on the creative aspects of capital cooking
Producing gives you full creativity. I get to decide everything from the guests, to the menu to outfits and make up. A good episode leaves the viewer wanting to try to make the food at home. Thorough explanations, tips and great visuals of the food. I want people to walk away inspired and hungry.
I'm way more adventurous with what I cook. As I've learned about so many different types of food along my Capital Cooking journey, I've become more comfortable with new ingredients and I try to incorporate those into my recipes. I used to do a lot of Italian cooking, but now I like to mix it up. One night I might make a Moroccan tagine, the next a Thai noodle dish, etc. Lately, I've been focusing on healthy meals. Food writers have to be careful because all of that good food catches up to you. Before my baby, I was going out 3-4 nights a week and eating everything on the menu. Now, I've cut back to 1 night a week and cook lighter food at home.
Yes, but we've taken a filming break for a while. You can still find me on DC's Channel 8 as a frequent guest on Let's Talk Live and Good Morning, Washington. The production side is a ton of work and I'm not ready to juggle that part at the current moment, but maybe when the baby gets a little older.
That said, we work together well. Corey went to all of the production classes with me when I first started the show and was supportive all along the way. He's always there to give honest advice on what looks good and ideas on how to make it look even better. We spent countless weekends and vacations filming episodes (probably about 50 under our belts).
on travel and cooking
Location obviously plays a huge factor into cuisine. Many chefs like to cook with local and seasonal ingredients. These ingredients are going to vary widely dependent on the climate, soil, etc. For instance, Sweden is known for pickled herring. This is a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages to preserve the fish for transportation. They take advantage of the abundance of herring in the North and Baltic Seas. Another example related to the climate is the spiciness of the food in Thailand. At first, it was confusing to me as to why you'd want to eat spicy food when it is already so hot. They eat the spicy food to sweat so it actually cools them off.
Although chefs may be working many miles from one another, there are also similarities in cuisine. Many chefs are still trained in the standard French technique. You can find that in food from all over the world. From there, the creativity is endless.
on her cooking background and growing as a cook
Despite being single, my mom did lots of cooking... so much so that my sister and I were a bit spoiled and I didn't really learn to cook until college. A lot of that had to do with the small kitchen size. I wanted to help out, but there simply wasn't enough room for more than one in the kitchen. My favorites growing up were my mom's Chicken Dutchess, Chicken Tetrazzini and Lasagna. We're Italian so that's where my heart is when it comes to cooking.
When my mom was away, my nana was cooking every night. Her home-cooked meals were the best! I still crave her mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak, and cheesy garlic bread.
Eating well is still the key to every family gathering. We have a large family (my mom is one of 9 kids) so there's always a huge spread. No gathering is complete without my nana's spinach balls and potato salad. I've carried on the tradition here in DC by hosting friends, at least twice a year, for huge meals.
I had a good handle on being a home cook, at the time, but I had no background in French technique. I love learning and I wanted to expand my knowledge on cooking. That's the thing, there's always more to learn... food evolves and so do recipes and techniques. It was the most fun I've ever had in school. I really learned to cook without a recipe and to use my instincts on taste to guide me. I'd love to do even more training in Italy, someday.
tips for hosting
I still make a signature cocktail for all of my parties. It is always a hit! I'll be making my Winter Sangria this week.
The best lessons I've learned when cooking for a large group are: make sure to plan ahead; prepare a menu that includes dishes that you can do the prep work in advance; keep the table simple; have fun! Sometimes it can be stressful and overwhelming when thinking about cooking for so many people, but if you think through everything and get your recipes ready with enough time, things should be great. Also, don't be afraid to asks your guests to bring a dish. I love a good potluck.
I've already begun raising a little foodie. When I'm not cooking, I'm food writing and she's my newest dining companion. She tastes it all. One of her favs is foie gras ;)
I definitely want to pass down the tradition of delicious home-cooked meals with family and friends. There's nothing better than cooking for the ones you love. I already have her in the kitchen with me and am teaching her some of my top secret tips. She loves to have tastes and see what's going on. As soon as she gets a little bigger, she'll be by my side. I could use a little sous chef! We also have dinner as a family every night.
Something's gotta give :) You can't do it all and it is okay to cut back. I'm still a shareholder at a law firm, food/travel writer and now a mommy. I've had to cut back a bit to live a manageable life. Baby comes first, and I just love being a mom. I still make time for cooking and food writing because it is important to me, but I'm choosy. I can't go to every event and dinner, but I still go to some. I'm lucky that I have a team of other writers that help out with the blog. At the law firm, I'm working a flexible schedule so I can spend more time with my daughter. It has been such a blessing because I'm still able to advance my career, but I don't feel like I'm missing out on the special moments of motherhood.
last little tidbit...
My husband's boss throws the best Christmas parties. I look forward to it every year. The decorations are beautiful and the food is delicious. The best part is the spiked eggnog. You have to be careful because it is really strong. The menu includes crab claws, lamb chops, gorgeous desserts, etc. The ropes are removed in the East Wing and you get to explore.