Food Network Obsessed

Leah Cohen on Finding Your Culinary Voice & Holiday Throwdown Fun

Episode Summary

Chef Leah Cohen shares the heartwarming story of how Bobby Flay helped jumpstart her cookbook. She talks about how her parent’s diverse backgrounds influenced her initial food passions and her deep dive into Italian cuisine.

Episode Notes

Chef Leah Cohen shares the heartwarming story of how Bobby Flay helped jumpstart her cookbook. She talks about how her parent’s diverse backgrounds influenced her initial food passions and her deep dive into Italian cuisine. Leah talks about what it means to find your authentic path in the culinary world and why she decided to move to Southeast Asia and falling in love with Thai culture and food. She describes the cornerstones of Filipino cuisine, in honor of her mother’s roots, and why she’s hesitant to share Filipino recipes on her social media. Leah explains why she decided to go with a casual concept for her restaurant in the Lower East Side and the music she loves to play there. She talks about working with her husband and business partner and why it works for them. Leah reveals what it was like to be on  the finale of Beat Bobby Flay: Holiday Throwdown and what makes the show so much fun to film. 

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Episode Transcription

Jaymee Sire (00:03):

Hello, hello and welcome to Food Network Obsessed. This is the podcast where we dish on all things food with your favorite chefs, food influencers, and food network stars. I'm your host, Jaymee Sire, and today we have the chef and owner of the popular Pig and Khao and Piggyback in New York City talking to us about what it means to take a step back and find your true passion. She is a chef restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality, and she's bringing the heat on the season finale of Beat Bobby Flay, holiday Throwdown, it's Leah Cohen. Leah, welcome to the podcast. How are you?

Leah Coen (00:48):

I'm good, how are you?

Jaymee Sire (00:50):

I'm doing great. The last time I saw you, we were eating some amazing Thai food in Queens, so I'm excited to, uh, reconnect here. And speaking of southeastern Asian cuisine, you released a cookbook in 2020 and have said that a well-known food network star supported you in getting that ball rolling. Uh, what's the story there?

Leah Coen (01:10):

Yeah, so, um, Bobby Flay is that well-known, uh, celebrity chef. Um, and he was the one who kind of helped me, uh, guided me through the process. I knew that I wanted to make a cookbook, but I had no idea where to start. And so he took a meeting with me as he does, and he kind of, you know, he said, this is what you need to do, these are some people that I wanna introduce you to and go from there. So he had his longtime assistant, Stephanie Banas. He was like, Stephanie, work with her, make this happen. And then she actually wound up being the co-author of the cookbook.

Jaymee Sire (01:48):

Oh, wow. Yes. That's amazing. Yes. How, how did you and Bobby meet?

Leah Coen (01:53):

You know, I'm not really sure. , I think I saw him at, um, I just like kept running into him in New York City, which is so weird because it's such a big and small place at the same time. Like I, I remember seeing him at the Farmer's Market and I was like, yo, Bobby, like Eddie turned around and he was like, Hey, what's up? And then like a week later I ran into him somewhere else. And then eventually I think someone told him maybe it was Stephanie, um, cuz she was friends with my old publicist, I think she was like, you should go into Leah's restaurant. And he came into the restaurant and he loved the food and then he kept coming back. And I think that's kind of how it all got started. But I do have the worst memory. So ,

Jaymee Sire (02:30):

I have the worst memory too, and I feel like it's gotten worse as I've gotten older. So I feel like that tracks .

Leah Coen (02:35):

Yes. .

Jaymee Sire (02:36):

Well the title of said cookbook is Lemongrass and Lime, Southeast Asian Cooking at Home, and really a reflection of your own roots and heritage, but your passion was not always focused on, on your mother's side. Can you talk to us a little bit about how your parents, different backgrounds kind of influenced your initial food experiences and interests?

Leah Coen (02:57):

Yeah, so while I, I was never growing up that into Filipino cuisine, we would always go and visit the Philippines. So I kind of like to think that I was training my brain and my palate at a very young age with those flavors. I just didn't know it at the time that I was gonna use it, like in my twenties, thirties and forties. But you know, before, like back in the day, no one was really cooking that food professionally. Mm-hmm. , um, everyone was sticking to like Italian, French, those kind of classic cuisines. And I didn't know that I could venture out and do that. So I studied Italian food. Um, and I think a lot of that was just because we didn't know any better. Right. We didn't know before David Chang, no one really was like, yes, I'm gonna do like crazy Asian food and it's gonna be this huge phenomenon.


And um, so yeah. Um, I grew up eating a lot of Jewish food. Um, middle is Middle Eastern European and then I would visit, I actually didn't visit Israel until I was in my thirties. Mm. But I would go and visit like Italy, France a lot, um, growing up. And yeah, I kind of shift gears, I guess I was in my twenties and I was like, why am I cooking Italian food? As much as I love it, I don't have this like really strong connection to it. So I kind of flipped the script and started doing Asian food.

