“We live in a tricky time for anybody who wants to cook and sell food that comes from another person’s culture,” Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying write in The Gaijin Cookbook. With characteristic frankness and hopefulness, they continue: “Perhaps we’ll look back in twenty years and laugh about how bad we were at sharing our culinary traditions respectfully and responsibly.”
The term gaijin means outsider in Japanese, and it originally made Orkin uncomfortable when he first moved to Japan. Yet, after decades of cooking and living in Japan with his family and opening ramen shops in Tokyo and NYC, Orkin has come to embrace it. In the chapter “Open to Anything,” Orkin and Ying show that Japanese cuisine actually embraces outside influence, contrary to the country's misguided reputation as a closed-off culture. Yoshoku is an entire category of “Western” dishes and techniques that have been redirected through a Japanese lens. Think curry, katsu, or mentaiko spaghetti. This cultural embrace of the “outsider” gave Orkin the encouragement he needed to merge his own cultural heritage with that of his adopted homeland.
Join Orkin and Ying as they talk about what it means to be an outsider, the cultural and historical phenomenon of yoshoku cooking, and the importance of being “perceptive, empathetic, and open to new ways of doing things.”
An informal reception with book signings and tastings provided by SOTO Sake to follow.
Ivan Orkin is the author of Ivan Ramen and a star of Chef’s Table and Mind of a Chef. He owns Ivan Ramen and Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in NYC, where the food is “so good it makes your eyes explode.”
After working in professional kitchens throughout his college years at UC Berkeley, Chris Ying left restaurants for a career in books. He worked as an editor, designer, and eventually publisher of McSweeney’s Publishing in San Francisco, where he produced books of oral history, fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. In 2011, he returned to the food fold when he co-founded the magazine Lucky Peach, serving as editor-in-chief for the first twenty issues. In 2017, he began working on a new book series called Dispatches with MAD, the nonprofit organization founded by Rene Redzepi, chef of noma in Copenhagen. Ying has edited and co-written numerous books, including Ivan Ramen, The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook, and You and I Eat the Same. In 2018, he began working with Majordomo Media as a producer of the podcast The Dave Chang Show and season 2 of the Netflix series Ugly Delicious. Through Majordomo, he's currently developing multiple television series for Hulu. He is also the co-founder of the nonprofit, ZeroFoodprint, which is dedicated to helping restaurants and chefs fight climate change. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.