James Kenji López-Alt (born October 31, 1979)[1] is an American chef and food writer.[4][5][6] His first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, became a critical and commercial success, charting on the New York Times Bestseller list and winning the 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for the best General Cooking cookbook.[7] The cookbook expanded on López-Alt's "The Food Lab" column on the Serious Eats blog. López-Alt is known for using the scientific method in his cooking to improve popular American recipes and to explain the science of cooking.[8]

J. Kenji López-Alt
J. Kenji López-Alt
López-Alt in November 2019
James Kenji Alt

(1979-10-31) October 31, 1979 (age 44)[1]
EducationMassachusetts Institute of Technology
SpouseAdriana López
Culinary career
Award(s) won
    • James Beard Award, General Cooking (2016)
    • IACP Cookbook of the Year (2016)
    • James Beard Award, Single Subject (2023)
YouTube information
Years active2016 - Present
Genre(s)Cooking, education
Subscribers1.45+ million[3]
Total views169+ million[3]
100,000 subscribers
1,000,000 subscribers

Last updated: December 26, 2023

López-Alt co-founded Wursthall in 2017, a beer hall style restaurant in San Mateo, California. He now maintains a popular YouTube channel in which he demonstrates various recipes and cooking techniques with a POV filming style. He released a children's book titled Every Night is Pizza Night in 2020 and a cookbook titled The Wok: Recipes and Techniques in 2022 which focused on the eponymous cooking vessel. Both books became New York Times Bestsellers, with the latter earning López-Alt his second James Beard Foundation Award.

Early life and education edit

Born James Kenji Alt on October 31, 1979 in Boston, Massachusetts; he is the son of Frederick Alt and Keiko Nakanishi.[1][9] His maternal grandfather is Japanese organic chemist Koji Nakanishi.[9] He and his sisters grew up in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, one floor above his maternal grandparents, both Japanese immigrants.[10]

López-Alt attended the Dalton School,[11][12] and graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002, where he majored in architecture.[13][14]

Career edit

Early career (2000s to 2015) edit

López-Alt wearing headphones while holding an audio recorder for a Serious Eats video at the restaurant American Seasons in Nantucket, Massachusetts

López-Alt's first restaurant job was during his sophomore year of college. He attempted to take a job as a waiter at a local restaurant, but they needed a prep cook.[15] He later worked with several Boston chefs including Barbara Lynch and Ken Oringer.[16] He went on to work as a test cook and editor at Cook's Illustrated magazine and America's Test Kitchen.[17]

López-Alt was the Managing Culinary Director and is the Chief Culinary Consultant of Serious Eats, a food blog, where he authored the James Beard Award-nominated column "The Food Lab".[18][19] He later adapted this column into his first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, which was published in September 2015 by W. W. Norton & Company.[20] It was a New York Times Bestseller[21] and won the 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for General Cooking,[22] as well as the International Association of Culinary Professionals awards for Best American Cookbook and Cookbook of the Year.[23] Penny Pleasance of the New York Journal of Books called The Food Lab "a seminal work that is encyclopedic in scope and can be used as a reference by even the most experienced home cooks".[24]

After The Food Lab (2016 to present) edit

Wursthall Restaurant & Bierhaus

López-Alt opened the Wursthall Restaurant & Bierhaus in San Mateo, California in 2017, with partners Adam Simpson and Tyson Mao.[25]

López-Alt started a YouTube channel in 2016, which, as of March 2022, had over one million subscribers and over 200 million views. The videos are POV-style demonstrations of recipes and cooking techniques in López-Alt's home kitchen that feature unscripted commentary and largely unedited footage.[26]

In September 2019, López-Alt became a monthly columnist at The New York Times Cooking.[27]

In 2020 López-Alt released a children's book, Every Night is Pizza Night, which debuted on the New York Times Children's Bestseller list.[28][29]

After his move to Seattle in late 2020, López-Alt's Instagram posts became increasingly popular as he recommended various businesses and dishes around the area, becoming "maybe the most powerful food influencer this city has seen in the social media age," according to The Seattle Times.[30]

In 2022, López-Alt released a cookbook titled The Wok: Recipes and Techniques, a 658-page book focused on woks. The Seattle Times called the book "arguably the most anticipated cookbook of the year" and it debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestseller list in the category of "Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous".[31][32][33][34][35] It won the 2023 Pacific Northwest Book Award.[36] The book won the 2023 James Beard Foundation Book Award in the category of "Single Subject".[37]

He remains a regular guest on the Serious Eats podcast, Special Sauce, hosted by Ed Levine.[38]

Personal life edit

As of 2021, López-Alt resides in Seattle, Washington,[39] after previously living in San Mateo, California, New York City, and Boston.[40] He goes by his middle name Kenji in his personal life.

