Scents evoke place, and today’s dishes — light, dark and Penang-style hokkien mee noodles — call to mind the rush and comfort of a bustling hawker center, full of food stalls. Momentarily transfixed, Chef Linda Esposito and her students transport to Kuala Lumpur as they fill their plates with homemade varieties of this popular Malaysian street food. Such heartfelt regional flavors in the Bay Area are unique to Chef Linda, who teaches out of the community classroom at 18 Reasons in San Francisco.
Linda moved to the United States more than thirty years ago to work in tech — and found new joy in cooking as a hobby, until it became her career. Raised in Malaysia in a Malaysian-Chinese family, she explains that Malay-Malaysian, Indian-Malaysian, and Chinese-Malaysian cultures and food traditions converge in her home country and memories. Her classes and path as a chef reflect her rich cultural and gastronomic heritage.
Linda focuses on “making dishes approachable without sacrificing any of the flavors.” When asked if her food is like “grandma’s cooking,” Linda smiles, saying that what might take grandma three days can be closely approximated and distilled to a half an hour of cooking in class! Once she breaks down a technique into steps, it becomes logical and easy to replicate. Grandma may send you away with skillful yet vague specifications, but Linda will encourage you with a formula: aromatic + protein + vegetable. And repeat.
While Linda leans into structure as she teaches, she also embraces the inexact, experimental, joyful nature of home cooking. She sees this encapsulated in the Malay word “agak,” which translates to “approximately,” or as Linda says, “cooking doesn’t have to be precise; don’t be frightened! There’s always a recourse in food.” The secret to a satisfying meal isn’t technical perfection — it’s the communal nature with which you share the meal.
18 Reasons provided the community and platform Linda sought to share her “authentically funky” home cooking. She draws students from the Southeast Asian diaspora looking to connect to their heritage and curious home cooks looking to try something new. Flavors and dishes, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes unfamiliar, unite people around a communal table.
Home cooking is a powerful conduit. With every downward stroke of a knife, each spoonful of spice, food connects us to something larger than ourselves. A delicious meal reflects the history, culture and care of the chef who prepared it. These shared beliefs held by Linda and 18 Reasons attract a certain kind of student, one who searches for warmth in both food and company.
Become part of Chef Linda’s community through one of her classes! Linda teaches frequently at 18 Reasons, and has two upcoming classes in February. Laksapalooza (2/5) will feature a classic version of this spicy noodle dish with several contemporary variations. Siu Yeh (2/26) is the fifth meal of the day, eaten between 9pm and 4am in Kuala Lumpur — and Linda will teach you these late night, snackable recipes. In March, Linda will prove in her Five Ingredients (3/23) class that recipes don’t have to be overly complex to pack a flavorful punch. Featuring warm broths, hearty meats and seafood, these recipes will surely keep you warm through the final weeks of winter.
Visit 18reasons.org/calendar to sign-up for one of Linda’s upcoming classes. Hurry, before they sell out! New classes are posted on a monthly basis, so be sure to check back for future options.
This advertorial was paid for by 18 Reasons. Edible San Francisco relies on the support from advertising partners like 18 Reasons who share our vision and want to see the Bay Area’s local food community grow and flourish.