Jaymee Sire (04:13):

Yeah. I mean, a along those lines, I mean, you enrolled in the Culinary Institute and moved to Italy to get some of that experience that you thought your path was kind of headed on Michelin Star experiences and the like. At what point did you decide that like, I love this type of food, but this is not my passion?

Leah Coen (04:31):

I think it was. So after Top Chef, I actually, during Top Chef when I was filming, um, the show I was working for Amber. I was her sous chef at this restaurant called C Vinoteca. And, um, I love the food that we did there. And then when I went on Top Chef I realized I have no identity as a chef, I have no culinary voice, I don't know what food speaks to me and represents me. And it made me really question everything that I was doing. And then when I got back after the show, uh, I, I went back to Cino Teca and had left and I took over as a chef and I was trying to kind of put my own food on the menu and I really felt lost. And I was like, you know what, I'm just gonna like leave New York and move to Asia. And that's kind of what I did. ,

Jaymee Sire (05:16):

I mean, so you pack up a suitcase, you moved to Southeast Asia. What were you hoping to find and what did you actually find there?

Leah Coen (05:24):

So I originally thought that I wanted to go to Southeast Asia and cook Thai and then learn as much Thai about Thai food as I could and come back and open a Thai restaurant. Um, I didn't realize that you need a visa, um, and your visa can expire and that if you don't have a visa, um, that you need to get in advance, you can only stay in the country for 30 days. So, um, I was in, actually started in Hong Kong, but um, but then I went to Thailand and then, um, after those 30 days I was like, okay, I need to go somewhere else. So people were like, oh, well you can do a visa run and you can just go to Laos, cross the border and come back. And I was like, well, why would I do that? Why wouldn't I just stay in Laos and figure out, you know, what the food in Laos was like or figure out what the food in Vietnam or Malaysia.


And so that's kind of how, like that journey, because I had no real, um, schedule. I had no real idea plan what I was gonna do. I was just like, let's go see who will hire me for free. Um, so yeah, that's kind of how it started. And then I realized like, hey, maybe I don't wanna focus solely on South, um, on Thai food. I should do Southeast Asian food because there's so much amazing food out there and there's a lot of similarities and of course differences. But the ingredients are, there's a lot of crossover. And I didn't know of anyone who kind of did not fusion, cuz I don't wanna say that Pig and Khao is fusion, but have all these Southeast Asian cuisines under one roof.

Jaymee Sire (06:57):

How long were you there and what made you kind of continue this journey of, of kind of hopping to these different countries as, as the, this journey was unfolding?

Leah Coen (07:08):

I actually didn't wanna come back , if I'm being honest. I loved it. I mean, I love backpacking or whatever. I didn't have a backpack. It was a suitcase, but I love traveling. And so I, I was gone for a year and originally I was, my plan was just to do six months and then I was gonna go to Spain. I wanted to, but then that got thrown out the window when I was like, oh my God, there's just so many countries that I wanna like visit. And for me, Thailand was always like my hub. It was like where I would go back to. I also was lucky enough to, um, find someone who like gave me a flat for free and I could stay in his free flat in my, my Bangkok. Wow. Yeah. So I could like leave stuff there. So it was really, it was really cool and I just, I just kind of fell in love with that part of the world. It's interesting going there, you know, constantly growing up, um, going to that part of the world. I didn't realize it, it's just different to see it that through like, you know, when you're by yourself mm-hmm. and you don't have anyone else to rely on and you're just kind of like figuring things out. I, yeah. But like I said, I really didn't wanna get back, but my parents were like, okay, we're done paying for you . You need to come home and work. And I was like, fair enough. Fair enough.

Jaymee Sire (08:20):

what, uh, I mean, do you, I'm sure there's plenty of stories like this, but like is there a specific, you know, dish or bite that you had during that time that you still think about to this day?

Leah Coen (08:33):

Yeah, so, um, while I was out there my brother came and visited me twice. Um, and we went to Shanghai and we had Calk for the first time. Mm. And I became obsessed with it, and I ate it like every day. And I tell people this, like I ate it so much that like, I smelled like curry , like I smelled like cal soy cuz I would like sweat it out cause it's so hot in Thailand and I don't know, it wasn't, it's not just because the Cal is so good. Um, and it's such an amazing dish. I was just like, everything about that experience, that first time I had, it was amazing. It was kind of during Sunk, which is, uh, Thai new year and it's just such a magical time to be in Thailand. It's basically like a water fight for like a couple of days and people just throw water on you like little kids. I mean, it's just like this crazy experience. If you've never been to Thailand, you should probably go during sunk because it's amazing.

