In the late ‘80s, Chef Gordon Smith opened Basil St. Café in Encinitas.
Many around might still remember it as one of the first restaurants to go organic. Since then, Smith has gone on to become a personal chef for people like former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner, Betty Ford and others.
Now the president of the Encinitas Community Garden, Smith has released his first cookbook, “Save The Males: A Kitchen Survival Cookbook,” (available at savethemales.com). The book, in part, is to help people, men or anybody, he said, to cook better and to cook healthier.
The 224-page cookbook serves up recipes and tips from Smith’s more than 25 years’ experience as a chef and cook, including how cooking can improve one’s love life.
“Women are very appreciative to be fed by a man,” he said. “And you can ask any woman, they’ll agree.”
Before appearing at the Seaside Market for a book signing Dec. 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Smith talked about the book, and how changing his diet helped change his life.
Describe how it was that food changed your life?
Basically I got healthier as I started to eat better, feel healthier, feel stronger; I got to feel a little more empowered…when your body feels better, your mind gets better — it all works together.
What was it that made you decide to change?
I was under a lot of stress. I went through a divorce, and I had a child and that was all part of it, not being able to be with my son. (His son is now a chef at Palomar Pomerado Hospital.) I went back to college and was very involved with my school, and I was working, and I had a really full load. And then when I finally started learning to be a cook, everything changed.
That made a big difference. And once I started cooking, I started to really like it. To me, I found that being a cook, and especially being a chef in the business, I found it to be a sort of an art. And I liked it as an art. I really enjoy creating food and having people eat it and watching them smile. That really worked for me. That changed my life.
In the book you talk about how when you went back to college you were eating a lot of fast food or frozen dinners and didn’t know much more than how to boil water. How difficult was it for you to make the switch from that lifestyle to cooking your own meals?
I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I cooked in a kitchen, so my profession made me aware of cooking. I learned a lot of tricks and things because my profession was now being a cook and then eventually a chef.
What was it that you saw that made you think this cookbook was needed?
It’s always a win when you start something, you want to finish it. I started this a long time ago, and with the help of my co-author Reparata Mazzola, she helped me finish it, because she’s got talent (for) writing that I don’t have. The two of us did it and finished it together.
For a first time cook, what would you advise is the best dinner to start out with?
It’s probably a pasta dish…I write about pasta, I write about rice, I write about potatoes, these are all the big staples… First learn how to make a good rice; learn how to make pasta; learn how to make good potatoes, and then you can make variations. And that’s the key to learning to cook. First master the basics; really learn how to do the basics, and then you do variations of it, and then you can start creating and that’s when it really gets to be fun.