What's your least favorite food?
There is a Utah thing called "fry sauce." Folks swear by the stuff, and growing up I remember they put it on every burger, sandwich, and even on fries, to the point where it was a textural mess and masked the other ingredients. It is a mix of ketchup and jarred mayo, both of which I really don't like (if you have every seen a shelf-stable 5-gallon jar of mayo, you may understand). I like to make my own mayo if I am going to eat it; I am a condiment-phobe. People find this very odd, as mayo and ketchup have devout followings.
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What is the best thing you've made so far this year?
I must say the most addictive thing I have made this year is a play on Chinese chicken salad. I added rice noodles and gave it the same dressing as my tahini noodle recipe, tossed with jicama, fried wonton skins, lettuce, and carrots. I could live off the stuff. It's a hard choice though, because I did a Greek play on hassleback potatoes that was incredible—the smell as it bakes is the preview and everyone wants to peek in the oven to see where the aroma is coming from. It's one of those dishes that you could bring to a potluck and everyone could eat—no gluten, vegan, and so delicious!
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
I was staging at a restaurant while I was in culinary school. We were plating a luncheon of 500 plates. I was instructed to go grab more penne from the hot box, but I didn't anticipate the weight of pan and spilled 100 servings on the floor—and as a server was dashing in to grab plates, he slipped in the pasta pile and flew in the air. I was relieved of my duties shortly after that, and reviled by the chef.
What is your idea of comfort food?
The most comforting food to me right now is the sabich sandwich at the Falafel House PDX cart in Portland. I get it with crispy, perfect, falafel instead of egg, and with the mixture of the pickled goodies, tahini sauce, harissa, eggplant, hummus, and housemate pita. And it just happens to be vegan, which blows my mind as I was raised in steak-and-potato country. (I included a pic because I am obsessed. It's the best $8 you can spend in Portland, in my opinion.)
Apron or no apron?
Apron! They are essential for me, as I get into my prep heavily and it's a place to hang a towel. Essential!
What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?
Any scene in Babette's Feast. I watched this film with my mother twice, and I think it is an incredible view of the power of good home cooking, and I love to see all the ingredients she uses. I also love the scene in Chef when Jon Favreau's character cooks a meal after work for the front-of-house manager, played by Scarlett Johansson. It's a pasta with lots of garlic, oil, pepper, and cheese, and it's a sultry scene with gorgeous cinematography. It made me feel a little less weird about my passion for food.
Who is someone you'd love to cook for, and why?
I love to cook for anyone who is hungry, but I do wish I could cook for my grandmother on my father's side. I never got to meet her but my dad tells me stories of how incredible her cooking was. She came to America from Greece, and would do everything the way it was done there. Dad would tell me about how she would make homemade pasta and hang it on hangers around her modest home, and how her lamb is the only lamb he has ever liked. I would love to cook for her to get some criticism, pointers, and her seal of approval.