Jaymee Sire (09:26):

I agree with you on the cow soy. I, I only got to spend, you know, a couple of days in Shanghai when I was in Thailand, but I, I still remember, you know, like I got it from a street vendor and this woman, you know, like, you know, constructing this beautiful bowl of very spicy um, curry, if you can explain for people that have never had an opportunity to try it, what is Kas soy?

Leah Coen (09:47):

So, Kas soy is a Thai noodle dish and usually it's with, uh, braised meat. I like it with chicken, but that you can do it with beef. I mean, you can do it with any type of protein. Um, it's usually on the bone if you do it with chicken. And then the way they serve it is on the, it's, so it's egg noodles that are kind of cooked or boiled, and then you have the curry, the broth, it's really rich, spicy, um, curry. And then on the side they usually give like fermented mustard greens, chopped red onions or shallots, uh, lime juice. And then you have these crispy fried noodles, the same noodles that were boiled or b blanched. And so there's just like so much texture and so much flavor going on. And to me it's like the epitome of what Thai food is. It's balance, it's sweet, it's spicy, it's acidic. I mean, it's just everything that you want to eat or I want to eat. And I just completely fell in love with that dish. And actually that was one of the first dishes I knew that we, we had to put on the menu at Pig and Khao. And it's been 10 years and we have not changed that recipe since day one. So

Jaymee Sire (10:51):

Yeah, I remember I actually ate a pig cow, uh, several years ago and I was so excited to see that on the menu because especially at that time, I don't like, I feel like it's a little bit more common now if you go to Thai restaurants, but it wasn't, I I don't feel like that dish was as well represented over here in the States as as you get when you are not. Yeah. Yeah. And so I,

Leah Coen (11:12):

I like to think that I had, uh, something to do with why so many people have calcium in their menu now, .

Jaymee Sire (11:18):

Well, we're gonna give you credit for that for sure. And Sure.

Leah Coen (11:21):


Jaymee Sire (11:21):

Obviously, you know, all of these diverse food experiences played a huge part in opening that restaurant in the lower East side a decade ago. Pig and Khao. How much did you wrestle with which cuisines to highlight and showcase in that restaurant?

Leah Coen (11:36):

For me, I knew I wanted to do Thai food because it still is my favorite cuisine to cook and eat. And, um, of course I come from, my mom comes from the Philippines and I have a strong connection to that. So those are the two most predominant cuisines in pig and Cow. Um, but then it really depends based off of like my travels, if I go to like Vietnam, um, one year for an r and d trip you'll see like a, a lot more Vietnamese dishes on the menu. And then if I go to Malaysia the next year, uh, for r and d then, but you know, the same thing happens. So, but it is, I like to have it be a good mix, but it is predominantly, um, Thai and Filipino

Jaymee Sire (12:17):

An r and d trip. Like what does that entail exactly?

Leah Coen (12:21):

girl, I wish I could go on one of those now. That was like three years ago was the last time I went because of Covid. And I'm actually going hopefully to the Philippines in January and I'm stopping in Thailand for like, as long as my mom can take the kids

Jaymee Sire (12:36):

Leah Coen (12:37):

And I can go with just my husband to Thailand. So probably like four or five days. But we, before Covid and before kids, my husband who, um, who owns a restaurant with me, we would go for like two and a half to three weeks to either one or two countries in Southeast Asia and we would just immerse ourselves in the culture and just get inspired by like the art, the food, everything. Um, the drinks and yeah. And then we would come back and then it would be like a Vietnamese restaurant for a year. .

Jaymee Sire (13:09):

I love that. Um, and and you, you obviously mentioned that, you know, Filipino food is, is such a, a big part of the menu there. Can you kind of talk a a little bit about some of like the cornerstones of that cuisine and, and how it is different from some of the other Southeastern Asian cuisines that you highlight?

Leah Coen (13:27):

Yeah. I think one of the reasons why Thai and Filipino food go so well together under one roof is because Thai is very spicy and very herbaceous and acidic, where Filipino food is more heavy. Um, it is acidic because they do love their vinegar, but it's not spicy. And if it is spicy, it's usually spicy from like a black pepper, uh, not like a chili kind of spicy, it's very meat heavy. Um, Filipinos love their pork, but it's a lot of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper bay leaves. I literally just said everything that's in Adobo, um,

Jaymee Sire (14:03):

Leah Coen (14:04):

And, but that's like kind of the food, you know what I mean? It is, it is definitely on the heavier side, which is why, um, I like to compliment it with some lighter options. A

Jaymee Sire (14:13):

And I love that you've been, you know, highlighting so many of those flavors and dishes on your Instagram lately as well. What's different about creating recipes for social media versus the restaurant?

