Photo by Annie McElwain
Saehee Cho is a Los Angeles based writer, cook and food stylist. Saehee’s culinary work lies at the intersection of functionality and beauty in cooking and food styling. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Tierra Adentro, Entropy, Eleven Eleven, Sidebrow and Black Clock. Keep reading to learn her personal Pear & Ginger Hot Toddy recipe and some other choice tidbits.
RE: HER GO-TO HOLIDAY COCKTAIL
I love making a Pear & Ginger Hot Toddy — it’s somewhere between a hot toddy and an old-fashioned. Except in place of cinnamon, I use ginger and in place of apple juice, I use fresh pears.
2 oz whiskey
2 oz hot water
2 tbsp pear & ginger simple syrup (recipe below)
Pear & Ginger Simple Syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 pureed pear
1 lemon, juiced
2 inches ginger, peeled & sliced into quarter-sized disks
Bring all syrup ingredients to a low boil over medium heat. Lower heat to a simmer until syrup thickens or the ginger starts to look shiny and candied. You’ve gone too long if the syrup starts to caramelize. Strain syrup and cool.
The point of a warm cocktail is coziness without evaporating the alcohol through heat.
The key to this recipe is temperature. What works best for me is to heat up water to just boiling and then to mix 2 oz hot water into the pear & ginger syrup very quickly. Add 2 oz whiskey at the end and gently stir. This way, the syrup-water is warm enough so the drink is cozy without burning off the flavor of the whiskey.
RE: HER UNUSUAL/SAD HABIT
I’ve been baking professionally for almost 12 years, and it’s made me a 3 hour sleeper so I tend to sleep in 3 hour increments. It does go up and down, and I have different points in my life where I sleep more regularly. Right now, it’s like sleep for 3 hours and do a little baking and then power up for 3 more hours with a nap, and then wake up again. Sleep is about where I can catch it, and what’s sad is that my body is used to this rhythm now.
RE: STYLING FOR MOOD & ANGLES
My food styling is about articulating a mood or a feeling — I learned this from my grandmother. My grandmother always wanted to be an interior designer and is constantly moving and rearranging things. She recently turned my mother’s house upside down and it looks so much better now. She’s 89 years old and has this innate sense for arranging objects. She taught me something really important about styling —
No matter which angle you look at something, it should be beautiful — even from the back.
RE: THE GOOD IN IMPERFECTION
When you’re serving a dish, you feel a lot of ownership and can feel a certain amount of anxiety. But it’s unpleasant to be around a cook who’s anxious. When customers feel my anxiety, they’ll stop enjoying the food. So I’d rather serve a slightly sloppy plate of food that tastes great than a nitpicked perfect plate of food with a subpar experience. I’m okay with some messiness.
RE: ALCOHOL > CAFFEINE
I’m not sure if coffee does anything for me these days — I drink about six iced coffees a day. I don’t think the caffeine does much and it’s more a force of habit. Alcohol is part of the business — good wine and good food go together. There’s something romantic about the idea of heat and wine and cooking a steak.
It feels right, and really ancient somehow.
RE: THE IMPORTANCE OF LUXURY
I make sure to cook myself a luxurious meal every night. No matter when I get home — 11 pm or 6 pm — I’m setting aside that time. Not so much for the meal itself but for the process of cooking, which takes one or two hours. It’s a luxury I give myself, and often when I do my best cooking and get a lot of my menu ideas and recipes. I don’t feel pressure because it’s just for me.
RE: HOW SHE USES BARBICAN
I use my Barbican Trolley as a mobile kitchen desk with whichever cookbook is in rotation, my own recipe notes, and odds-and-ends ingredients I’m hoping to use up that day. It’s a great catch-all for all the moving parts of my kitchen-studio. I also love that it’s easy to clear off and use as an additional buffet station when I have dinner guests over.
For more on Saehee, head here.