FOOD

Back of the House: Meet Our 2023 Contributors

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A Serious Eats without our stellar roster of writers, recipe developers, photographers, and artists is simply not a Serious Eats at all. We take a lot of pride in what we do, and absolutely none of it would be possible without their talent and hard work. And on top of that, we absolutely love getting to work with them! We wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the recipe developers and photographers who have contributed the most this past year, and learn a little more about their own personal highlights of the year. We hope you enjoy learning about them as much as we enjoy working with them!

Nader Mehravari has been exploring the history, principles, and practices of Persian cookery and Iranian food for over 35 years. Most recently, his work has been published in Petits Propos Culinaires and presented at Oxford Food Symposium. He is in the process of writing a modern and innovative cookery book about the legendary food of Iran and Persianate societies.   

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Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? I developed nine recipes for Serious Easts this year, each one with its own unique twist. My favorite…hmmm…it must be between my recipe for tahdig (Persian crunchy rice) and my recipe for sholeh-zard (Persian saffron rice pudding) (recipe to come next year!). These two constitute prime examples of some of the most coveted rice-based dishes in the Persian cookery landscape—one savory and one sweet.

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? Last week, our kitchen and our home transformed into a haven of good company and culinary adventure. My wife, Judy, and I hosted our final Persian tasting dinner of the year, with a dozen of my trusted local tasters joining the feast. The menu, a nine-course ode to fall’s bounty, revolved around two beloved Persian ingredients—quince and pomegranate—making it the most memorable meal of my year.

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? The four legendary Persian flat breads—lavāsh, tāftoon, barbari, and sangak—are calling me. I am looking forward to diving into developing and testing simple home kitchen-friendly recipes for them.

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why? This is a no brainer. The crunchy, salty, sour, and slightly spicy khiār-shoor, an irresistible traditional Persian sour cucumber pickles, do it for me. They are quite versatile. In addition to munching on them solo, they are perfect for sandwiches when thinly sliced lengthwise, add crunch and tanginess when chopped into salads, and the associated brine gives a flavor boost soups and stews.

Vy Tran’s earliest food memory is sitting beside her mom in a make-shift kitchen in Southern Vietnam, cooking rice and and fanning the fire of a charcoal brazier furiously to keep it alive. Fast forward to a few decades later, Vy’s love for Vietnamese food and cooking continues to grow. When Vy is not developing or photographing recipes, she works as an ICU pharmacist with a multidisciplinary team taking care of critically ill patients. In her free time, she develops recipes that combine ingredients from her garden and local farmers markets into seasonal sweets and eats, and shares them on her website, Beyond Sweet and Savory. Her work has been featured in Cooking Light Magazine, Food52, BuzzFeed, and HuffPost. 

Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? Bun cha Ha Noi! The recipe is dropping next year. I have so many fond memories of chasing after the best bun cha in Hanoi, from street vendors to specialty restaurants. Every time I make bun cha, the smoke and the meal transport me back to Vietnam.

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? My most memorable meal was at the Lobster Cave restaurant on Phu Quoc Island where I got to pick out a large isopod and watch the chef cook it for us. It was my first time trying an isopod and it was one of the most interesting sea creatures I have tasted. 

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? I love bread baking and can’t wait to immerse myself in the world of banh mi after eating so many varieties in Vietnam. With our Japan trip next summer, I’m also excited about testing different shokupan recipes. 

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why? If I could only have one condiment for the rest of my life it would be sriracha. My parents grew different bird’s eye chiles in their garden, so I developed a love for spiciness growing up. I like how the heat of sriracha is gentle and nuanced depending on what food you eat it with. 


Sisters, business partners, and award-winning cookbook authors, Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau have spent the last 25 years exploring the style, culture, and identity of the Caribbean. Through their restaurants, catering, television shows, historical and cultural research, traveling, and writing, they have codified a signature style that is distinct and in demand. Known for their innovation and creativity in developing food and beverage concepts, they have jointly owned and operated multiple hospitality and lifestyle establishments and have consulted with restaurants and businesses globally and throughout the island of Jamaica.


Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? A good plate of oxtail with all the fixings like fried ripe plantain, pear and rice & peas is a hard one to beat—its just so quintessentially Jamaican— so that would have to be our favorite.

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? We had a lovely garden-fresh meal that was prepared over wood fire in Sydney, Australia at a restaurant called Chiswick. It was a truly memorable day for us for more reasons than one, but mostly it was the beautiful setting, great service, a delightful garden…the food in Australia is so simple and fresh—just delicious! 

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? We are looking forward to expanding our research into heritage dining in the Caribbean and looking at how we can bring some of those old traditions back to life in a modern world. 