Leah Coen (14:25):

Well, for, for me actually, to be honest, I was always kind of scared to put myself out there and do as much Filipino food on social because I kind of just get shit on , uh, because people don't know that I'm Filipino. If you look at me and they're like, what? Like why do you have the enough? Like what gives you the right to, to show people how to cook Filipino food? And I'm like, well actually I'm half Filipino and I, you know, I really do try to just promote the culture and the cuisine, but that being said, as of lately, I've really been like, I don't care what people say. And it's been refreshing and people have really been into it. So I'm happy that I kind of got out of my own head and got over the haters, um, because they're definitely a lot of them out there . But I think for creating food on social, I try to make it as easy as possible because I know that a lot of people want quick, easy recipes that don't seem intimidating because I, I want people to wanna to recreate those dishes. I want people to, to want to cook those dishes at home and learn more. Where at the restaurant I can make 'em a little bit more, uh, in depth and mm-hmm. , you know, people aren't trying to necessarily recreate the dishes at, at the restaurant.

Jaymee Sire (15:41):

Right. That said, I mean the, the restaurant is, is such a fun atmosphere. It's very casual, you know, there's loud hip hop. It's, it's just like a fun place to be and to have dinner. Why was that kind of casual style the right fit for you in this concept?

Leah Coen (15:57):

Well, for me, before I used to do fine dining and I knew that that was not the route that I wanted to go. Um, it's just not who I am. I'm very , like, I'm very low key I think, and I'm kind of like a tomboy. So I just, I don't know. I, and I love old school hip hop. Um, same, you know, I'm from the, I was born in the eighties, I just aged myself. So yeah, like that was the kind of music that I grew up and you know, when I found the location, um, in the Lower East Side, I figured, you know, that's what fits in, in l e s, it's mm-hmm. , I mean now there's some fine dining places, but I mean, it's just lower East Side is the lower East Side. It's a little rough around the edges, just like me. So

Jaymee Sire (16:37):

and, and, and you have a second restaurant now, a Piggyback, you opened that in 2020. What were you looking to explore with the, the second venture that was different from Pig and Khao?

Leah Coen (16:47):

Yeah, so as I mentioned, my husband and would go on these r and d trips and we would stop sometimes like in Hong Kong or in China, Japan, Korea, all those places. And those are not Southeast Asian countries, but they have amazing, delicious food that I was inspired by when I ate there and visited. So I wanted a place where I could put all of those ideas and that's kind of where Piggyback came from.

Jaymee Sire (17:14):

What's your favorite thing on the menu there?

Leah Coen (17:17):

Oh, I like our lamb rending, which is actually Southeast Asian. .

Jaymee Sire (17:23):

You, you still, you still go back to the Southeast Asian

Leah Coen (17:26):


Jaymee Sire (17:27):

Uh, that's amazing. Well, as you've mentioned, you own and operate both of these restaurants with your husband Ben. In fact, you and I first met on the, the set of Iron Chef Showdown and Ben was your sous chef, which was like a fun little wrinkle. Um, to add to that story, how do you guys balance that work relationship with your life outside of the restaurants?

Leah Coen (17:47):

Um, so the only time we ever, ever really fight is about work, which is funny, uh, because you'd think that we would like, probably want to murder each other, uh, cuz we're together all the time and now we have two kids, which kids makes it a lot harder. . But yeah, I mean we just, I guess we like spending time with each other because we are with each other all the time and we try to, we really try at home not to talk about work, which is very, very hard because mm-hmm. , everything kind of intersects with each other, um, and it all becomes like blurry. But we really do, um, try not, and if we fight at work, we try not to take it home with us. Mm-hmm. But you know, the good thing is that if, since we have kids and one of us needs to be there and one of us needs to be home, we really have like a good partnership where I'm like, okay, I, you know, I went in like I stayed late last night. Um, you have to stay, you know what I mean? So like mm-hmm. Or like, I've been at home with the kids every night this week. Like, I want to go into work tonight.

Jaymee Sire (18:50):

. No, I think that's like a good, like healthy way to approach it. I mean, do you guys, when it comes to the menu, are, is it totally like a collaborative effort between the two of you?

Leah Coen (19:00):

Oh no, he's not, no, he has nothing to do with the menu. I mean, he, he is really good at like helping me like refine things, but when it, it comes to, um, actually like creating a recipe, he has nothing to do with that , he honestly doesn't even cook that much at home. He started out as my sous chef, but now he does all of like the front of house operations side. He switched, um, he switched teams like, I wanna say like five years ago. Okay. So he pretends like he doesn't know how to cook anymore. What? Cuz he doesn't wanna make dinner. So it's really annoying . I'm like, dude, you started as my sous chef. I know you know how to cook. .

