2020 Boston Rising Star Alchemist Rich Shih of OurCookQuest

2020 Boston Rising Star Alchemist Rich Shih of OurCookQuest
July 2020

Thanks to his Taiwanese heritage, Rich Shih was raised on fermented foods. Straight out of college, he began his gastronomic journey. He started by diving into cookbooks and media that helped with fundamental understanding; Cook’s Illustrated was one of his favorites. Ever curious, he began to reach out to chef-friends to ask them how they composed delicious dishes. To spend more time learning in their kitchens, he'd help out by washing dishes and prepping ingredients. In 2010, Shih started a blog, OurCookQuest, to document his culinary adventures, taking a special interest in fish sauce. During one kitchen visit, Shih learned the process of making garum. The funky, intense flavor profile blew his mind and he embarked on a fermentation journey of his own. 

While he also worked as an exhibit engineer for Dave Arnold’s Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, Shih was becoming known as a fermentation guru back in Boston. In 2014, he first encountered koji when asked to make it for a “fermented foods of the world” themed brunch hosted by Sandor Katz. After reading a blog post on the process by Brandon Byers, author of The Everyday Fermentation Handbook, Shih was up and running. He quickly became obsessed with koji and went down a miso-making rabbit hole, sharing his ideas on his blog and social media. He also hosted cooking classes and workshops, and collaborated with local chefs on pop-up dinners. In 2019, Shih published Koji Alchemy, with co-author and fellow fermentation-expert, Jeremy Umansky. Today, when Shih isn’t working as a mechanical engineer, he continues to educate chefs and home cooks about the simplicity and importance of preservation through OurCookQuest.