When I asked Eric Gower how often he cooks in his kitchen his answer was "Three times a day! At least!" Eric also teaches cooking, works as a private chef, is the author of two beautiful and innovative cook books, The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen and The Breakaway Cook, and maintains a wonderful food-centric blog on his website. In short, he is a man obsessed with food, which is good news for us.
Eric lives with his wife in a Victorian flat in San Francisco's North Beach, not far from the famous squiggle of Lombard Street. While the flat is beautiful, they are faced with the challenge of making a small rental kitchen suit Eric's full-time kitchen life.
Eric's dream is to one day have a kitchen large enough to teach classes in. Until then, he travels far and wide, expounding his breakaway philosophy and leaving behind a trail of happy, well-fed friends.
Questions for the Cook
What's your cooking style? Breakaway! Ethnic markets meets farmer's markets. Taking traditional flavors and ingredients and techniques and using them in new ways. Respecting the tradition without being bound by the tradition.
What inspires your kitchen? Fifteen years living in Japan. Simplicity. Not being intimidating. To me cooking is a practice, a learning process. In Japan, when a discipline is taken up as a lifelong endeavor, it's known as "the way of..." The important thing is to relax and have fun. What can go wrong? Any mistake can be fixed or rolled over into something different.
Favorite tool or element: Vita-Prep blender. I use it all the time. It's an investment but worth it. You can grind up anything!
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received: How to hold a knife - to "choke up" on the blade with the handle in your palm and your fingers gripping the blade.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen: Counter space. Because there is no room, I have to stop whatever I'm doing at each stage and wash everything up immediately. But advantage of a small kitchen is that I don't feel any pressure to perform, that I can relax and create and not be attached to results.
Dream tool or splurge: Except for the Vita Prep, I'm not into expensive equipment. My most useful tools are quite inexpensive like a microplane zester. I have several electric spice/coffee grinders--they're indispensable to breakaway cooking.
What are you cooking this week? A good friend is going through his third round of chemo and I'm bringing him some of his meals. It's bit of a challenge for me because he can't take too many spices. Also, he needs to load up on the calories, so I'm using way more butter and fat then I usually do.
• Garage sales and thrift stores for cast iron skillets.
• The Gardener and Japan or local potters for dishes
• Ikea for shelves and other storage
• World Market for spice jars and other containers
• Craigslist for the stove
• Vita-Prep blender
• Solis espresso maker
Related: At Home in Paris with David Lebovitz
(All images: Dana Velden)