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why?
Well since there are two of us, we get two items!
1. A really good hot pepper sauce.
2. Any kind of chutney—papaya, mango, pineapple. It’s so versatile with cheese, on ham sandwiches, as a garnish with any kind of meat (whether with a sauce, roasted or grilled)…

Kevin Vaughn is a writer, cook, and tour operator based out of Buenos Aires, Argentina, for more than a decade. All of his work connects a profound interest in the intersection of food, community, narrative, history, and the sociopolitical.

Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? Without a doubt, the albóndigas de ricota

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? A lot of my friends are cooks, so I don’t get to host that often because of their schedules. Recently, I made my fried chicken for some friends for the first time and I don’t think they’ll ever let me cook anything else. At a restaurant, it’s definitely an order of black garlic butter and bread, anchovies, spicy tartar, and pickle and ranch pizza at Gordo Chanta. It’s a pizza shop that blows my mind culinarily, but I also love how they bend the (local) definition of what constitutes a pizzeria. 

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? I am always curious to learn more about Argentine cooking, whether it’s hyper regional or old-school Buenos Aires. I bought a bunch of old cookbooks (some more than 100 years old) at a flea market recently and can’t wait to dive in. 

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why?
Chile crisp. In Argentina, that means Laonganma or making it myself. It’s such a versatile condiment that adds texture, heat, and flavor without completely taking over whatever you top it with. 

Giao Châu is a Vietnamese-born writer living in Toronto with a particular interest in the intersection between food, culture, and identity. She is also an avid home cook whose lifelong mission is to share her knowledge about Vietnamese cuisine and connect with other cultures through food. When Giao is not cooking or writing, she’s playing with her cat and giggling at cat videos on YouTube. 

Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? Canh chua cá thì là. I learned a lot about the regional variations of this soup and the ingredients that give each one its distinct flavor. Also, I love the bright and refreshing dill-tomato combination.

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? Curry puff and teh tarik for breakfast at Hong Lim Market & Food Center, Singapore. The food court was already buzzing with activity at around 6 a.m., with vendors prepping vegetables in front of their stalls and a few office workers grabbing coffee before work. I lived in Singapore until 2019 and it felt surreal to experience the morning rush again—this time as a visitor, groggy and jetlagged.

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? I’d like to include a wider variety of vegetables in my dishes and explore different ways of cooking them. I just got Andrea Nguyen’s Ever-green Vietnamese and can’t wait to try all of the recipes in the book.

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why? Fried shallots. Rice, noodles, soup, salad—there’s nothing that couldn’t be improved with a little crunch. 

Derek Lucci developed a love for Thai food and has been studying and practicing the cuisine daily since 2015, through books, by using the internet and social media to connect with Thai people, and by traveling to Thailand to learn from Thai cooks. Derek began sharing his studies, recipes, and travels to Thailand with his Instagram followers on his account, @makebistro, before launching a supper club in Brooklyn that has hosted over 100 sold-out dinners. Derek has also worked as a private chef, teaches private cooking workshops, and ships his Thai food products nationwide.

Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? Guaydtiaao Reuua Neuua Dtoon (Thai Boat Noodles With Braised Beef).

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? LaRina because it is one of the best restaurants, but particularly memorable because it was when our baby just started eating solids, so he was eating a lot of bread dipped in olive oil and loving it. 

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? I’m looking forward to continuing to improve my ability to understand and work with open fire and smoke.

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why? Fish sauce, because I crave umami at all times and require it for nearly all the food that I make. Even when it’s not Thai food, it adds depth and instant luxury. Caesar salad dressing? Add fish sauce, it echoes the anchovy base. 

Isidora Díaz is a Chilean food writer and self-taught cook with a background in philosophy and a masters degree in integrated food studies. She specializes in traditional Chilean food and South American grilling. She is a cookbook author and the director of the Chilean food and wine magazine, Revista Fondo. Isidora is currently based in Santiago de Chile, after living abroad in Columbus (OH), and Copenhagen (DK).

Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? I really enjoyed the process of developing the sweet version for sopaipillas, the Chilean fried pastries. Even when it was spring, we had a few grey and rainy days in Santiago, exactly what’s needed to enjoy the pasadas version the most: steeped in a steaming, spiced syrup, and served very hot. Later, when we cooked again for the photo shoot with Estudio Como, it was magically raining again, which made it extra special. Having so very few rainy days a year in Santiago, we were so lucky! 

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? By June of last year, my parents were in the city for a few days. I had just gotten a big octopus from the Chilean Juan Fernández Archipelago, famous for the quality of its seafood. I cooked a Spanish-style rice in a big cast iron skillet: I did it with saffron and a nice sofrito, a touch of sparkling rose, and the octopus broth from its cooking. After it was done, I grilled the tentacles with fermented garlic chimichurri and served them on top of the rice. My dad told me it was absolutely the best cooked octopus he had ever had; he really enjoyed the dish and the wine we had. A few months later he sadly passed; but the memory of this meal that made him so happy, brings me so much comfort. He was a great cook and a great eater.

