When people say that Derek Sotak wrote the book on nachos, they mean it literally. Sotak is the author of the recently completed Field Guide to Nachos, an exploration of the dish’s rich history, containing recipes, cryptozoa and more. The handbook is now available at Nachonomics, where Sotak contributes as a Nacho Correspondent.

We asked him a few questions, and you won’t believe what he had to say about penguins.

Tell us about the last great meal you had:

I had some beef bulgogi and spicy pickles at this Korean restaurant that was truly off the hook. Amazingly delicious.

First movie you saw in the theater:

As far as I can remember it was Ghostbusters with my parents at the drive in, although when I actually checked to see when it was released I would have had to have been 1 or 2 at the time so that may just be something I made up in my head and now believe it to be true.

Small thing you can’t live without:

The Kingdom of Loathing. It’s a little browser based adventure game that has gotten a few minutes of my day, every day, for the past ten years.

Music you loved as a teenager:

The album Regular Urban Survivors by the British band Terrorvision, billed as a soundtrack to the greatest movie that never existed. It’s possible I was their number one American fan while in my teens, and maybe I still am…

An experience you’ll never forget:

There was one time when I was a kid there was a power outage in town some night and I got to walk around in the middle of the street with no lights on anywhere and for some reason no cars driving around. It was the closest thing I’ll probably ever experience to a zombie apocalypse or Omega Man scenario.

First book you remember being really affected by:

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Prior to that the most non-linear book I could imagine was those of the Choose Your Own Adventure variety, but HoL was such a spectacle it blew young Derek’s mind as to what a book could be.

How do you start each morning?

Roll over and check the cell phone, which is either a sad Pavlovian response or comment on the society we live in these days.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire:

Werner Herzog. That guy is an absolute lunatic but I would follow him into Hell.

Favorite app:

I’ve got to say that I use Shazam the most because being able to tell what a song is without having to scour the internet for lyrics you thought you heard is the closest thing to magic we’ll experience as humans. Also, Ridiculous Fishing is just the right length to play during a trip to the bathroom.

What’s your computer desktop/phone lock screen?

It’s a John Kenn Mortensen picture I believe called “Room 237″. That guy is amazing and that picture is like a Where’s Waldo with monsters. Every time I look at it I find something new.

Your favorite personal item of clothing:

Either my Tillamook Dairy “Baby Loaf Cheese” shirt or my “No Cheese Till Cleveland” Grilled Cheese Tour Shirt from the restaurant Melts. Basically shirts related to cheese are my wheelhouse.

Place you wish everyone could visit:

Las Vegas. It’s like the lowest common denominator of America and our ideas of other cultures distilled into one city.

What do you carry with you every day?

A ring that states “NACHOS”. My finger is turning colors because of it but I never want to take it off.

Favorite place to eat:

Big Foot Food and Spirits at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Almost worth missing a plane for.

Last idea or factoid you came across that stayed in your brain:

Some episode of The Venture Brothers taught me that penguins have an organ above their eyes that converts seawater into freshwater. I’m just waiting for that one to come up in bar trivia.

Favorite thing about the place you live:

Seasons, and that in a few hours of driving I can get to all my favorite biomes.

Who did you learn the most from?

My parents are the obvious answer, but I would say Hunter S. Thompson and Bruce Campbell influenced me a lot growing up.

Favorite time of day and why:

When you wake up on a morning fully rested and know you have nothing to do for the day, man do your possibilities feel endless.

Favorite thing to work with:


Last thing you made:

Beans on Toast. Do yourself a favor and make some Beans on Toast.

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