Jaymee Sire (19:39):

It's all right. You need, you need the front of house as as well is very important. Um, I mean, yeah, you are obviously so passionate about what you do. What advice would you give to someone who's really trying to find, you know, that spark and passion in their career?

Leah Coen (19:54):

I mean, I would say, first of all, I know it might be hard, but like, don't care about the money because first of all, we don't make any like, uh, restaurant workers. Like, I mean, there's very little money to be made there, but really try to go after like what you're passionate about. Um, and you know, for me it was packing a bag and moving to Southeast Asia. Of course I had the, um, financial, um, backing of my parents, which was really nice to allow me to do such a, like a, a great trip like that. But, um, you don't have to move to a different country in order to gain, um, information. Just be smart about which restaurants you pick. And like, for me personally, while I did care so much about, you know, fine dining restaurants and I wanted to work in a Michelin Star restaurant and I wanted to work for Daniel Home at, um, E M P, like that's great training for you as, um, like technique-wise mm-hmm. . But when it comes to learning about like your palate and your food, I don't think any of that matters because I would rather eat at, uh, ZZA in Queens any day over eating at E M P before it became vegan.

Jaymee Sire (21:08):

When we come back, Leah tells us about competing on Beat Bobby Flay holiday throwdown and shares what the holidays look like in her home. You've gotten to spend some more time with our friend Bobby, making an appearance on the finale of Beat Bobby. Bobby is this a finale? It is the finale. It's Beat Bobby Flay Holiday Throwdown. Um, obviously we don't want you to give away any spoilers, but can you just share a little bit about that experience?

Leah Coen (21:41):

Yeah. So, um, this is the second time I've competed on Beat Bobby Flay. I am not a big fan of competition . Uh, I for some reason always get roped into doing it, but I really don't enjoy it. Um, and I had just given birth to my second child, I think it was like two or three months post-baby. And one of the producers like, Bobby really wants you to compete on holiday. It's not, you know, it, it'll, it'll be fun. And I was like, okay, if Bobby wants me to do it, I'll do it. Because if Bobby wants you to do anything, you always say yes, of course. Um, because it's Bobby and he's super supportive of everything I do. Um, so I have to, you know, return the favor. So yeah, I competed on holiday and I was just like, I was not very excited. Um, but it was, it was a, it was actually really fun. And after we finished, I, I said, you know what? I, I had, I had a good time and I wasn't expecting to have a good time . So I'm happy that, um, that I got roped into doing it for sure.

Jaymee Sire (22:44):

Uh, I think it's funny that you, that you hate doing the, the cooking competitions because you do a lot. I mean, you do a decent amount of them, you're also really good at it . Um, when you are competing on a show, how, you know, what best describes your culinary approach and, and the edge you bring?

Leah Coen (23:02):

Um, you know, it's really weird because I, for whatever reason, I'm like known for Southeast Asian Asian cuisine, but like, I don't cook that food when I feel like my brain just like, kind of just goes blank. And I go, I re revert back to like my 20 year old chef and I'm like, oh, let's cook like Italian food or something like that, which is so weird. I really need to train myself not to do that.

Jaymee Sire (23:28):

You've competed on Be Bobby Flay before, you've also been a judge on the show. Mm-hmm. . What makes Bobby so good in this type of atmosphere?

Leah Coen (23:37):

Oh my God. He like thrives off of competition. He does. And it's funny because there are people who, you know, you can be as talented and an chef, but you can also be terrible at competition. And he is not terrible at competition. He like really feeds off of it. And, um, and he's just insane. Like the, he is so fast and he is so skilled and it's just like, he's just like a well-oiled machine and he's done it for so long now that like nothing, he's not intimidated by anything. He, you know what I mean? Like, he, he doesn't know how to cook something. He'll like fake it till he makes it, you know what I mean? Like, he just, and he says it's, he's very, he's very confident and I think that's really important when it comes to, um, cook Cook to cooking in competitions. I think that's one of the reasons why I'm not as good as I'd like to be because I lack confidence where that's concern . Um, but yeah, he's just, I mean, and he, I mean, he knows his flavors and of course, I mean he's just, he's been doing it for so mm-hmm. long. Mm-hmm. , he's like, uh, he's a beast. Yeah. I mean, it's just, and is amazing to see. It

Jaymee Sire (24:42):

Really is. I mean, people ask all the time, like, is it rigged? Is like, is he really that good? I'm like, yeah, he's really that good. Yeah. It's, it's, it's, it's actually kind of annoying. , but he's like that good. Like, he just like, not even like trying or breaking a sweat and he just Yeah. You know, winning all the time. What, what did you think of kind of the, the holiday twist that was added for this, this special? Because you know, we haven't seen that before with Beat Bobby Flay. We've seen it on other food network shows. Um, but I think it's, I think it was like a fun, you know, iteration of this show. What did, what did you think?

