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Q&A with Preeti Mistry

Questions for Chef Preeti Mistry, author of THE JUHU BEACH CLUB COOKBOOK

 

  • What inspired THE JUHU BEACH CLUB COOKBOOK?

Juhu Beach Club inspired the book. When we started this little restaurant we had no idea how it would evolve. The people, the successes and failures, the menu…all of it has evolved organically in the last four years into the community that Juhu is today. It’s more than the sum of its parts. To me it is a unique story that needs telling because our stories are not told enough. The cookbook world could use more diverse voices, and I am always down for speaking up.

 

  • How has your upbringing influenced your cooking?

My life and upbringing influences everything about my cooking. I’m a chef of Indian origin, but I grew up in the West (UK & USA). I grew up eating traditional Gujarati food and pizza and burgers. I was made fun of for eating the food my family eats and so I also see my cooking Indian cuisine as a badge of honor and a very personal journey. I was so curious about different cuisines as a kid and still am. I had the privilege of traveling internationally quite a bit in my childhood and young adulthood. All of these influences inform my cooking, plating, style of service, every aspect of the restaurant.

 

  • How did you become a chef?

I think you have to read the book to get that answer.

 

  • You organize the cookbook according to personal anecdotes and themes. What is your favorite recipe and its accompanying story?

I would say the “Solidarity Soup” side bar and Black Dal recipe in the “Oaklandish” chapter. There is so much about this story and accompanying recipe that is SO Juhu. From the intersectionality and support of activists in Oakland to the “happy accident” of me using up some black lentils we weren’t even supposed to receive. I think I do my best cooking in these moments and this one also came with an idea to support our community in a time when reaching out a joining hands with our neighbors seems more important than ever.

 

  • What is your cooking philosophy?

My cooking philosophy is generally grounded in logic. I believe strongly in being logical about building a dish. Every aspect of a dish should makes sense togher. What am I trying to accomplish? What is in season? What are the origins of a dish? What aspects of the dish am I trying to highlight. I also believe strongly in balance of flavors and texture…it’s the Libra in me. Most JBC dishes will often have a balance of spicy, salty, sweet, bitter, soft, crunchy, and so on. This balance is also a large component of Indian street food and chaat dishes.  I believe in traditional from scratch cooking techniques yet there are no rules from that point on.

 

  • What should readers keep in mind when trying your recipes?

Take the time to find the specialty ingredients, and don’t compromise on this. But from there….have fun with it. See the recipes as guidelines, once you have made something a couple times put your own spin on it. Have fun and don’t take anything too seriously.