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Nick has a ton of fun cooking. He’s self-taught and loves experimenting with all kinds of food. On his blog, he’s shared over a thousand recipes since 2008, and he wants to teach us home cooks to be more confident in the kitchen. In 2014, he published his first full cook book called Love Your Leftovers and you might have seen him on TV. He was a featured home cook on NBC’s Food Fighters.
I’m so excited to have Nick Evans of Macheesmo joining me here on the show today.
(*All images below are Nick’s.)
On Learning How to Cook:
Well, I would say, three or four years of doing Macheesmo, I put myself through an informal cooking school. I would look up recipes that had really technical aspects to them and then just practice and practice and practice them in my home until I felt really comfortable with that method, comfortable enough that I could write about it, at least, in a funny way if not a successful way. So I put myself through a little bit of a culinary school, I would say. Not the culinary school aspect where I know how to run a kitchen like a professional restaurant, but a culinary aspect in a technical way, at least, so knowing how to make sauces and knowing how to do stuff like that. I feel pretty comfortable with some of that stuff. It’s mostly just practice, a lot of failure.
On Some Good Resources for Learning to Cook:
I think if you don’t subscribe to it, America’s Test Kitchen, and I do some work with them also so it’s a little bit self-promotional, but they are an amazing resource and the recipes are some of what I think to be the most clearly written recipes. They’re very well tested, they’re very well written and almost without a doubt fail safe. And they have a lot of really basic stuff too.
Another place I’d look if I’m looking up a technique that I don’t know how to do is just YouTube. YouTube can be a nightmare. You have to be careful with it, but what I always try to do is if I’m looking up a technique, I will watch three or four videos on it, because there’s going to be a million. Try to pick up the similarities that the chefs are doing and that’s probably going to be right. And then if there are any weird outlier parts, maybe just be like, “I don’t know about that.” But YouTube is a great resource because a lot of cooking techniques are very visual, I think. It helps to actually see somebody do it, which is funny, because I don’t have a lot of videos on my website actually, I just do mostly photos and try to write it in a way that makes sense. I went through a phase where I watched a lot of YouTube videos on various techniques.
On Keeping Motivated to Learn:
My biggest thing, which I still do to this day, is I think it’s so important to go to different stores. Because you can look up all kinds of stuff on the Internet and I sometimes struggle with that because it seems overwhelming. But instead of going to your normal grocery store, go to a different one. Go to an Asian grocery store. Go to a Latin grocery store. And it can be a little bit intimidating and you’ll be out of your comfort zone, but at the same time, you’re going to find things that are different and you’re going to be inspired by, “Oh, there’s a totally different kind of produce there that’s not in my normal grocery store. Oh, there’s a different brand of this, maybe that tastes a little bit different.”
I’ll just pick up a few things that look interesting, then I’ll go back home and look up ways to use those things. So I start with the store and what I can actually find, and then I try to get inspired based on that instead of just trying to tackle the Internet or something and find something that looks appealing, because then it’s always a struggle. If you find some recipe and it has this weird ingredient and you go, “I can’t find that,” and so you just give up. So instead I start with what I can find, then maybe try a new place and then go the other direction and try to find something good to make with it.
On His Cookbook, Love Your Leftovers:
I came up with the idea a long time ago actually and just had a hard time wrapping my head around the best way to present it. But essentially I was getting a lot of feedback from readers and people that I talk to that they felt like they had to start from scratch every day. So like, “Oh it’s Tuesday, I have to get up, I have to chop all this stuff, I have to do all this stuff. Okay, now it’s Wednesday, I have to cook all from scratch.” So the idea is that instead of cooking from scratch, you cook like foundational meals when you have time, so big batches of things, and then those will store well and you can use those as jumping off points for other meals.
So leftovers is such a non-sexy word and it doesn’t get a lot of respect in America, but even great chefs will tell you that in really big restaurants, they’re taking stuff they cooked before and transforming it into something totally new and making it a special or using it in a different way.
The idea of the book was to take that into the home kitchen and it’s how I actually cook and how I actually feed my family, and so I thought it would be helpful to write a book around that. So that’s what it is. It’s fun. People e-mail me all the time like on Amazon reviews and stuff and say that it’s totally changed the way they think about how to cook, because it’s a little bit different of a method but I think the results are pretty awesome.
On Appearing on NBC’s Food Fighters:
It was very random. I saw something on a Facebook group that I’m a part of and they said, “Hey, this new show.” At the time, the show didn’t have a name or anything, but a production team was just looking for good home cooks. And so I just applied. I just sent in an e-mail and it was a very long process. They later told me that they got about 10,000 applications and they whittled that down to, I think, eight home cooks. So it was like a four-month process basically of interviews. We had to do in-person cooking. It was a big deal.