Leah Coen (25:15):

I mean, so when I was being coerced into competing , um, there were, you know, the producer was telling me like, oh, it's gonna be really cool, you know, like, if, even if you don't make it past the first round, then you'll be a, um, you know, you'll be there judging or hosting with one of the other judges and then like, you could, um, potentially compete cooking. You could cook with Bobby or you could cook against Bobby. And I was like, I didn't know if, which I was more nervous cooking with Bobby or cooking against Bobby because both things make me nervous. Um, but I thought that was really cool cuz I've never, you know, I've never cooked with Bobby before, so I was like, oh, well that would be fun if I could get to cook with Bobby. Mm-hmm. or if I could get to, to beat Bobby, that would be cool too. So I think the whole, it's, it's holiday and it's all about having fun and joy and I thought that it really made the competition less like cutthroat mm-hmm. and more like, we're all here having a good time and you know, we're, we're spending some, um, some, some joy with Bobby and hopefully taking him down. ,

Jaymee Sire (26:17):

always, that's, that's always the end goal at the end, at the end of the day. You still wanna take him down. One last holiday question as we are, you know, obviously headed into the holiday season and your family being influenced by so many diverse cultures, what do holiday meals tend to look like in your home?

Leah Coen (26:34):

Um, so honestly like last year, my Thanksgiving, I did like a Puerto Rican, um, inspired meal. Um, one of my friends, she, uh, she's actually the host of the Great American recipe and I was like, Hey, I think I wanna do like a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving. So she gave me all her recipes and so we did that. So I kind of like to do themed, uh, themed holidays mm-hmm. , uh, not necessarily the food that I cook all the time because I make it year round. So I like to kind of go out of, um, my wheelhouse mm-hmm. and it also just allows me to like learn other cuisines, um, and experiment. But, you know, during like Hanukkah and stuff I'll do the traditional like Lakas mm-hmm. , um, and yeah. Um, and for, for Christmas I will do, it always has to be like a pineapple glazed ta. Okay. Um, and then, and rice and then other things aside from that,

Jaymee Sire (27:29):

Aside from that ? No, uh, that sounds nice. I think actually, I think Bobby does a similar thing for Thanksgiving, kind of like picks a theme and, and does something different, um, every year. So that's always like, I always like to, to see other people doing that because sometimes I, I definitely get, you know, I I love the classics as well, so, you know, yeah. It's like this, this tug of war between like wanting to do something classic and also wanting to, you know, mix it up a little bit. So I think,

Leah Coen (27:55):

I feel like for me, my husband like hates Thanksgiving and he is like, what? I don't know. And I love Thanksgiving cuz we would always host it at my, um, at my house growing up mm-hmm. . And so that's why like, I've been trying to do like other types of food mm-hmm. , um, than just the classics. But I need my like sweet potatoes with marshmallows and so I'll do that, but then I'll also have like one classic dish

Jaymee Sire (28:21):

. Yeah. No, I like that. I have to, I mean, I have to have green bean casserole, but I mean, I like make it myself not like with all the cans, but I don't know, even if I'm the only one eating it more for me, I'll just eat the whole pan

Leah Coen (28:32):

Jaymee Sire (28:32):

. But, uh, no, that's what the holidays are about, right? Yep. Eating all the foods and, uh, spending time with loved ones. So, uh, we're gonna finish things off with the little rapid fire round and then we have one final question for you here on Food Network. Obsessed.

Leah Coen (28:45):


Jaymee Sire (28:46):

All right. So rapid fire questions. What was the first thing you ever learned to cook?

Leah Coen (28:51):


Jaymee Sire (28:52):

and still, and still to this day, lots of that, right?

Leah Coen (28:55):

But not in a rice cooker. My mom did an old school on a stove top. Mm-hmm. . Okay.

Jaymee Sire (29:00):

Yeah. Uh, all right. This one's inspired by one of your recent Instagram collaborations. How would you make a dinner for two with just $10?

Leah Coen (29:09):

Oh, , Danny Grubs. Um, yeah, that was fun. The problem was we went to H Mart, right? And so H Mart, you can't break stuff up into like small pieces. Like you can't buy, you have, like, they package everything. That's how they get you. They want, as much as I love H Mar , um, but , but I, I, I always think that stews are a really good way mm-hmm. to not spend a lot of money because those cuts are like harder and cheaper. Um, they're t sorry, they're tougher. So they, you have to cook them, um, for a long time to get tender, but they're also cheaper cuts of beef or chicken or whatever, or pork. So I would do a stew and then you can serve it with rice, ,

Jaymee Sire (29:50):

Leah Coen (29:51):

Of course, add some vegetables in there. And it's like a W pot dish. And I th I, yeah, I mean, I could definitely feed a family of probably, well, me and my husband eat for four, so yeah. . There you go. .

