Ten Money Questions for Adam Roberts
Adam Roberts is a self-taught chef and creator of the popular Amateur Gourmet website and blog. He also just released a new book, The Amateur Gourmet: How To Shop, Chop, and Table-Hop Like a Pro (Almost). Read on as Adam gets candid with Queercents about affordable food, good taste, and some cheap eats in New York City. Enjoy!
1. I know you’re the Amateur Gourmet and not the Frugal Gourmet, but can you give three tips for people trying to eat well on budget?
Pasta. It’s cheap and incredibly versatile. The first chapter of my book details how to make an excellent homemade tomato sauce, so that’s a place to start, but the potential is limitless. I make pasta at least 3 times a week and I’m always changing things up: sometimes with just olive oil, anchovies, garlic and parmesan; other times with something really elaborate, like a duck ragu. But usually it’s really cheap and incredibly filling.
Roast chicken goes a long way. Either roast it yourself or buy a roasted bird from the store and it’ll feed several people with some potatoes or a salad. If it’s just you, you can use the leftovers for a sandwich the next day–as I just did with the chicken I roasted last night!
Spend wisely. I see people stocking up at the store on Hungry Man dinners that’ll clog their freezers for the next year. Instead of that, why not buy some fresh veggies at the farmer’s market, make a stew, and freeze that? Not only is it tastier, it’s much better for you.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
Not sure if it’s significant, but I have an image of the younger me at the video arcade begging my parents for quarters. There was one time they gave me $20–probably to get rid of me–and I was in heaven.
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
Oh God, where do I begin? I’m reckless, irresponsible, I spend way too much on food, I don’t watch what I’m spending, I go through spurts of dread–where I wonder how much time I have before I’m homeless–and then I go crazy and spend $200 out at dinner. I’m a money mess.
4. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
A pasta-making attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixer.
5. Food blogging appears to be bringing you some fame. Do you expect the fortune part will follow? Are you banking on food celebrity or do you have a long term financial plan?
I am able to support myself now with my book and my blog. My plan is to continue that–with more books, more blogging–for as long as I can.
6. When you’re passionate about ingredients, how do you strike a balance between good taste and frugal spending?
Well, as Ruth Reichl told me in the 8th Chapter of my book, people used to spend WAY more money on food. They do that in France, in Italy, in most places less concerned with the bottom line and more concerned with deriving the most pleasure from life. So I would say, instead of worrying how to pinch pennies around food, people should quit some of their other luxuries–multiple DVD players, flat screen TVs, iPhones–and save more for their bellies.
7. What role does money play in your life and relationships these days?
Ha. Well. It’s tough because both my boyfriend and I are at the start of our careers. He’s a filmmaker making his first feature, I just finished my first book. So we’re both “exhilarated,” terrified, and hoping we can survive the next year. Check back in a few months, we’ll let you know!
8. Food blogging requires good picture taking. How much have you spent on digital equipment and accessories over the last few years?
I spent $500 on my camera and it was money well spent. The blogs with better pictures have better cameras that cost more money. The focus of my blog is more on the writing and the style, so the photography isn’t as important. For beautiful photography check out 101 Cookbooks and The Girl Who Ate Everything.
9. Is there a sense of entitlement that goes along with fine dining? What’s the correlation between economics and social behavior when it comes to food?
Unfortunately, yes; and I hate restaurants that cater to the uber-wealthy, serving them “lackluster” food in a supremely polished environment to trick them into thinking their getting their money’s worth. People are pressured to see and be seen at the right places and the people behind the places understand the psychology involved. If you get a great table at the front of a super-trendy restaurant, who cares if the calamari is mushy? That’s a whole scene that I like to distance myself from. I much prefer honest places serving honest food. That’s not to say I don’t like fancy food, but the chef has to be a chef because they love food and cooking–not because they want to exploit the “wealthy.”
10. Name your three favorite restaurants where you get the best bang for your buck?
1. I just wrote about a place in Chinatown called Banh Mi Saigon Bakery where you get a Banh Mi sandwich for $3.25. It’s an enormous sandwich, packed with flavor, and an incredible deal.
2. Some of New York’s 4-star restaurants have unbelievable lunch deals, like Jean-Georges serves a 3-course lunch for what I think is $25. That’s pretty remarkable.
3. Del Posto Enoteca has a great bargain dinner deal that most people don’t know about. I don’t want to say anymore, in case people take my table!
More about Adam Roberts
With The Amateur Gourmet: How To Shop, Chop, and Table-Hop Like a Pro (Almost), self-taught chef and creator of the popular Amateur Gourmet website and blog, Adam D. Roberts has written the ultimate “Kitchen 101” for anyone whose ever wanted to enjoy the rewards of good eating and fine dining without the risk of burning down the house or committing embarrassing restaurant faux-pas!
The Amateur Gourmet grew from from Roberts’ food blog, which he began in early 2004 after the devastation of September 11, 2001 compelled him to finally turn toward food writing from an unfulfilling career as a lawyer. The site was later named one of the best sites on the Web by PC Magazine and nominated for Time Out New York’s 2007 “Non Traditional Eat Out Awards.” Now, in this first book, Roberts walks readers through everything from dicing an onion to cooking for a date to breaking through your fear of trying new ethnic foods. He also talks to some of the food world’s most eminent authorities and the result is a culinary education like no other.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.