World Chefs: Geoffrey Zakarian dishes on must-have ingredients in new book

NEW YORK - Chef Geoffrey Zakarian reveals his 50 must-have ingredients at home and the 150 dishes inspired by them, ranging from appetizers to desserts, in his new cookbook "My Perfect Pantry."

The 55-year-old American chef, who has earned praise for his modern American cuisine, has run a string of restaurants including The Lambs Club and the National in New York City.

Zakarian, a regular judge on the Food Network competition shows, spoke to Reuters about his passion for cooking.

Q: Do people underuse their pantry?

A: Everyone could use instructions on every aspect of cooking: pantry, storage, refrigeration, cooking, what to buy. Everyone that I come into contact with could use help.

Q: Could you have pared the list if you have a small kitchen?

A: I would suggest to anyone who wants to pare it down is to buy very small quantities.

Q: Are all the ingredients in the book found in your pantry?

A: Every single one of them. When I was writing this book, I opened up my house and looked at what I use intuitively.

Q: What are the bare essentials in any pantry?

A: Salt, pepper, olive oil and some sort of vinegar. Those are the four things people mess up the most. Things are often under-seasoned. They are rarely, rarely over-seasoned. I also advocate to buy the very best so it's not watered down. You use less and you get better results.

Q: How have you evolved as a chef?

A: My firm philosophy now is to get the best ingredients and do very little to it, and let the food sing. You can't hide behind simple. It's like being naked. You're completely exposed. Cooking a piece of fish and cooking it right. Knowing the fish, knowing the properties of the fish. That's a hard thing to do rather than covering it with a lot of sauces and foams or other cooking methods that might be high wire acts and look good on the outside.

Q: What is your favourite comfort food?

A: Comfort food is really anything you want at that time. That said I really love Naple-style pizza.

Q: What inspires you to cook now?

A: I love hospitality and I love cooking. The kitchen is where I feel most at ease and where I feel most like myself.