Chef Tanis at Restaurant Eugene

David Tanis can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t cooking.

He says he was younger than 5 when he started to cook breakfast for his family. As a teen, he taught himself to bake bread. Tanis always knew he loved eating and loved food, but he didn’t discover until later how much he also loved cooking.

The California chef and author of “A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes” and the newly released “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys,” says he never went to cooking school. Instead, Tanis says, he had the good fortune of working with a number of good cooks. His new book features 20 seasonal menus with recipes such as broiled pineapple with rum, asparagus scrambled eggs and rice salad with sweet herbs.

On Monday, Tanis will take part in the Eugene Author Dinner series, which is presented in partnership with the AJC Decatur Book Festival. He talked to us recently about his new book and why seasonal cooking is simple yet wonderful:

Q. Can you explain the title of the book, which is clearly not a book about artichokes?

A. My first book “A Platter of Figs” was not a book about figs. And “Heart of the Artichokes” is not really about artichokes, but it has artichoke recipes. I was trying to use artichokes as a metaphor for some kinds of food and some kinds of cooking where you need to do a little bit of work – not so terribly much but where you get past the tough part to the sweet, tender center.

Q. The first chapter of the book is called Rituals – a combination of storytelling, quick recipes, biography and tips. You talk about packing a food kit, which you call food insurance. What are some basic staples that everyone should have in one of those kits?

A. In California everyone has an earthquake kit. This is more like a pleasure kit for when you’re on the road and you need to help out the food that’s available. I like to have insurance. For me, it just has a few little things: a few fresh chiles, a few dried chiles, a little salt and pepper mill, a couple of limes, a corkscrew, maybe a piece of cheese and a bag of almonds. You want to make sure your eating experience on the road is enhanced.

Q. Why did you decide to do the recipes in the book as seasonal menus versus a collection of favorite recipes?

A. The kind of cooking that I like is simple cooking. I think the simplest foods are the best. But I also think eating in season – which is to say eating fruits and vegetables that are in season -- is a wonderful way to eat. The menus are really doable, accessible, simple, good cooking with real food.

Tanis will talk about his book at a dinner featuring some his book recipes that will be prepared by Eugene chef Linton Hopkins and guest chef David Sweeny of Dynamic Dish. The four-course dinner is $115 per person and includes of copy of “Heart of the Artichoke.” Monday from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Restaurant Eugene, 2277 Peachtree Road. 404-355-0321.