What do I like about food? Everything! Food is my passion. At breakfast, I’m thinking about lunch. At lunch, I’m thinking about dinner. I like the shopping (going to local Farmers’ Markets and exploring any ethnic grocery stores that cross my path) the prepping and most importantly I like the eating.
I come from a long line of Latino cooks. I grew up with espresso, black beans and rice, dark rum, roasted chickens, olive oil, garlic, lemon, cilantro etc.etc… Big family gatherings centered around food were a common ritual in my home. There was never a lack of loud music; loud talk; and loud, colorful food. When I was four, my mother gave me an easy bake oven. She is convinced that is what sparked my food obsession. I’m sure it helped, but I think it was the “family thing” that gave me the food thing.
I wasn’t always thrilled about my Latino roots.I gave my father strict orders never to make the fish with the eyeballs when I had new friends over. Unfortunately my grandmother never got the order and she made it, I was mortified (if either of you dad, momma, are reading this from heaven right now I’m sorry, that fish with the eyeballs has been a great special at the restaurant for years). To my big surprise my friend loved it she was half-Japanese, and like myself, had grown up experiencing different kinds of foods. The first time I went to her house, we snacked on seaweed. I didn’t like the seaweed as much as she liked the fish with the eyeballs nevertheless, that moment marked my introduction to Asian fare, which, to this day, is the perfect partner for my beloved Latino cuisine. Both cuisines have high impact flavors and can be made with low impact fat. This is very important to me; while I want my food to be tasty and dynamic, it must also be wholesome, and nourishing.
When I ventured into the restaurant business, I was a young, single mother with two babies to feed. I had no formal education or training in any field of study. However, these were the things I did have:
• $15,000 borrowed from my brother and his wife
• A mother, father and family who have given me constant and total support no matter how scary it got
• A partner (now husband), William, with taste, vision, and relentless persistence
• And last but not least, the blessing in disguise: the naiveté to think that we could pull this off, against all odds, with our limited resources. Starting a restaurant that seated 70 people with a mere $30,000 was, well…ambitious.
I threw myself into this business with blind passion. My restaurant became my life, and I was hell-bent to make it work. It was taking a toll on my family. I came home exhausted everyday. When I walked through the front door, my boys were like baby birds chirping “Hungry, hungry, hungry.” To this day, the first thing my boys say to me when I pick them up from school is “I’m hungry.”
The last thing I wanted to do when I’d come home from the restaurant was cook. I was tired after working all day. But I also didn’t want to give my family to go food from the restaurant every night. Cooking for your family (or friends) is a very special thing. I didn’t want to lose that.
Believe me, I know why cooking at home is on the verge of extinction in our hustle-bustle lives. After working all day, you’re just too tired to start thinking about shopping, cooking, and cleaning. These are the moments when take-out, fast-food, and frozen, prepacked, processed foods start looking really good. I was tempted, but, little by little, I began to incorporate the quick cooking methods I’d learned in my restaurant into my kitchen at home. I learned that using fewer, fresh ingredients you can make a diverse and interesting meal.
Think of it this way, when you go to a restaurant, you order, then wait 15 to 30 minutes for your food. It doesn’t take the chef three hours to make your meal. He or she is already prepared (the term is called “prepped” in kitchen lingo). The chef doesn’t have to shop, clean the meat, cut the vegetables, or measure spices for that magic sauce. All of that is done ahead of time, portioned out, and ready to go.
I’m writing this blog to teach you some of the things that I’ve learned throughout the years of my crazy restaurant life. It may sound like simple logical advice now, but believe me there was a lot of pain and suffering that went with this learning experience. I’ll pass on some tips, some recipes, a little bit about my life and a lot about my food life.
My blog will teach you to be organized at home the way a chef is in his or her restaurant kitchen. I’ll help you form a bond with your sparkling clean freezer and pantry. (We’ll get to that later; don’t be scared). I’ll show you that it’s okay to shop from your freezer as long as everything you have stocked is fresh, handpicked, and homemade. Your family and friends will love it, and they’ll love you for it. Your life—or at the very least your foodlife and maybe if your lucky your waistline—will be changed with this wisdom. And if that’s not enough, once your slim new self is ready, I guarantee that you will be able to throw a killer party with some of my party tips and recipes for awesome cocktails and party snacks.
I’m a lazy cook. If I see a recipe with too many ingredients, I back off quickly. I like my food simple, tasty, nourishing—and yet—still eclectic. I have discovered much of what can help you in this regard. Avoiding the prepacked, processed food will take some time and energy. But remember that the purpose of food is to nourish your body and soul so that you can go out and enjoy the rest of your life, not raise your cholesterol, fill your body with preservatives, or keep you chained to the stove every night. It takes commitment to take the high road. And you can do it!
Many good things will come from following the tips in this blog. I love that I am able to share my knowledge and experience with you. I hope that I can provide you with a road map to further enjoy the pleasures of simple, effective, and tasty food.
Welcome to your new kitchen!