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? Fermentation, again. After having a baby, all my bugs are dead. Can’t wait to revive them and enjoy all sorts of bubbles and frustrations again.

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why? Love. A whole spice rack is useless if you don’t care.

Nini Nguyen is a chef, instructor, recipe developer and two-time contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef, including an All-Stars season. A New Orleans native, Chef Nini combines her Vietnamese heritage with Creole influences in her cuisine. She is working on her first cookbook titled, Đặc Biệt : An Extra Special Vietnamese Cookbook, expected to come out summer 2024.

Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? My favorite recipe I made for Serious Eats is my banh mi bread recipe. It’s a lot easier than people may think and the bread is so versatile that it makes a variety of delicious sandwiches.  

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? My favorite meal was my last meal at Lengua Madre, a Mexican tasting menu from Chef Ana Castro. Unfortunately, they are closing at the end of 2023.  

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? Well considering I just moved into my new home. I am excited to cook just about anything. But mostly excited to shoot kitchen tips for my Instagram (@chefnininguyen).

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why?
This is torture for me because I am a condiment queen. But if I had to choose, I would pick mustard. I love mustard in any way, shape, or form, and it’s a secret ingredient to a lot of my everyday cooking.

Rose Egelhoff writes and edits for Mexico News Daily. She is also a freelance writer and translator covering topics related to food, immigration, and occasionally science. As a child, her life goal was to be a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, or a truck driver. Rose studied biology at Pomona College, then got her start in journalism with a job at a small newspaper. She has been based in Mazatlán since 2018.

Favorite recipe developed this year for Serious Eats? I was really happy with how my ceviche de sierra recipe turned out. It’s such a staple here in Mazatlán, and knowing how to prepare it well is a little thing that helps me feel connected to a place that’s far from my family and where I grew up. It was also a huge pleasure doing background research on the dish. I had a lot of conversations with my suegros and other older folks about what the city was like more than 50 years ago, how ceviche became popular, favorite childhood recipes, and general reminiscing.

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? My partner sometimes works with a guy who lives in a fishing town north of the city. We often go surfing nearby on the weekend, then stop by to visit after. Sometimes they (Frank and his wife Jenny) offer us food from the day’s catch. Last time it was the best lobster I’ve ever had, grilled with butter and served with tortillas. They’ve talked about opening a restaurant, and I hope they do!

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? Baking! Indoor ovens aren’t as big here as where I grew up in Ohio, but I’m mtking the plunge and getting one. I’ll probably be dripping in sweat every time I turn it on, but it’s been years since I had regular access to one. It will be totally worth it for fresh cookies, cornbread, pie, sourdough, etc. I also hope to expand my shrimp repertoire.

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why? Tough one! Does salt count? If not…maybe fresh salsa tatemada (droolingly delicious but labor intensive). Or Dijon mustard (practical for quick sandwiches and salads).

Karina was born in Kingston, Jamaica, which is where her and her family call home. She has lived in four countries and has a great appreciation for the diversity of food around the world. Between watching her mom make dinner every day and bake on weekends, being inspired by her stepdad’s creative throw-things-together style of cooking, learning from her skilled chef dad, and endlessly watching Food Network, Karina found her love for food and cooking at an early age. She shot Serious Eats’s Jamaican cuisine guide this year.

Favorite recipe you worked on this year for Serious Eats? Oxtail. As a food stylist, I find that stews are more difficult to shoot. The gravy tends to mask the meat and it can be difficult to tell what the dish is, so getting to shoot it was an exciting challenge for me. It’s also one of my favorite dishes of all time to eat! 

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? My husband’s 40th birthday dinner at The Charles in Dallas, TX—I’m still dreaming about the lumache amatriciana! 

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? Posting more videos of myself cooking in my kitchen!

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why? Mustard. I think it’s such a versatile condiment that can be used for many cuisines and applications. I add it to meat marinades, salad dressings, stews, etc. My favorite brand is Kozlik’s. They have so many amazing flavors of mustards—the maple being one of my favorites! 

Makenzo and Natalie are the founders and owners of Two Bites, a full-service creative studio specializing in food + product photography and video. They work with food brands and businesses to create vibrant and delicious visuals. For Serious Eats, they have been reshooting the cocktail archive on the site, as well as new recipes like Kevin Vaughn’s Empanadas de Queso.

Favorite recipe you worked on this year for Serious Eats? Our favorite is the michelada. We love the summer vibes and vibrant colors.

What was the most memorable meal you had this year? Our most memorable meal this year was at Fish Cheeks in NYC. The chicken wings are to die for and everything on the menu is delicious! We bring our friends and family there every time they come to visit.

What are you most excited to delve into in the kitchen next year? We eat out quite often, so we’re most excited to try new recipes and cook more meals at home.

You can only use one condiment for the rest of your life. What do you pick and why?
We pick soy sauce! It’s versatile and tasty.



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