How It All Started...
I started cooking at the beginning of a cookbook. And not just any cookbook. THE cookbook. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child. Her recipes are so precise, meticulously crafted, each ingredient building blocks to the success of the entire dish. That’s how I learned to cook. I didn’t cook every recipe in the book, but I did do enough to educate myself on the proper way to use ingredients and I found, after some time, that I had a knack for it and, more importantly, I loved it...
It helped that I grew up with a mother who was a very adventuresome cook. She herself, would open up a random cookbook and try out something that caught her eye. And then she would make it kosher, substituting margarine for butter, or different cuts of meat when necessary. As a result of this, she created one of my most favorite meals growing up, Boeuf en Brioche. Julia Child’s original recipe, Filet de Beouf en Croute, calls for Filet Mignon, not a kosher cut of meat, and brioche dough which has a ton of butter in it, topped with a sauce that had a roux simmered with ham for flavoring. My mother’s version was made by wrapping a roast beef with defrosted frozen Challah dough. Brilliant and delicious!
In my childhood home, the laws of kashrut were somewhat strict. We didn’t mix milk and meat, we had separate dishes and silverware for dairy and meat. We didn’t eat shellfish or pork, at least in the house. We would wait some time to have a dairy dessert after a meat meal. And we kept Shabbat. We would drive to our Conservative synagogue and my father worked on Saturdays during tax season. But every Friday night there was a home cooked, delicious meal that my mother prepared, alongside a fresh Challah, wine and Shabbat candles. Whatever recipe she made, it was made kosher. Her meatballs didn’t have a slice of white bread soaked in milk and they were made with only ground beef instead of the traditional beef, pork and veal mixture. In those days, there weren’t many kosher cookbooks to use and the Food Network or Internet hadn’t been invented yet. Jewish home cooks made traditional foods: brisket, cholent, stuffed cabbage, roast chicken, with recipes passed down from mother to daughter. The truth is, my mother didn’t like many of the traditional foods so she was forced to improvise. But she loved French food. So by desire and through design, she prepared delicious food and made it kosher.
It was that kind of ingenuity that got me started, but it was really when the chef/owner of the first catering company I ever worked for told me that I didn’t really need to go to culinary school to learn to cook and become a chef, I just needed to work the masters. So I did. Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, the textbook from The Culinary Institute of America. I learned of lot of information from them about different cuts of vegetables, about mise en place, about ingredient pairing and how to hold a knife and how important it is to keep them sharp. I trained in professional kitchens, which is really where the magic happens. Taking those beautiful recipes and multiplying them for a crowd - which will work and which won’t. How to modify certain recipes so that they will work for a large crowd. Timing and prepping and working as a team in the kitchen. These were all were important skills to learn that all helped to get me to my goal of becoming a chef.
After working in catering for a few years, I embarked on one of my favorite jobs. I ran the culinary program at my local Sur La Table. This meant class programming, menu planning, working with many different chefs and cookbook authors, as well as selling retail products. Since I used most of the items that Sur La Table sold anyway, this was sort of a no brainer for me. It also allowed me to keep learning from more experienced, highly creative chefs, as well as getting me back to something I had stopped doing: teaching. After about a year, the corporate office closed all the culinary programs in an effort to redesign the program. I worked the retail side for a while before getting back into catering, working both in the kitchen cooking and prepping, as well as in the office selling and planning events.
One thing I noticed throughout my career was that people not only asked me for recipes, or how to make something specific, but they also asked me if what they were making was good for them. Since it was an interest of mine to find out how the body works with food, and what foods are used for fuel and what foods stall, I did a certification as a Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Just the name of the program spoke to me: integrating health with nutrition. Right up my alley!
I learned many different dietary theories: Low Glycemic, Paleo, Gluten Free, just to name a few. But I also learned about how all aspects of life affects our health: our work environment, our relationships, our finances, stress. These all play a huge role in our lives and in our health.
Now as I embark on another path in my career, I have the tools to answer everyone’s questions: what to cook, is it healthy, can you teach me to make it, and is it kosher? And, of course, can you do it for me?
The answer to all being, yes, of course! Ask me how!Get In Touch With Me!