Jan 10, 2014

Todd Wilbur hacks your favorite restaurants’ recipes!

Chicken Basil: Chicken basil and steamed rice
Todd Wilbur, author of best-selling cook book series “Top Secret Recipes,” will bring his exciting personality and recipe hacking secrets to the Oklahoma City Home + Garden Show January 17-19 at the Oklahoma State Fair Park. Todd describes his talent for uncovering secret recipes as recipe hacking: a process where he studies everything from the tiniest ingredients to the preparation process in order to recreate some of America’s favorite dishes.

Since releasing his first cook book, “Top Secret Recipes,” in 1993, he has gone on to publish nine others and is currently working to release the eleventh book in the series. In his books, Todd uncovers recipes like Cheesecake Factory’s Thai Lettuce Wraps, Olive Garden’s Breadsticks and P.F. Chang’s Kung Pao Chicken.

Receiving no formal culinary education, Todd educated himself by reading recipes and watching cooking shows, viewing the recipes as puzzles he needed to solve.  So we wanted to know, just how does he do it?

Q: What steps do you take to unlock recipes?
A: Once I zero in on a target dish, I watch shows about that particular type of food to learn the ins and outs before trying to hack the recipe. I had to come up with my own process and techniques for reverse engineering these foods. Sometimes I will run sauces through a strainer or use a magnifying glass to help identify different herbs and spices. I also use my sense of touch to help me estimate the fat contents of foods.

Q: What advice do you have for fans interested in becoming food hackers themselves?
A: Don’t be afraid to ask your server at the restaurant. They may not give you the exact recipe but they will be able to tell you what ingredients are included in the particular food, and that’s a great jumping off point. From there, look for recipes for a similar type of food online or in a cookbook, and then tweak that recipe until it matches.

Q: How long does it typically take to get the recipe right?
A: Expect a lot of trial and error. Sometimes I can hack a recipe in one day, sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes I never get it. That’s all part of the fun.

Todd will demonstrate several of his favorite recipe hacks at the Oklahoma City Home + Garden Show and allow the audience a chance to test his creations. Don’t miss his delicious presentation on the Cooking Stage Friday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 18 at 2 and 6 p.m.

CLICK HERE to guess the ingredients in Iron Starr's Fancy Mac & Cheese