Navarrete, who was previously chef de cuisine at Kojin’s Momofuku predecessor, Daisho, has been an avid book collector throughout her career. She has another 175-odd volumes at home in her 400-square-foot condo. “I’m cookbook obsessed,” she admits. She’s been building her collection for the past 15 years and, if splitting it between home and work hadn’t been feasible, she’d have happily gone without furniture. "I was so attached to my books that it didn’t matter if I had space for a couch or not,” she laughs.
She keeps many of her books close at hand on the shelf above the cabinets in her small but tidy kitchen. More books repose in the living room, on a sturdy plastic cart across from the couch. There are also a couple of shelves in her bedroom.
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Many of her favourites are on prominent display in the living room. She’s a big fan of the Israeli-British chef and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi. “He’s got Plenty and Jerusalem and Nopi – those books are fantastic. And I really like the things Sean Brock writes,” she adds, pointing to the Appalachian-born chef’s 2015 best seller about Southern cuisine, Heritage. “There are some really great stories in there.”
Like Brock, Navarrete has been exploring her own culinary heritage for the menu at Kojin, with an emphasis on spicy fare cooked on an open wood-fire grill. That’s led her to more reading. “I’ve ended up acquiring a lot of Francis Mallmann books,” she says, referring to the Argentine guru of the grill whose recipes are found in Seven Fires and Mallmann on Fire.
Navarrete grew up in Cali and Bogota, where she learned to revere books thanks to her late grandfather, a self-educated man who had taught himself by reading. “He had a really expensive and beautiful library and I grew up around it,” she recalls.