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Surf, Travel Inspire Recipes In ‘First We Surf, Then We Eat’

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September 11, 2018 1:28 p.m.

Surf, Travel Inspire Recipes In ‘First We Surf, Then We Eat’


Jim Kempton, author, "First We Surf, Then We Eat"

Related Story: Surf, Travel Inspire Recipes In ‘First We Surf, Then We Eat’


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Our next guest mixes two of life's greatest pleasures and one delectable book called First windsurf. Then we eat already you can feel yourself relaxing and savoring some fresh delicacy while the waves break on the shore in the background. Author John Kempton is a lifelong surfer who has traveled to more than 40 countries and collected recipes along the way from seafood soup in El Salvador to Balinese beef satay and Peruvian Keenwild honey shrimp. So Jim thanks so much for joining us. It's great to be here. Your life has revolved around surfing cooking and writing. And what point did you realize they could come together and you had a book in you.

You know I thought about this book for quite some time I think in 2013. I actually sort of wrote it treaties for it to see what might be. And so I I'd been collecting the recipes most of my life and had become really interested in cooking my parents both cooked and then I started cooking and tasting food from all these different regions and realizing how different they were from what we thought when you tasted the United States the food that you get from these various countries.

This book has more than 90 recipes and a lot of good stories from 10 distinct regions you've read made up into regions of the world from Guam to the Basque Country California Mexico and the Caribbean. So let's start in California. You talk about Santo freestate beach that hosts Tressel's of course the use Amedeo surfing what kind of cooking goes on down there.

The San over Surf Club which started in 1952 sort of is the birthplace of California beach culture and it produced new all the sort of barbecue and you know collecting fishing and clams and lobster and so forth you know off the ocean and cooking it right there at the beach. So it really started that that craze at least on the west coast of cooking at the beach. And so that that sort of drove my my my interest and I know so many of the people have said that Ofri I know I've been going there for 30 years and I actually wrote a book for the sando free Surf Club about the history of Onofre. And I did an exhibit for the California surf museum that was was all about Senator Ofri sort of the you know the Hawaii James mystique is a way of saying it OWFI. And so I was really familiar with it and was able to sort of draw that in and also I had a restaurant in San Clemente you know just nearby which is where I live and we we we started a regional Mexican restaurant. After traveling all through Mexico and realizing that there are so many different cuisines in Mexico you know you go to someplace like like Vera Cruz or Pueblo or Wakako or the Yucatan and the food that we eat. You know our border food here that is fabulous but it was nothing like what the food is in these other various regions of Mexico. So we decided we'd open a restaurant that had these other regions sort of introduce that which at the time was I mean now everyone has it. But at the time was relatively


Now I understand that you've traveled more than 40 countries and you went every September to the Basque country. What kept you going back to France.

The Basque Country is really unique in that it straddles France and Spain. It's the oldest people in Europe and they have a cuisine all of their own. The surf is really fabulous it comes out of the North Atlantic and comes down into the Bay of Biscay and sort of into a V that sort of funnels all the surf right into that area and it also has the Gulf Stream which sweeps out of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and then sweeps down it just hits in there to keep the water warm for about six to eight months out of the year the water is reasonably warm unlike Portugal and southern Spain and that area which is very very cool.

So it creates some amazing waves. Now you apparently won an award down there for your crab bisque. What was your secret.

Well that was that was that with a very famous legendary surfer named Mickey Daura and he lived at my home for many years when I was living there and he would always have these soup contests and so I happened to win the soup contest by I think basically you can't go wrong with crab and cream right. And so that really spurred one you know the idea of telling telling stories like that and to you know my love for cooking you as a director of the quicksilver crossing project which searched for the best surf breaks around the world by boat.

Did you discover any new breaks. Did a lot of cooking happen on that boat.

You know the project was four years in the making and we discovered literally hundreds of new breaks. We also had a marine biologist onboard who did a reef check for all these kind of very very obscure unknown reefs so that when people came back they would have a baseline to know what with whether the research would be becoming more healthy or less healthy. So we did a lot of that and one of the things about the boat is that it had a quote on Blue chef on all the time because all these all these guys from from Australia would graduate from Connery's school and then there are opportunities to work in a big hotel you know as a cook and all of a sudden there's this ad in the paper that says travel the world meet famous or stars go surfing everyday and cook for the vote and you can imagine how many great cooks we had on the vote. It was constant these guys from you know from culinary school and I learned really a lot from them.

Now you end the book in Peru with a punishment. This and you say the Peruvian food is one of the great fusion cuisines in the world. How so.

Well interestingly enough there are there are a ton of Chinese that live there. They like like in Hawaii were brought in as laborers early on. Well California as well. And so they brought their cuisine and the and the like so many places the Peruvians incorporated their own new world ingredients into it. But there are called coffeehouses everywhere which are fried you know fried rice and they're ubiquitous throughout all of Peru. So you have that you have the Spanish you have the indigenous Native Americans you have you know you have the you know the Africans were brought over so you have this real popery.

You have one favorite recipe that you cook at home that kind of reminds you of surfing.

You know I get asked that question a lot and of course there's desserts and soups and salads and meat dishes and all of that. So it's hard to pick that if there was one thing I'd say I love the Basque country. There's that there's a Puli Basque as dish which is with all the peppers that they're famous for and onions cooked into tomatoes in a tomato sauce with chicken and I've never had anyone not love it.

Thanks so much for coming in. Oh my pleasure. That's Jim Kempton who is the author of the new book. First we surf then we eat. He's also the president of the California surf museum in Oceanside and previous editor of Surfer magazine and he'll be speaking about his book tonight at Warwick's in La Jolla 730.