In 2009, López-Alt married Adriana López, a software engineer from Colombia, and they combined Adriana's birth surname, López, with that of Kenji, Alt.[12][9][41] The López-Alts have two children, the second of whom was born in September 2021.[42][12]

In January 2019, López-Alt tweeted that "if you come to my restaurant wearing a MAGA cap, you aren't getting served, same as if you come in wearing a swastika, white hood, or any other symbol of intolerance and hate"[43] and "If you’re comfortable sitting next to a MAGA wearer I’m probably not interested in serving you either."[44] He later apologized and deleted the tweet.[45][46]

Filmography edit

Year Show title Type Notes
2016 The Chew Television series Seven episodes[47]
2017 Guy’s Grocery Games Television series Season 14, Episode 1, “Blogger Battle” (competitor) & Season 14, Episode 3, “GGG Jrs.” (judge)[48]
2019 The Burger Show Television series Season 3, Episode 3, "J. Kenji López-Alt Debunks Burger Myths"[49]
2020 Somebody Feed Phil Television series Season 4, touring the Mission District[50]

Publications edit

  • López-Alt, J. Kenji (2015). The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science (1 ed.). W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393081084.
  • Parks, Stella (2017). BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. J. Kenji López-Alt (Foreword). W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393239867.
  • López-Alt, J. Kenji (2020). Every Night Is Pizza Night. Gianna Ruggiero (Illustrator). Norton Young Readers. ISBN 978-1324005254.
  • J. Kenji López-Alt; Silvia Killingsworth, eds. (2020). The Best American Food Writing 2020. Mariner Books. ISBN 978-0358344582.
  • López-Alt, J. Kenji (2022). The Wok: Recipes and Techniques. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393541212.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "J. Kenji López-Alt | Uncommon Sense". Yankee Magazine. Yankee Publishing, Inc. (published November 2020). October 6, 2020. p. 26. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  2. ^ J. Kenji López-Alt (September 23, 2020). Ask Kenji Anything #1. Event occurs at 15:45. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "About J. Kenji López-Alt". YouTube.
  4. ^ "Fall 2015's Best Cookbooks: Cooking Pros Bring It Home". Eater. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  5. ^ Pearlstein, Joanna. "The Ultimate Book for Science Nerds Who Cook". WIRED. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  6. ^ "A SIDE OF SCIENCE - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  7. ^ "The 2016 Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards: Complete Winner Recap". James Beard Foundation. April 26, 2016. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  8. ^ Syckle, Katie Van (August 16, 2021). "Cooking With a Dash of Science". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Robertson, Blair Anthony (2015). "Science becomes delicious in 'The Food Lab'". The Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on December 16, 2015. Retrieved November 13, 2019. His father, Frederick Alt, is a professor at Harvard Medical School
  10. ^ López-Alt, J. Kenji (June 16, 2023). "A Star of Kenji López-Alt's Childhood Breakfasts Shows Its Versatility". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  11. ^ "Dalton 100-1998". The Dalton School. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
  12. ^ a b c Vermillion, Allecia (February 24, 2022). "J. Kenji López-Alt Applies His Scientific Method to Seattle's Food Scene". Seattle Met. Retrieved March 15, 2024.
  13. ^ Franson, Paul (April 11, 2016). "Notes from the 'food nerd in chief': J. Kenji López-Alt publishes 'The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science'". Napa Valley Register.
  14. ^ Morell, Nicole. "Alumnus takes food out of the kitchen and into the lab". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  15. ^ "Q&A With James Beard Award-Winning Cookbook Author J. Kenji López-Alt". 7x7 Bay Area. October 3, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  16. ^ "Alumnus Chef One-Ups (OK, Maybe Two-Ups) KFC". slice.mit.edu. Archived from the original on October 26, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  17. ^ Killingsworth, Silvia (October 3, 2015). "Kenji López-Alt's Obsessive Kitchen Experiments". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  18. ^ "Masthead". www.seriouseats.com. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  19. ^ "The Complete 2015 JBF Award Nominees". www.jamesbeard.org. