Samin Nosrat wants to teach you how to cook. The author, cooking instructor, and Cooked alum is bringing her specific approach to cuisine to an all new four-part Netflix docu-series called Salt Fat Acid Heat. The series takes its name and mantra from Nosrat’s best-selling book, an exploration of the building blocks of good cuisine. The show will take viewers around the world and into the kitchen. Unlike other food shows on Netflix, Salt Fat Acid Heat will have a welcome “instructional” portion.
In person Nosrat is much as she is on screen: a veritable explosion of exuberance. Decider sat down with Nosrat during this past summer’s TCA press tour to talk about how the show came together, kitchen envy, and whether or not we’re using enough salt.
DECIDER: Can you tell me what the vision for this series was? What made you think that your book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, could be a Netflix series?
SAMIN NOSRAT: [The book] was conveniently already in four parts – convenient for the docu-series format — and to me the idea of the book is its this universal cooking theory. My idea is anywhere you go in the world, any good cook everywhere you go, is using these four elements to make food taste good. So in my mind I was like, “The possibilities are endless to be able to tell this amazing story!” We can go anywhere and talk to any cook. We can go to Japan, we can go to Cambodia…the list of countries on our list was endless because we really could choose from anywhere which was so mind-blowing. And Netflix, for me as a watcher and consumer of food media, really established something new with Chef’s Table. I feel like Chef’s Table just changed what I felt like food TV could look like and be like.
I was always like, “Why can’t you have the beautiful inspirational thing that’s also practical and teaches you? Why do they have to exist in these two different worlds. Why can’t they intersect?” And so to me, the place that was gonna support us…there was no question. It was gonna be Netflix that was gonna support us in making this vision a reality. Once we really sort of conveyed that to them and that became our shared goal, honestly, Netflix was way better at keeping us on track remembering, “Remember your point is to teach.”
I had “kitchen envy” watching the show. Was that your kitchen? Or a set?
No! It’s funny because we tried a test shoot in my kitchen on Long Island in my tiny, tiny, little apartment. And I’ve shot little videos for other shows in there before, but the angles are tight. And so in the end we have… I have kitchen envy. You’re not the only one! It’s really funny too because I was feeling really self-conscious about how nice the kitchens were that we were shooting in and I kept dropping into “Well at MY house we’d do it like this” to convey that it wasn’t my house. I didn’t want everyone to think you need all this fancy stuff to cook, and Caroline [Suh] the director was like you really have to stop saying that.
Speaking of Caroline Suh…I know her name from other documentaries. How did you guys collaborate?
So Caroline directed the episode of Cooked that I was in. She was the showrunner for Cooked. She’s kinda like my guardian angel in a way; she’s like my fairy godmother. And so when we met that first day on Cooked, she was like, “You should have your own show.” She picked up on it. I had always wanted a show to teach people how to cook because I felt like it was so much more efficient than teaching classes of 12 people at a time. And so she sort of like planted that seed.
As an instructor, what’s the biggest misconception you find that people have about cooking?
I think people think that it’s really hard to make good stuff. You know, that there’s some sort of barrier to entry. And to me, that’s the fundamental misconception is that you don’t need any special tools, you don’t really need any special ingredients honestly. There’s no outside thing that you need other than maybe a cast iron pan, and a knife, and a stove. Like there’s no thing that you need that’s gonna make you a good cook.
I’m always out to sort of teach that by example in all different scenarios whether it’s like outside over a fire, in toaster oven you can make something good out of stale stuff, you can use the stuff that’s left over in your freezer. And so I think my point always is if I can get across to you through these four elements, these are the things you hold to, these are your compass, this is what’ll guide you to good food, then you can forget about all of this. The whole world is just trying to sell us more stuff. “You need this gadget!” “You need this fancy pot and pan!” “You need this luxury ingredient.” You don’t need that stuff. That’s not what makes stuff taste good, in fact, a lot of the time, that stuff just makes it more complicated and sometimes taste worst.
One thing I was struck by, personally, watching you in the kitchen was you seemed to use a lot of salt. I thought to myself, “Am I not using enough salt!?!?” And I’ve started sprinkling a little bit more in my home cooking and it’s helped.
It’s funny because Caroline said that when she was editing that episode, every single person who watched it was like, “She uses a lot of salt.” And part of it was conscientious on my part, which is, I do want you to feel like you’re not using enough because pretty much nobody uses enough. But none of that food — we ate it all, none of it was too salty. But one sort of little nugget that got left out is that I was using this Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. It’s the least salty of the salt. If I’m using other saltier salts, it doesn’t look like a snowstorm passed through. But to me, I feel like, if I do this much and that gets you to use marginally more than you’re using, then I’m doing my job.
Do you have any plans for the recipes we see on the show?
Girl, you know it!
Because some people like to have recipes in writing. Will there be a website with the recipes we see on the show?
What’s really funny is that I’m always like, “You don’t need a recipe! I just showed you we just spent all this time.” Like I just spent 20 hours teaching classes and at the end of the 20 hours people are like, “Where’s the recipe guide?” I’m like, “we just cooked for 20 hours no recipe.” I learned that people like the hand holding and they need it and also it’s my responsibility to give you a baseline where to start from, where it’s proven that it’ll work.
So actually what we’re doing right now is, I’ve talked to everyone in the show, I’ve gotten their recipes, I’m testing them. Some of them that came from people in other languages, are being reverse-engineered and then they’re gonna be tested over the next couple months by people all across the world so that we can guarantee that they work. And then they’re gonna go up on the website. It’s all going to be on SaltFatAcidHeat.com.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is now streaming on Netflix.