1. Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
Growing up in Croatia with my parents and grandparents, everything was about food. If we weren't cooking, we were preparing; if we weren't preparing, we were talking about it. Our main course was lunch—lots of vegetable stews. For dinner, we had leftovers or something light like a big bowl of salad in the summer or, in the winter, baked potato halves with smoked meat and sauerkraut or polenta with milk or homemade yogurt.
Every afternoon there was Turkish coffee for the adults and sweets for the kids, from apples baked with sugar and cinnamon, crêpes with homemade jams, fruit compote, strudels, or a simple šato (an egg custard beaten with sugar, chocolate, coffee, or brandy). But the best memory I have is of the house smelling of freshly baked bread. It was baked daily, and my brother and I believed it was treat when my mom had to buy loaf of bread in the store. Coming to Canada and living in Toronto, where there are nearly 200 ethnic groups and over 140 languages are spoken, was a big eye-opener for me. There is food that I didn't know existed, and my mission is to try some, if not all, of it. So, long story short, my whole life is connected to food.
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." —Maya Angelou
2. What is your least favorite kitchen task?
My least favorite task is cleaning—not the dishes, as I like to do dishes as I cook—but cleaning up afterwards.
3. Your favorite kitchen tool?
My favorite tool is my chef's knife.
4. What is your idea of comfort food?
5. What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
When firefighters decided to join me in making dandelion honey. Nobody was hurt, no serious damages, except my house smelled of smoke for a week.
Photo of ribs by Bobbi Lin; photos of salad and cabbage by James Ransom