Our 8 Principles: How We Cook in Pepper

Shedding some light on how we approach cooking as we help Filipino cooks improve their food at home

Should you put peanut butter in kare-kare? Why not?

We see the purists sneering. But we're not. So before you get mad about whose version of adobo is the "correct" one, we'd like to end the argument before we even start.

Our 8 Cooking Principles

  1. Aim to make the best version of something but weigh it against its difficulty and cost.
  2. Say no to purists. Avoid snobbery unless there's a good reason to.
  3. Don't add costs and complications for tiny gains.
  4. Use modern studies around health & nutrition. Challenge obsolete beliefs such as MSG being bad, or frying in olive oil is healthier.
  5. Offer both easy and difficult ways of doing things, giving everyone the option to choose. Some people want the best, others just want dinner.
  6. Find local options whenever possible, but remain flexible.
  7. Do not give weight to tradition and dogma if the reasoning doesn't make sense. Things that get passed on through history turn out wrong a lot.
  8. Explain the "why" in the easiest, "good enough" way possible without getting into highly technical science.

If you try to draw a line connecting these 8 dots, it's that we want to raise the bar in home-cooking but also make it as simple as possible. We appreciate chefs, fine dining, and all sorts of fancy knife work. But we're making stuff for cooks at home, not the restaurant.

Homecooks see chefs as mythical creatures, thinking they magically shape how the world cooks. Not quite true. Cooking schools teach you how to serve food in a restaurant. And the average home doesn't resemble a restaurant.

At home, you face a unique set of problems. You want to save money, you don't have enough time, or you need to make something the kids will eat. You don't necessarily want to garnish your food, and you don't need to impress guests often. Spreadsheets, tweezers, and fancy knife work don't matter as much. Obviously, a culinary degree makes you a better cook, but you don't really get to use many of the lessons at home.

Since homecooks don't learn in culinary school, Youtube and Google fill the education void. This presents a problem. When we start cooking, we have no way to know who to trust, so we just believe things we hear from influencers or our lolas. Unfortunately, they're not always right.

Cooking advice tends to have a few problems:

  • They're written for a Western audience. (Where is the buttermilk lol)
  • They rely too much on tradition, not modern research.
  • They add too many steps that you don't really need to do at home especially if you're pressed for time or money.
  • They won't give you a cheaper option that's almost as good as the expensive one, with just a bit of compromise.
  • They don't explain why, they just tell you to do things.
  • They're stubborn purists: they will insist on doing something the way it's always been done just because.

In recent years, a few cooking influencers like Kenji Lopez Alt or Samin Nosrat have introduced us to a new form of cooking education: inclusive, thorough, and practical. They don't try to belittle you, they teach you why you should do things in a certain way, and they find ways to make it easy without compromising quality. They also don't try to peddle inaccessible organic food, and they accommodate recipes that use commercially-made grocery products.

We take inspiration from their work and want to add our own to better fit the Philippines.

To be clear: we don't consider ourselves an authority in the way that celebrity chefs are. We're learning just like you. We like to see ourselves as just in a perpetual state of tinkering, trying to see if we can make things better and clearer for everyone. Our goal is that through years of minor tweaks, we end up with something great that helps thousands of cooks.

In case you find that our content sucks, just let us know. We make mistakes too. We want to make sure we're putting out helpful cooking content for people like you. So just point things out to us—we'd love to hear from you.

It's still a long road ahead. Help us make the Philippines a better place for cooks! PS. Get Pepper Plus if you'd like to support our work.

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