AM: It’s also so inclusive to food diversity from a geographical standpoint. This season’s Top Chef was in Kentucky and one of our Co-Founders is from Indiana and many of the recipes that were made this season were also indicative of areas she grew up in and which allows audiences to connect from that standpoint as well.
GS: Exactly there is a lot of food overlap and that is what makes our show so fun. You don’t have to be a great cook to identify with loving food or understanding the history of this country. Food plays such a great role in that and in our families in the way that we eat, the way that we go out, the way that we celebrate and we try to stay true to the locations that we go to.
AM: How would you define, your style of cooking?
GS: I think my cooking is spontaneous and changes with a season. I’m a mom and I think my food has changed a lot since I became a mother. I want flavor and I want it to be healthy and easy to make because I don’t want to give people recipes that will take them 3 days in the kitchen and I certainly don’t have time to dedicate that. So my style really calls from all of my travel experience and my childhood which has a lot of influences. People always ask me, “what’s your favorite thing to cook?” I never have one favorite thing, it always depends on the time of year, where I traveled to last, the ingredients that I am most excited about and then ways that I go about organizing them and being the most efficient in the kitchen to get the most flavor by doing the least to the great quality of food that I have.
AM: Because you have done so much in the food industry, are there other projects that you would love to be a part of that you have yet to tackle – but would want to?
GS: I think there are so many things. There is so much travel that I want to do and I think that giving back to the community that helped me for so long is really important to me and there are so many ways to do that right now. Cooking is such a life skill, so not only does it nourish people, but it teaches people to translate that skill into a job anywhere where they are. Certainly, there are so many things where food applies to our lives, whether it’s politics or math and science. Teaching my child to cook, you become some conscious of that and so just teaching is always in the background for me, whether it’s through books or in television championing my industry, and giving back to my community through all of these different channels is always top of mind and there are always more things to be done.
AM: With Spring being here finally as we see the leaves on the trees – there are so many Spring holidays coming up and reasons to just come together just because. What are some trends taking place in the kitchen that we can incorporate right now into our dishes just to change things up?
GS: I think that Spring is just the most exciting moment in the year because we have all just been in hibernation for so long and I got real cozy with lots of soups and stews over the winter but I am ready for bright new ingredients. I am really excited about bringing all of those fresh herbs, fresh flavors, different fruits and vegetables into my diet that I haven’t been able to get all winter long. But I also want to be efficient with what I am cooking and because there are holidays in the Spring where you are cooking for a crowd often of all ages with family and friends with Easter and Passover – you really want to optimize your time in the kitchen. My entertaining strategies are always about finding recipes that you can be organized with and prepare as much as possible with in advance, so that when guests do arrive you’re just doing the minimal to get food on the table so that you can spend time with them.
AM: People come by unexpectedly sometimes. What do you suggest that we should always have in our fridges so that we can ensure that we are always ready as sometimes you never know when Auntie May comes by!
GS: Yes and there’s nothing to eat – it’s true! I mean I think with a few simple ingredients, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, there are ways to use them so that you’re picking ingredients that are versatile. A few products that I love are having lots of fresh herbs in my fridge and lots of citrus as they can be added to lots of things from pasta to cottage cheese. They can be turned into so many things in so many different ways. Or even eggs that they can go on top of. I love keeping good quality dairy products as they are always in my fridge. As I said, herbs and citrus, cheese, eggs, and then as much fresh ingredients as possible. So if you have salad greens or you have a few key bowls of berries, you can make 100 different things. Breakfast for example, is a time where I feel that people run out of ideas. There are a ton of things going on in the morning or if you’re entertaining in the morning there is a lot you have to do so quickly. If you have people over for brunch for Easter for example, if you can think a little ahead of time – you can make a really beautiful statement with minimal work. One thing that I always advocate is big batch cooking. I love making granola for example and I make it a week in advance in a big batch that I can eat throughout the week and I can have it as my go-to to put on top of things in the morning. Or just eat it as a handful to grab and go as a snack. When you have granola and some fresh berries, granola in the fridge and cottage cheese, then there you have the perfect protein packed, versatile and easy breakfast parfait that looks great and beautiful for everyone.
AM: When you are planning for 8-10 people that you know are coming for a dinner party, people get overwhelmed with the idea of tackling this – what do you do?
GS: I always make sure that I make my list and be organized. I can never underestimate how important that, is especially when you have guests arriving. Try not to do too many things and remember that you can ask for help. I think that people forget to do that. If I’m having people over, I want to think 2 days out about what I can do and then 1 day out, what I can do. Sometimes that feels daunting – no one has 3 days to make a meal, but I’m not talking about major cooking. Just marinating your meat in the morning so that 8 hours later when you cook it, it has all that flavor that is already done. That’s just 20 minutes in the morning and then you’re ready to cook as soon as guests arrive and it’s the same when you’re making your dressings in advance if you’re making a salad. I love making bowls – grain bowls for example, so doing things like making the dressing in advance, washing the lettuce, if I’m using quinoa or another grain like that – cooking it in advance really takes 15 minutes and then it’s cooled and ready to go and it’s in your fridge and all you’re doing is really assembly.
AM: What are 3 ingredients that you always have in your kitchen that are really good for versatile dishes?
GS: I would say that right now it’s fresh herbs, lemons because I use every part of the lemon from the juice to the zest and Hood Cottage Cheese because I feel it is the most versatile dairy product that I have that everyone loves and you can do so many things with it.