And now they’re on Season 2 of the show actually, and so I’m sure that that audition process is even more intense than the one I went through, because I was in Season 1, but yeah, it was super fun. It was a crazy experience. My family got to fly to LA and do the whole LA thing for a little bit, so that was fun. And I got to meet some awesome chefs. They’re all really cool and really down to earth, very fun, and I earned some money, so hey.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
Well, I watch Food Fighters since I was on it and I watch Chopped a lot. I think Chopped is probably the hardest of any cooking show. I can’t imagine doing it. I think it would be really challenging but also that’s why it’s awesome to watch. Those are the two I watch most regularly.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
There’s a new one that I’m reading recently called the The Beeroness. You’ve got to check her out. She’s awesome. Every recipe has beer in it and I’m a big beer drinker, and she takes beautiful photos.
My friend Nik, who I met last year, he runs a blog called A Brown Table, and he takes, I think, some of the most stunning food photos on the Internet right now. They’re very dark. It’s actually a look I’ve never been able to get down when I photograph stuff. They’re very dark but they all look so delicious. I just want to eat everything that he makes because it looks so great. So check out A Brown Table.
And then my other friend Dan. I like to read guy food blogs, because there are not a lot of them and I feel like there’s a guy food blogger community that needs some love. So Dan from The Food in My Beard, he just makes weird stuff. He’s just a weirdo dude, but he is a great cook and always funny and his food is like out of this world crazy and delicious, so check that out.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I don’t do Snapchat yet. People keep asking me that and I’m like I don’t understand it. I haven’t wrapped my head around it yet. I always tend to be a late adaptor to these things so I will probably get to it in a year when there’s some other cool thing that I should be learning but I’m not on Snapchat yet.
Instagram, I really like following Local Milk. Her name is Beth and she just has these beautiful photos which I think is what makes Instagram awesome, it’s photos, so I just follow people that take great photos, or my wife who posts only photos of our child. She’s a little creepy.
On Pinterest, honestly my Pinterest account is such a cluster of just… It’s thousands of pins because I follow every food blogger, so I don’t have a specific person really that I like.
But on Facebook, well, actually they’re on Pinterest too, but I really like Todd and Dianne. They write a blog called White on Rice Couple and they take really great photos. I’ve taken some of their photography lessons and they’re super helpful, very friendly people, and they are just an inspiration in the food photography world and also in the food blogging world. And they post really cool videos on Facebook, so if you’re a Facebook fan, their page is awesome because they shoot these beautiful, quick, little 30-second or 1-minute videos that are really beautiful. I always have to go cook something right away after I watch them.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
Okay, so this is weird. It’s not actually anything I use to cook, but it’s something that appeases my son while I cook. I have an eight-month old baby and one of my friends got us… At the time I was like, “Well, that’s stupid,” but it’s like a net stuck to a ring that they can hold and you can put food in the net, and then they can chew on it and you don’t have to worry about it choking them or something. So I will stuff this net thing full of fruit like water melon, pineapple, and he’ll just chew and suck on it for like 30 minutes and I can do whatever I need to do. So that net, it must have cost like five bucks, but I’ve used it $200 worth of times already, so I love the net thing. I don’t know what it’s called. I can’t Google kid net thing. Don’t Google kid net thing. I don’t know what to Google, but it’s like a kid feeder net thing. It’s my favorite thing in the kitchen right now.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
I think this is may be a common one for food bloggers but I used to hate beets. The only reason why is because my idea of a beet was a canned beet that was really soggy and bright maroon-red color and would stain everything. It was only later that I was like, “Oh, wait, you can get fresh beets that aren’t canned? Well, those are delicious,” so now I really love beets but I still don’t eat the canned kind.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Well, there’s one, well, Love Your Leftovers obviously but the one book that I’ve used, I probably got it close to when I started Macheesmo. I’ve had it for six or seven years I would say. It’s called The Flavor Bible and I still use it every single week to help just with my recipes. Basically it lists every food in the world and then it has complimentary foods with it, so you can look up apples, then it’ll say blue cheese, red wine, whatever goes to your list. And there’ll be a huge list so you can literally come up with recipes just by looking up these flavors and seeing what pairs well with them, so I use it all the time. My copy is beat to hell but I love that book.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
It depends if my wife is in the kitchen or not. If Betsy’s there, she really likes classic rock so we’ll listen to like Van Morrison, she’s a huge Van Morrison fan, and I just noticed they re-released one of his, like the essential Van Morrison or something and it’s awesome. So we’ll listen to that. If she’s not there, I like to listen to rap music when I cook, so like right now, I’ve been listening to the Fetty Wap album which is… I don’t know what to say about it. I just love it. I think he’s awesome and I love listening to rap music. And it gets me pumped up and I like to cook to it.
On Keeping Posted with Nick:
Well, as you might imagine, Macheesmo.com is my blog. I’m on every social media platform except Snapchat, and it’s all slash macheesmo. So Facebook, whatever, it’s all just slash macheesmo, you’ll find me. So whatever platform you like.