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You might expect a famous chef and owner of multiple award-winning restaurants to sling complex, laborious meals full of artisanal ingredients at home. On the contrary, Jon Shook — chef and co-owner of L.A. eateries Son of a Gun, Animal, Jon & Vinny’s, among others in his growing culinary empire — likes to keep it simple.
A committed Angeleno who lives with his wife — actress Shiri Appleby of Lifetime series Unreal, who’s expecting her second child — and their young daughter, Natalie, keeps it simple on the home front with a revolving menu of tacos and meat loaf.
Also on the menu? A bright, no-bells-and-whistles classic chicken noodle soup, which Shook and Appleby made for Pret-a-Reporter’s ongoing “Bites” series. In addition to their tried-and-true recipe, the couple also dished on their at-home foodie habits and the L.A. restaurants they love to hit. (Nobu strikes again.)
Watch the cooks in action below; the full recipe is at the bottom of this post.
On cooking at home:
Appleby: We’re not very fancy at home. Peanut butter and jelly, pasta.
Shook: We eat simple. A lot of roasted, boiled, sauteed vegetables, a lot of salad. I love pickles as a snack.
Appleby: We go to the farmers’ market on Sunday and get all the food for the week, and then walk to the supermarket on the corner that evening before dinner and pick up fresh poultry.
Shook: Usually Shiri goes to the market with Natalie and let’s me sleep in on Sundays when I’m off. She buys whatever looks good and over time, she’s learned how to make different things.
We don’t do complicated stuff because I’m trying to show Shiri how to make basic food and now she knows a lot of different skills, like blanching, roasting, braising. One of the biggest tricks to cooking is just getting in the kitchen. Trial and error is important. You’re going to make mistakes. I make mistakes, Vinny makes mistakes.
Appleby: Cooking is our time to unwind and hang out together. I know a lot of couples like to go to the movies or a museum but a Sunday for us is hanging out and cooking.
On weeknight recipes:
Appleby: Taco Tuesday with hard shells, but we like to have some flour tortillas on the side. Meat loaf…I can do a really good roasted chicken, roasted vegetables. Taco Tuesday is just so easy.
Shook: Shiri has a repertoire of about eight items. It’s growing the longer we’re together.
Appleby: I bake a lot.
Shook: She has a pretty good banana bread recipe that she does pretty well and she has Rice Krispies treats down which I love. Sometimes it’s not the fancy things that win your heart.
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Appleby: It’s really fun, especially with a kid. Over the summer we grew tomatoes and her friends came over to pick and eat them. It’s a great way to make food — especially vegetables — fun for little kids.
Shook: They love watching things grow and getting to eat it. It’s rewarding for them. You don’t need a massive garden either. Ours is tiny.
We use dried spices when we don’t have herbs going, but right now we have mint, Thai basil, tarragon and the rosemary is going real strong.
On childhood food memories:
Shook: I grew up eating not a lot of good food. I’m a product of the ‘80s, so we ate a lot of frozen TV dinners. I got into cooking when I was 16 and really fell in love with eating and cooking. I remember eating real mashed potatoes for the first time instead of spuds in a box.
Appleby: My mom is a really good cook and she’s Israeli, so growing up we had a lot of Israeli food like stuffed cabbage and yellow rice. She actually taught me how to cook out of Jon’s cookbook, which is really easy to use.
On ingredients in their kitchen:
Shook: Salt, oil, butter.
Appleby: When we were first dating and I was cooking a lot, if the recipes wouldn’t turn out that great, Jon would say, “When in doubt, butter it out.”
Shook: Now the recipes are getting better and my diet is getting healthier, because I was looking like I was pregnant too.
Shook: I haven’t had coffee in almost seven years. We drink herbal teas, iced teas, fresh mint tea, lemon tea — you name it we get down on it.
Appleby: I haven’t had it in three or four years. I find that it actually makes me more tired.
On an ideal day of eating:
Shook: My ideal day would be not cooking anything. I’d start with Nobu coming to my house and making sushi as I lay around. Then maybe midday, around sixish, I would do a smorgasbord of prime rib, fried chicken, a nice roasted piece of fish with tomato sauce with all the sides you could imagine. For dessert I’d probably cap it off with a big ole ice cream sundae covered in hot fudge. Smothered in it. Almost equal parts fudge to ice cream. Just kill me.
Appleby: Din Tai Fung for brunch. I’d get a ton of soup dumplings. Rice noodles and the chicken fried rice, maybe some green beans on the side. For dinner, I like a lot of pasta, I’m not gonna lie. But maybe something lighter after Din Tai Fung, like a nice soup or something and a piece of carrot cake for dessert.
On what’s always in the fridge:
Shook: There’s milk for Natalie. Almond milk for Shiri. A mixture of fruit — this type of year it’s apples, Asian pears, berries. Broccoli, carrots.
Appleby: We keep our cereal in the fridge so it stays cold, which helps keep the milk really cold when you pour it on there. Honey Bunches of Oats is big right now. Pink lemonade right now we’re rocking for Natalie.
Shook: For me, I’m pretty much water.
Appleby: And cans of tuna fish.
Shook: Yeah, that’s the emergency food in case there’s an earthquake or there’s nothing to eat, we got tuna fish.
On favorite restaurants:
Shook: We are like most Angelenos in that we eat near our house and don’t go outside of the one-mile radius but when we do, it’s usually to try something new. In our radius we have Madeo, which is a great one. Nobu, well not Nobu but Matsuhisu — go to the original don’t go to any of the other ones. Jinpachi, Sasabune, Vito’s.
Appleby: South Beverly Grill, we like Apple Pan, Mario’s Peruvian. For sandwiches we like All About the Bread.
On favorite food-related films or TV:
Shook: We don’t watch a lot of cooking shows. My life is so immersed in cooking already and I spend so much of my time around food. In a slow week, 60 hours, maybe. In a busy week, 80 to 90 hours. I like watching the news, which Shiri doesn’t like as much.
Appleby: Jon likes like, “Locked Up! How they made their millions and slit throats!” The darkest television you could possibly imagine, right?
On eating on set:
Appleby: If my character is eating on camera, I’m just going to eat on camera, so if my character is eating a bunch of donuts in a scene I’m going to have a pretty light lunch to balance it out. At the same time, sugar is my friend when I’m working because it’s long hours and you’ve got to keep your energy up. Secret things I like are sour candy and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I don’t sound too healthy right now. For lunch at catering I’ll have a fish and a vegetable. I just try to not eat too much because I find that when I have a full stomach I get really tired.
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