The first time I met Sam Zien, aka Sam the Cooking Guy, was a couple of years ago at Congregation Beth Israel, where we were both judging a temple cooking contest. Every time he and I would stand together to discuss a dish, a different elderly woman would come over and literally shove me aside so that her husband could shoot a photo of her snuggled up with Sam.
Sam is clearly a rock star with the bubbe set.
But, Sam's popularity spans across generations or he wouldn't be as popular a figure as he is in San Diego's food scene and beyond, and he's reinforcing that with a new online show, The Sam Livecast, where Sam cooks but also chats about whatever happens to interest him at the moment. And, yes, you can still find Sam the Cooking Guy on TV locally, in LA, Orange County, Las Vegas, and Arizona -- and even on the East Coast in Georgia and Virgina. You can catch videos of him preparing recipes from his shows. You can even shop Sam at "Sam's Store," where you can buy his three cookbooks or kitchen gadgets and gear. Sam is an industry.
He's also a very nice guy and, yes, a terrific cook, as I discovered when I was invited to appear Sept. 26 on The Sam Livecast. The live streaming show is pretty relaxed. He chats with his very young crew and people--like me--who hang out on the couch in the kitchen with Sam's wife, Kelly, his interns, perhaps his sons and their girlfriends. And the two dogs. It's very casual with the periodic f-bomb dropped. But don't let that fool you; Sam knows what he's doing. Ingredients are prepped in a home kitchen any food person would envy. He does his schtick, but then the cooking begins and as easy as he makes it looks, that's how delicious the dish is.
When I was invited on, the idea was basically an appearance with idle back and forth from the couch about my writing. But I thought it would be fun to show him a little of what I do--and promote Olivewood Gardens--so I offered to make corn tortillas with flowers pressed in them with him on the show--as I've been doing with the kids I teach at Olivewood Gardens. Well, the counteroffer was for me just to bring in the tortillas, already made. Which I did, along with homemade tomato salsa.
And that was the inspiration for Sam, along with bluefin tuna that he'd acquired, to make seared bluefin tuna tacos with mango salsa. Prettiest tacos around, what with the gorgeous yellow salsa and being encased in tortillas highlighted with orange and yellow nasturtiums or purple and white violets.
You can catch the livecast on his website, where you'll also find recipes. And I describe there how to make the tortillas. And stay tuned for more shows. The livecast airs live Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 6 p.m. pacific time. I hear he's going to have more food writers/bloggers on the show as guests. You never know who will turn up.