What is your most memorable meal?
This is so not what you’re gonna want to hear, because it’s not a meal, it’s an item. When I was five years old, I had my first truffle. Until I was five, my mom had been feeding me carob. Then, I went to visit my Grandfather, and he took me to Godiva. I realized at that moment that my mom had been tricking me for all of those years. I immediately went home and made a batch off of the back of a Hershey’s box. I ate all of them! (I’m sure they weren’t very good, but that’s where it all started.)
What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
A wooden spoon, or a French knife. A wooden spoon can do anything, but a knife makes me feel powerful. The students were working with lamb today, and as I was demonstrating my pulse grew with a knife in my hand. I feel like a real cook with a knife in hand. On a side note, I hate pastry tools. I don’t like pastry bags…I would rather have a knife.
If you could have a meal with anyone, who would it be?
Hands down, it would be Julia Child…or my husband. I like going to fun places to eat with him. My last meal would be a cheeseburger. It would have to be on a hand-made bun, medium-rare or rare (it is my last meal, after all), bacon, good greens and Tilamook cheddar cheese. It would have to come straight off the grill, and I wouldn’t demand foie gras, but I wouldn’t take it off either. I would want perfectly made frites, preferably made in duck fat, and cooked by Anthony Bourdain in the Les Halles style (because I have a crush on him).
What is the most important thing you learned in culinary school?
I learned that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Cooks are a dime a dozen. I had to find something that really made me stand out from the rest. That being said, though, there’s a lot to be said about having a good attitude and work ethic. The first impression you make in the industry sets the stage for the rest of your career. I’ve never really been surprised by anything in the industry, and I’ve never regretted a minute of my career.
What is your favorite thing to make at home?
Stock. I make chicken stock once a paycheck. I like to make Pho and curry dishes, so it’s important to always have good stock on hand. Actually, there’s a pot on the stove in the student kitchens that has duck stock I made. I wanted to bring it in and share it with the students.
What item is always in your kitchen?
I have a gazillion kinds of mustard. But I think the most important staple is a good, solid olive oil, and I don’t mean any of that flavored junk. I just want something that tastes like it should. I also always have a really good balsamic on hand. I have a friend in Italy who sends these to me. I think that the longer you’re in this industry, the cleaner you tend to cook. It’s really just about the flavors of the product coming through, and I don’t like to add a bunch of other stuff to alter that flavor.
What are 10 words you would use to describe yourself?
Passionate, clumsy, non-linear brain, cook (through and through), strong, fiercely independent, moral, ridiculous, and smiley. (I’m always smiling.)