancho chilies, dried chilies and tomatillos. There is no doubt you are tasting Mexico in your mouth. You are going to get the essence of Mexico in your mouth. Obviously, Mexican cuisine is much deeper than that. That's the beginning point, and a way to have that flavor stamp. Now you could apply those things to recipes and everything you're cooking and you're eating globally. You are having the flavors of another country by tweaking the comfort food you normally eat."

Q: What is your approach to maintaining the integrity of a cuisine's flavor profile?

A: "People could mix cuisines and they turn out great. My endless joke is fusion cuisine could insult every country involved with something muddled ... What I do in my restaurant, The Grove, is classic comfort food with a twist."   Continued...

An undated handout photo shows tandoori chicken from a recipe by American chef Jeffrey Saad. REUTERS/Amy Herold/Handout