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  20. ^ "The Food Lab". books.wwnorton.com. Archived from the original on November 2, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  21. ^ "Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous Books - Best Sellers - December 20, 2015". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  22. ^ "The 2016 Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards: Complete Winner Recap". www.jamesbeard.org. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  23. ^ "Winners - IACP". IACP. Archived from the original on December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  24. ^ Pleasance, Penny (2015). "The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science". New York Journal of Books. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  25. ^ "Internet Food Guru J. Kenji López-Alt Opening Real Life Beer and Sausage Hall". Eater SF. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  26. ^ Martin, Kalea (March 2, 2022). "Why J. Kenji López-Alt Calls His YouTube Channel An 'Anti-Cooking Show'". TastingTable.com. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  27. ^ "J. Kenji López-Alt Joins Food". New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  28. ^ Kennedy, Mark. "'Every Night is Pizza Night': Chef and writer J. Kenji López-Alt cooks up a kid's book". USA TODAY. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  29. ^ "Every Night Is Pizza Night". wwnorton.com. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  30. ^ Vinh, Tan (June 10, 2021). "J. Kenji López-Alt is Seattle's most powerful food influencer — and its most reluctant one". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  31. ^ Vinh, Tan (March 8, 2022). "The year's biggest cookbook is here. Seattle author J. Kenji López-Alt shares his favorite recipes in 'The Wok.'". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  32. ^ Julian, Sheryl. "It's high time you heard of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  33. ^ Bhabha, Leah (March 8, 2022). "J. Kenji Lopez-Alt Explains Why a Wok Is the Only Pan You Need". Vogue. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  34. ^ John, Steven (March 8, 2022). "Chef And Author J. Kenji Lopez-Alt On Cookbooks, Woks, And A Late Start In The Kitchen - Exclusive Interview". Mashed.com. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  35. ^ "Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous Books - Best Sellers - Books - March 27, 2022". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  36. ^ Macdonald, Moira (January 6, 2023). "Here are the winners of the 2023 Pacific Northwest Book Awards". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
  37. ^ Canavan, Hillary Dixler (June 3, 2023). "Here Are the 2023 James Beard Foundation Media Award Winners". Eater. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  38. ^ "Special Sauce". Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  39. ^ Vinh, Tan (January 23, 2021). "A new vegan restaurant from an 'Iron Chef' contestant and 12 other openings around Seattle". Seattle Times. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  40. ^ "Mr. Wizard's Food Lab: J. Kenji López-Alt's unlikely path to stardom". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  41. ^ "Alumnus Takes Food Out of the Kitchen and into the Lab". MIT Alumni Association. January 11, 2017. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  42. ^ Rosner, Helen (February 27, 2022). "J. Kenji López-Alt Says You're Cooking Just Fine". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  43. ^ Miller, Ryan W. (January 31, 2019). "San Mateo Eatery Bans 'Make America Great Again' Hats". CBS Bay Area.
  44. ^ Miller, Ryan W. (January 31, 2019). "'Like white hoods except stupider': California chef says he won't serve diners wearing 'MAGA' hats". USA Today.
  45. ^ "San Mateo Restaurant Owner Apologizes for 'MAGA' Hat Ban". CBS Bay Area. February 2019.
  46. ^ Filloon, Whitney (February 2019). "Kenji López-Alt Backtracks After Saying His Restaurant Won't Serve MAGA Hat Wearers". Eater.com.
  47. ^ "The Chew Season 5 Episodes". TVGuide.com. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  48. ^ "GGG Blogger Battle". Hulu.com. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  49. ^ "J. Kenji López-Alt Debunks Burger Myths, The Burger Show". Complex. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  50. ^ de Guzman, Dianne (October 31, 2020). "Netflix show features Bay Area chef superstars in SF episode". SFGATE. Retrieved November 2, 2020.

External links edit