Jaymee Sire (30:03):

Yeah. What are some pantry staples that you always get at the grocery store?

Leah Coen (30:09):

Uh, garlic. I have to have, I use a lot of garlic, like a lot, a lot of garlic, uh, fish sauce, palm sugar, limes are huge herbs. Any type of herbs. Uh, doesn't have to be Asian herbs, coconut milk, rice, ,

Jaymee Sire (30:25):


Leah Coen (30:26):

Soy sauce, uh, and chilies.

Jaymee Sire (30:29):

And chilies. Mm-hmm. . Uh, what is your favorite Asian supermarket in the city?

Leah Coen (30:33):

I do like H Mart a lot. I also like Hong Kong Supermarket down in Chinatown or, because it has kind of everything I mm-hmm. I need and has a huge selection. And then there's this Vietnamese store, it's called Tanin or Tintin. I always mess it up. It's on Bowery. Um, and they have a lot of Vietnamese ingredients, which is great. Mm-hmm.

Jaymee Sire (30:55):

and then, and then non, um, Asian supermarket, of course Trader Joe's, cuz I, I see you there all the time. Or see on, on your Instagram. Yeah. .

Leah Coen (31:04):

I love Trader Joe's. The only thing that's annoying about Trader Joe's is like, you can't get everything you need Sure. On like, your grocery list. So it's like you have to, you know that you're going to two stores when Yeah.

Jaymee Sire (31:15):

most used kitchen tool in your house.

Leah Coen (31:19):

My air fryer. Is that a tool or is that piece of equipment? Oh,

Jaymee Sire (31:23):


Leah Coen (31:23):

Either way. I mean, honestly, I use my, I use my knife, um, all the time. Mm-hmm. and, um, yeah. But I use my air fryer, like

Jaymee Sire (31:30):

I love my air fryer. I love it. , Must tries on the menu at Pig and Khao,

Leah Coen (31:37):

Um, Must tries at the menu and Pig and Khao. cal soy. Mm-hmm. , um, sea Sig, which is a sizzling pork head dish we just put on these Filipino skewers. Um, so traditionally Kare is a brace oxtail, but I decided to do it as skewers instead. It's not oxtail. Um, and because it's kind of like, it's a peanut sauce, so it's kind of like a sat it reminds me of like a saute sauce in, in some way. So that's new. And then we are putting Thai boat noodles on, um, on the menu next week. So that is one of my favorites. All

Jaymee Sire (32:13):

Right. You'll be on the lookout. Um, all right. Most important part of cooking rice is what?

Leah Coen (32:20):

So I'm gonna say what's not the most important. Okay. Okay. That

Jaymee Sire (32:23):

Works too. That works too.

Leah Coen (32:25):

everyone. And I'm gonna get so much, so much crap for it washing and rinsing your rice. I don't do it. Really? I do not.

Jaymee Sire (32:34):

. And

Leah Coen (32:35):

My mom thinks I'm gross for it, and I don't care. I like the starch and I don't, don't think it makes a difference. I mean, okay. I actually think that it makes, when I, my rice comes out perfect when I don't rinse it. Okay. When I rinse it. And if I'm being like, fast and lazy and I don't completely drain all of the excess water, it gets a, it's a little soggy. Hmm. Um, and yeah, I have not been rinsing my rice for years now, . And it's delicious. .

Jaymee Sire (33:05):

I'm gonna try that next time to make Rice . All right. Complete this sentence. I feel most successful when blank.

Leah Coen (33:14):

Uh, when I can get through the day being a mom and also going to work and not being in a bad mood.

Jaymee Sire (33:21):

. I think that that's a win for, for most parents. So, uh, very well said. All right. Our final question here on Food Network obsessed. We ask everybody this question, it is not rapid fire. You can take as long as you want. And there are no rules for this question. So the question is, what would be on the menu for your perfect food day? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. We wanna hear what you're eating for all of those meals. And you can travel time, travel. Anyone can cook these for you. Living or dead. As I said, there's no rules. Calories don't count. All, all the good stuff. I was gonna

Leah Coen (33:52):

Say, do calories count? No, absolutely not. Calories don't count. . Okay. Um, for breakfast, everything's gonna bring me back to Thailand. ,

Jaymee Sire (34:02):

Of course.

Leah Coen (34:03):

Okay. Um, are we

Jaymee Sire (34:04):

Going Thailand for this breakfast?

