Since Lil’ Deb’s Oasis exploded onto the regional culinary scene in 2015 like an exotic flower bursting into bloom, the Hudson eatery hasn’t stopped turning heads. In 2019, their bold, confident flavors earned Lil Deb’s co-owners Carla Perez-Gallardo and Hannah Black a James Beard nomination for Best Chef: Northeast.
With its signature tropical comfort food, colorful maximalist style, and funky, improvisational natural wine list, the restaurant is a dining destination for foodies the region over—a reason in and of itself to visit Hudson. But soon you’ll be able to bring the bright, saturated flavors and tropical recipes of Lil’ Deb’s Oasis home to your own kitchen with the forthcoming cookbook, slated for release in June. Like all things Lil’ Debs, the title, Please Wait to Be Tasted, is cheeky, an echo of the sign in the restaurant's waiting area.
The book will include upwards of 70 recipes, including well-loved Lil’ Deb’s classics like ceviche mixto with popcorn; charred octopus in the ink of its cousin, sweet plantains with green cream, abuela's flan, and more. "We give away a lot of secrets in this book!" Perez-Gallardo says. "Readers will get the recipes of our favorite sauces that folks have asked 'oh my god, what is IN that?' over and over again throughout the years."
The book is co-written with longtime server, wine connoisseur, and all-around beloved Lil’ Deb’s fixture Wheeler, with an intro by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and Hudson resident Meshell Ndegeocello. "Wheeler provides insight as to our wine selection philosophies, broken down in a super approachable way," Perez-Gallardo says.
And because Lil’ Deb’s Oasis was never just about the food, the book will also include musings on wine, music, sex, style, love, friendship, and fashion; essays on the restaurant's early days and the chefs' navigation of the colonial histories entangled in their recipes' origins; plus practical kitchen know-how like techniques, tools, and pantry.
"The book is divided into chapters that showcase various aspects of the food we make—and focuses on encouraging readers to lean into the pleasure one can derive from the cooking process," Perez-Gallardo says. "We avoided organizing the book into 'appetizers' and 'main courses' because that's never been what we're about, but we also don't want to give away too much!"
A Pandemic Neon Lining
"Making objects has always been a primary form of expression for us with our background as artists, so after opening a restaurant it felt natural to make a cookbook that people would be able to take home and hold in their hands," says Perez-Gallardo. "It's something we'd casually talked about forever, but those first months in the 2020 pandemic era provided us with some much-needed time to actually write it!"
With Lil' Deb's Black and Perez-Gallardo have bridged the gap between highbrow and lowbrow, tradition and experimentation, and mastered the art of whimsy without irony, designing, cooking, and community building with rambunctious impunity. Both graduates of art school, they bring a quiet judiciousness to their maximalist approach, bringing cohesion where there could be chaos and making an unapologetic explosion of color and flavor not just palatable but craveable.
With these notches in their rainbow-colored belt, Please Wait to be Tasted
is sure to be a funny, heartfelt, inclusive, instructive read bursting with vibrant, mouthwatering images. "We wanted the book to feel vibrant and interactive, and I think we did a really great job at getting it there," Perez-Gallardo says. "For example, we worked with detailed images from one of our great friends, painter Annie Bielski
, to create textures that we layered throughout the book. We also did the art direction, so we had a big hand in the food styling process every step of the way, and the final book definitely holds up to our technicolored aesthetic."
And although a cookbook cannot bring the whole restaurant to your doorstep, Please Wait to Be Tasted
will no doubt deliver Lil' Deb's signature “hot, sticky, juicy, moist fever dreams of flavor.”
Please Wait to Be Tasted is slated for release on June 21. Pre-order a signed copy for $35 from Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson and get 10% off your next meal at Lil’ Deb’s Oasis.