If you know Andy Baraghani, you were likely introduced to him in the pages or on the YouTube channel of Bon Appetit Magazine where he was a senior editor and video host. His stint on camera and approachable recipes made him tremendously popular both as a personality and trusted recipe developer. He left the magazine in 2021 with a cookbook deal and first draft, and his first book, The Cook You Want to Be, was published in May 2022 after three years of work.
Baraghani fell in love with cooking at a young age and started working in kitchens at 16. After a stint at the iconic Chez Panisse, he knew his culinary passion would be more than a hobby and he went on to work at restaurants all over the country before transitioning into editorial test kitchens and becoming a writer himself.
As an editor, he was lucky to have a wide variety of cookbooks pass over his desk through the years. He cites such Bay Area classics as The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Boulevard: The Cookbook, books from Chez Panisse and those by Nigel Slater as major influences in his formative years. But his goal when writing his own book was not to look closely at other works.
“I had a pretty strong sense of the kind of book I wanted to write,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that it came from a very gentle and vulnerable place that felt that I was right there with you in the kitchen cooking alongside you, rather than it being so direct and authoritative. And I wanted it to be very approachable and highly cookable. I also wanted to make sure people would be smiling and laughing; I wanted the writing to be filled with a lot of good energy and positivity and humor.”
Baraghani achieved this mix by balancing technical know-how, personal travelogs and recipes. “I really wanted to make sure I emphasized this idea of curiosity so that the reader feels empowered,” he explained.
Something he learned about himself during the process is that while he may be known for relying primarily on fats like extra virgin olive oil, he uses a wide range of fats, especially dairy products, to achieve his signature tart and tangy flavor combinations. One of the fun elements in his book are the “Savory Sprinkles,” in this case a mix of nori, sesame, chili, salt and citrus that lends texture, acidity, heat and crunch to everything from popcorn and melon to apples and cheese.
As for his favorite recipes in the book (if he must choose), Baraghani picks the sticky soy roast chicken with crispy shallots and garlic and the plum and pistachio cake in the dessert chapter. And now that the book is out in the world, he’s been amazed and pleased by how much, beyond the recipes, his writing has been resonating with readers.
“Obviously I want readers to love and cook the recipes and have them be a part of their repertoire,” he said. “But I also really want them to go the next step and learn about a technique or ingredient or some kind of cultural context about the dish.”
Beyond his book tour, which lasts through September, Baraghani has plans for an upcoming trip to Sicily for culinary inspiration and, at some point, a return to video. “If you’re someone who has experience whether in the home kitchen or professional,” Baraghani said, “this book will teach you more than a few things in the kitchen, but I also think out of the kitchen.”
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