Leah Coen (34:06):

Uh, yes we are. Um, so when I was living in Thailand, uh, at that flat, there was this street stall, um, that was right down the road for me. And they had, uh, a noodle soup that I would eat probably four times a week, um, for breakfast. And it, it's called tum yum. Noodle Soup. Butt yu is different than what everyone thinks. Tum only really means that it has to have like, like it has to be like acidic, salty, um, and it is so, it, it's not like the traditional tum yum. With like the tomatoes. Mm-hmm. and the mushrooms and the shrimp. It's not like that. Um, and so there's, uh, it's rice noodles, but you could pick whatever noodles you want, and then there's all these different balls in there. Mm. So there's like shrimp balls, pork balls, like this tofu thing, a fried, like a fried once on, there's all these like different like things that you, um, put on the side. And then there's like a canister on the side where it's like the sugar or the salt, um, sorry, the sugar, the fish sauce, the chili flakes. The pickled chilies. So I would add all of that in there. And right next to it, there's a vendor that sells orange juice. Ooh. And I don't know if you've had like, I call it cracked juice. , it's like the best orange juice you could possibly have, and they squeeze it fresh. And I, those two combined, it's like everything. Oh,

Jaymee Sire (35:27):

Wow. Yeah. That sounds amazing.

Leah Coen (35:29):

And I love eating it when it's like 95 degrees and you're just sweating

Jaymee Sire (35:32):

. You're just sweating through the whole thing. You're just sweating. That's why you have the orange juice, right? Mm-hmm.

Leah Coen (35:36):


Jaymee Sire (35:37):

All right. What's for, what's for lunch?

Leah Coen (35:39):

Huh? Okay, lunch.

Leah Coen (35:43):

What is for lunch?

Leah Coen (35:48):

Trying to think. Like, I don't want everything to be tied, even though it's like pretty much should be. No, my dinner won't be Thai. Um, okay. So there is this place in Thailand, or in Bangkok called Soy, if you might have seen it on Andrew, one of Andrew Zimmer's show. Mm-hmm. Um, I actually found out about it through him. Um, and it's kind of like 30 minutes on the outskirts of Bangkok. Um, and it is just, they have the best, uh, YOKA do, which is a fried egg salad. It's not really a salad, but , it's whatever. Um, in their minds they call it a salad. And it's, uh, deep fried egg, but it still has like a runny yolk. So like the whites are all really nice and crispy. And then it has like raw garlic, raw shallots, a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, chilies. Um, there's white pepper on there, um, and some herbs. And you eat that with a bowl of rice and it's amazing.

Jaymee Sire (36:48):

Wow. I think my stomach, stomach just growled. I'm not sure if you've heard it. . And then dinner and dessert.

Leah Coen (36:54):

Dinner and dessert. I'm gonna bring it back to my childhood. Uh, so every year for my birthday, I would eat at this pizza place in, um, in Westchester. Okay. It's called Johnny's Pizzeria. In Mount Vernon. The bar stool guy gave it like a 9.3. Oh wow. Um, so it was, it is really good and I am obsessed with it. And I've been, I mean, pizza is literally my favorite thing to eat. . I know that it is not that fancy, but like, if I could eat pe like I just, that's love.

Jaymee Sire (37:25):

It's so

Leah Coen (37:25):

Great. Love pizza. Yeah. Yeah. , it's great. Um, so that pizza and for dessert, um, what I would do is, uh, Hagan DA's ice cream. .

Jaymee Sire (37:35):

What flavor?

Leah Coen (37:37):

I love coffee ice cream. Okay. Yeah. I'm very like, I don't know if that's basic or not, but that is like, that's been my favorite ice cream flavor since I was probably like seven years old. And that's what I do for my birthday. Every year I get a ha ANDAs ice cream cake, and I eat pizza . And I, I will continue that tradition for as long as I'm alive.

Jaymee Sire (37:58):

I mean, that sounds like a pretty amazing birthday tradition. Um, I'll definitely have to check that out next time I'm in, uh, west Chester, thank you so much for taking the time and chatting. It was so great catching up with you. We'll have to to go to Zap Zap again, uh, sometime soon. They have one in Williamsburg now, so we can go there. Oh, they do? Yeah. Like a seafood one, so, oh,

Leah Coen (38:18):


Jaymee Sire (38:18):

Yeah, let's go there. All

Leah Coen (38:20):

Okay. For sure.

Jaymee Sire (38:21):

All right. That's a date. . Thank you Leah.

Leah Coen (38:24):

Thank you.

Jaymee Sire (38:30):

I am loving these holiday editions of Beat Bobby Flay and cannot wait to watch Leah on the finale, only on Food Network, December 13th at 9:00 PM Eastern. Make sure to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts so you don't miss a thing. And if you enjoyed today's episode, please rate and review. We love it when you do that. That's all for now. We'll catch you foodies next Friday.