He’s only 28, but Dave Lieberman already has two cookbooks and two nationally syndicated television shows under his belt. With no formal culinary training, Lieberman is one of today’s hottest young celebrity chefs.
Growing up in Philadelphia, while most seven-year-olds were playing with GI Joes and reading comic books, Dave Lieberman was in the kitchen with his stay-at-home dad learning how to cook.
“I just loved the comfort, creativity and smell of food,” he says.
The young Lieberman would spend hours reading his father’s cookbooks, watching the Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs, Great Cities and analyzing culinary programs. His first wannabe gourmet meal was steamed salmon wrapped in romaine leaves and dripping with Italian dressing. “It was pretty awful,” Lieberman concedes, “but my parents bravely pretended to like it.”
Flash forward 12 years. When he was a political science major at Yale University, Lieberman was always entertaining friends with extravagant dinners. He became known for throwing legendary dinner parties, single-handedly roasting, frying and baking while mixing drinks for dozens of friends.
On a whim, Lieberman recruited some friends who were film students and filmed a weekly television show about how to cook. Topics ranged from how to cook with a budget, cooking for a date or cooking for the Hook-Up. The show, Campus Cuisine, aired on New Haven’s Citizen’s Television. Lieberman soon gained fame among his peers. Students would stop him in the hallways to ask for a “hook-up” recipe. He was also often recognized off campus, as tapes of the show were passed around to New Haven foodies.
In 2003, Amanda Hesser, a New York Times reporter, heard about the young chef and featured him in a front-page article in the dining section of the Times. Immediately his phone began to ring. “I remember walking out of a class and found six messages from television producers and publishers. The best advice I received that day was to get an agent – fast!”
He immediately signed with Hyperion for a two-book deal. His first cookbook, Young and Hungry: More than 100 Recipes for Cooking Fresh and Affordable Food For Everyone was an entertaining intro for twentysomethings, organized by eating occasion, with chapters like “Lazy Mornings” and “Cooking for a Crowd.” His second cookbook, Dave’s Dinners, focused on dinners and offered recipes designed to satisfy novice cooks, meticulous gourmets and busy families.
He also landed a gig with the Food Network. He is the host of two shows; Good Deal with David Lieberman and the web-based show, Eat This. He also hosts Yahoo! Food’s In Search of Real Food.
Lieberman is currently developing a new television show that will be more investigative in nature. “People are more conscientious about what they’re eating. They want to know what and where their food comes from, so I’m going explore what’s behind our food – what we should know about our food but don’t.”
Lieberman has certainly achieved a great deal of success and fame at a young age. In 2006, he was named one of People magazine’s 50 hottest bachelors.
“I took a lot of flak from my friends for that one,” he says with a laugh. “And contrary to popular belief, it didn’t exactly help my love life either.”
One thing people are not laughing at is his straightforward approach to cooking. “I like to keep things simple. I don’t try to get too fancy.”
It’s his approach to making cooking easy by paring down on ingredients that appeals to his young audience. It’s also what he advises those new to the kitchen.
“Use as few ingredients as possible. Don’t try to do so much or use complicated recipes.”
Lieberman describes his style as a fusion of his grandmother’s cooking with Indian and Asian cuisine. When he was growing up, his grandmother not only influenced the young Lieberman, but also his father. “My dad got a lot of good recipes from my grandmother, so he often made a lot of traditional Jewish food such as brisket and ribs. To this day, there’s nothing like my grandmother’s kugel, brisket or tongue. And my father’s ribs. No matter what I do, I still can’t make ribs as good as his.”
This isn’t an innovation or groundbreaking dessert, but I really wanted to include it because it’s one of my favourite things in the world to eat. In fact, I can literally eat it all day, or any time of day. If I have it lying around the house, I’ll have a slice for breakfast, a slice with some tea or coffee in the afternoon and a slice with vanilla ice cream for dessert. If you’re going to make this for dessert, then I definitely recommend the vanilla ice cream part.
11/2 lb. Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4-in. slices
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
For the batter:
4 large eggs
11/2 cups vegetable oil
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm water
21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
Preheat oven to 350. Mix the apples with the lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and let stand while you make the batter.
Lightly whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, melted butter, sugar, vanilla and water and whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Use a whisk to mix the dry ingredients together.
Gradually stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir just until incorporated. Do not overmix.
Grease and lightly flour a Bundt pan. Pour 1/4 of the batter into the pan, then arrange 1/3 of the apples around the top of the batter. Smooth some batter over the apples. Make 2 more layers of apples, smoothing the batter over them after each addition. Top off with the last quarter of the batter and smooth.
Bake about 70 minutes until risen, the top is nicely browned and a sharp knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry. Serves 12-15.