Questions for Chef

Sunday, 1 June 2014
I'm not a chef and never will be but I love watching cooking shows and reading about the latest and greatest foodie obsession online and in magazines. Recently, I read about Chef Adam White in ElleDecoration (a UK publication) and the article asked several chefs to answer the same questions. I thought it might be fun to answer them as well and if you have your own answers, please respond in a comment below.

What did you eat for lunch today? Egg whites with a tiny bit of goat cheese, green onions and cherry tomatoes. Freshly cracked pepper on top.

What's your favorite, quick, supper that comes from ingredients in the cupboard (this is a UK interview, obviously)? Skinny, wheat pasta, knob of butter, Italian pasta, sea salt, and cracked pepper. Add pitted kalamata olives if you have them.

Best meal you've ever eaten? James ordered the five course tasting menu at Mario Batali's Del Posto in New York City for us last year (Il Menu del Posto). It included our own choice of antipasto, two dishes of pasta to share, secondo (another full pasta dish), and dolce. We also sprung for the wine pairing by the sommelier. Every bite and sip was rich and memorable.

What's your guaranteed crowd-pleasing dish? I have no idea how to answer this because I've never cooked for a crowd but I like to think I can put together a tasty dish that wins people over with the presentation. I enjoy considering how food looks on a dish: color, arrangement, proportion... Also, good extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh pepper always makes for tasty food in a fresh dish.

Describe one of your first food memories. Some of my dearest memories come from time spent with my mom, grandma Jackie, and great-grandma Fern in my grandmother's kitchen on summer afternoons. The four of us sat together and snapped green beans for canning. Even though I was very young, I was allowed to snap beans as well and we would break them into large, speckled Melamine bowls like these in the picture:



My mom's mother is an artist (oil painting) and worked in a photography studio for decades. She later became an entrepreneur, owning her own businesses with my grandfather. Full time work and parenting didn't stop her from growing her own vegetables and canning for the winter and friends and family. She was truly one of the first farm-to-table pioneers, although we didn't realize it then. I wish I would have retained more knowledge from working in the garden with her and my mom but at least I plant and tend to a variety of herbs every year. I also compost and use compost tea as fertilizer to grow mint, basil, oregano, chives, and rosemary organically.

Which condiment can't you live without? Yellow mustard. I love using it to make salad dressings, tuna salad, egg sandwiches, and horseradish sauce.

What's your favorite family recipe? My brother and I are suckers for my mother's deviled eggs. I believe she adapted the recipe from the one used by my grandmother and great-grandmother. The best part is that she serves them on Easter Sunday in a whimsical, vintage, hen dish with indentions for eggs. 

Who are your four dream dinner party guests? This is a very hard question for me and I keep waffling between choices. I think I would invite Clinton Kelly for his wit and kindness (plus he's really tall, hosts his own cooking talk show and could give me fantastic fashion advice), Frances Mayes to talk about travel writing and publishing memories (she wrote the Under the Tuscan Sun memoirs), Barbara Kingsolver because she is my favorite author and we could all discuss her farm house and the year her family spent there eating only what they could grow, and Condoleezza Rice. She is a smart, powerful woman who could give advice on finishing my dissertation and tell stories about being a diplomat/teacher/political leader/pianist/ice skater. 

Do you have any tips for a novice cook? I feel like I am a novice cook but my advice to others would be to work on mastering basic knife skills (watch cooking shows or YouTube videos) and always have olive oil, garlic and onion in the pantry. 

What's your guilty food secret? Because I worked as a television reporter and anchor for a decade, I always had bizarre sleeping and eating schedules. That means that even now, I can eat almost anything for any meal of the day. I don't have to stick to breakfast foods in the morning at all. Mashed potatoes and turkey from Thanksgiving? I'm happy to eat that without warming it up at 7:30am.

Who's the foodie you find most inspiring? I started cooking after discovering Nigella Lawson's first cooking show years ago. She made cooking look fun and easy. Plus, she's very personable and talented in front of a camera. She showed viewers how to take short cuts but still have brilliant food. I tried many of her recipes from the TV show and then continued to cook. Chef Vivian Howard from A Chef's Life on PBS (just won an Emmy) is fantastic. She uses food sourced locally from North Carolina and designs menus for her restaurant around what is in season. This is a great concept and celebrates where she is from. (Please, does anyone want to road trip to her restaurant Chef & the Farmer?!)

Essential kitchen kit? For me, a good knife set that is sharp (but not too heavy) is essential. I like a large, level, wooden cutting board. Durable wooden spoons are useful and I'd love to get a good, sturdy, long-lasting pepper mill. I use mine every day, several times a day, but it is a disposable one so it's a bit of a waste and breaks easily.

P.S. I realize that no one really cares about my answers to the above questions. Sometimes blogging is just a needed mental break from working on my dissertation - so thanks for humoring me. :)

2 comments

Lee Elder said...

It seems like you have eliminated meat from your diet. However, it sounds like you are really enjoying this new venue for your creativity.

~C~ said...

I had fun reading your answers. :) I love food...I'm no chef. I haven't even had a lot of "fancy" food but I love trying new things.