A glass of milk with a side of cookies...what could be better? In this new series, we asked five of California’s most celebrated up-and-coming chefs to find out. It turns out that milk pairs well with everything from Filipino-Mexican tacos to South African street fare to artisan desserts. The results are as surprising as they are delicious.

At 19, South African–born Elizabeth Binder was already a head chef. Soon after, she cooked for Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk and worked in renowned kitchens across Europe and Australia before landing on the team at Traci des Jardins’s groundbreaking Jardinière in San Francisco.

After competing on the 10th season of Top Chef in Seattle, Binder got back to her roots. She now cooks the spice-rich, India influenced food of her hometown of Durban at pop-up dinners around San Francisco.

Here, she shows off a specific style of curry dish known as Bunny Chow. The fiery red masala stew is served over a hollowed-out mound of thick white bread — a quintessential Durban street food that was first created by immigrants from India to South Africa in the early 1900s. “You’ve got earthy flavor, a little sour, a little sweet — it all goes beautifully with the spice of the curry and the heat,” says Binder.

“We used to always eat our curries with a glass of milk when we were growing up. Milk coats your mouth and cuts the heat of all that spice.” Binder’s final word? “Have some whole milk,” she says with a laugh. “It’s way better than 2 percent.”

Photography by Maren Caruso