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Congratulations to Bevi, whose Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears and Pistachios won the contest for Your Best Green Holiday Side!
Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
My grandmother cooked and baked constantly for her hotel guests in the summer. We ate all of our meals with her the rest of the year, as well. I helped her mix, stir, make applesauce, knead bread, start soups, and bake cakes and pies. Cooking has been a huge part of my life since I was a child.
More: There's a lot to learn from working in a professional kitchen.
Working in the hotel kitchen with my family (my mom was in charge of cold appetizers and salads; my dad took on the entrées and desserts) instilled a great work ethic in my sisters and me -- especially when it came to preparing, assembling, serving, and cooking for crowds. Hearing my mom, dad, and grandmother receive thanks from our guests taught me that it's a real blessing to cook and share food with friends and family.
What's your least favorite kitchen task?
I am a messy cook, so cleaning up after myself is depressing. I try my best to clean as I go, but sometimes it's just not happening.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
I like my Microplane, but the large metal spatula in the photo above is a tool my dad loved -- for that reason, I use it often.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
Kitchen disasters occur weekly: Two weeks ago, I cut myself badly with a knife. Last week, a "heatproof" platter filled with Mediterranean poppers exploded.
First photo by Alpha Smoot, last two photos by Bevi, all others by James Ransom