1. Please tell us a little more about yourself and how you started out as a chef.
I need to begin by explaining that Chef Mimi is simply a family nickname, and that I am not a trained chef, but a passionate, self-taught home cook. My French mother was truly inspirational, and exposed me to so many wonderful foods growing up.
I never even remember her opening a can. Everything we ate was fresh. I didn’t really learn how to cook until I married and had 2 daughters, and cooked every single day.
That’s when I really learned the techniques, how to get creative, and cook economically as well.
2. Is being a food writer difficult and what is the one advice you would give to people that are just starting out?
If you know food, and love to write, then you can be a food writer. I’ve only had my blog for 3 years, and even though it’s “work,” it’s work that I love. Plus, you’re your own boss!
But many years ago my sister claimed that everyone wants to be a freelance writer and no one could be successful at it. That was enough for me to begin sending out queries to magazines. Within a three-month period, I had articles in 3 publications, a 3-recipe article in Bon Appetit, and a recipe in Gourmet magazine. Then I had to stop because as much fun as it was, my priority was my children.
But my message is never let anyone tell you that something is impossible!
3. What is the best recipe you stumbled upon in your travels?
That’s an easy one. I had the best beet ravioli dish at Bistrot Bruno Loubet in London. It could have easily been my last meal if I had a choice in the matter!
4. What are your kitchen essentials?
I believe in all of the basics, like knives, good stirring spoons, whisks, tongs, and spatulas. You must spend good money on knives or they are worthless. As far as pots and pans, I haven’t ever noticed a huge difference in the inexpensive compared to the expensive.
For all the years I catered, I used my mother’s pots and pans that were well over 50 years old at the time, and they worked perfectly! I also own lots of mixing bowls of different sizes. I keep out my blender and food processor, and have easy access to my sous vide, meat grinder, and good roasting pans. And who can live without Tupperware?!!
5. Do you use a dishwasher and would you recommend one?
It’s difficult for me to understand anyone who would not use a dishwasher, although I know in some cities and in European kitchens, space is a huge factor.
I lucked in to a Bosch dishwasher when we moved in to our present home 11 years ago. What I really love, besides the fact that it works very well, is that it’s silent. But for me, the sanitizing benefit of a high-quality dishwasher outweighs not owning and using one.
6. How do you personally define “healthy food”?
I love this question, because I wear two hats in my kitchen. One part of me loves all things gourmet, all cuisines international, and I’m still exploring and experiencing new and different foods from around the world.
If I want to make a traditional dish, like pasta, I will use white flour, and not give it a second thought. The same thing for making good, French bread. However, healthy food to me doesn’t require too much compromise. My formative years were spent in California, and healthy food that was popular in the 70’s was tofu and lentil loaves.
I have nothing against those, but creating healthy food to me is simply about using healthier ingredients. Have you ever used whole grains and whole-grain flour to make a hearty loaf of bread? It’s fabulous! It may not be authentic, but it’s nourishing.
So that is my approach. And the more often I eat food I make with healthy ingredients, which is daily, then I don’t mind traveling to France and eating bread, cheese, and an occasional éclair!
7. Who is your favorite chef and what is your favorite recipe?
There are so many chefs I admire, even tv chefs, who often get a bad rap. People condemn Anthony Bourdain for being so opinionated, but he really is a chef and extremely knowledgeable. Gordon Ramsay seems to be known only for his ability to swear and be insulting, but I’ve learned so much from him.
I’ve been lucky to have dined at 2 of his restaurants, and they were both about perfection, which is exactly what I expected. Marco Pierre White had a similar, rough upbringing to the other Bourdain and Ramsay, which is interesting. But he single-handedly changed the route of the culinary world in England.
I’ve been to his restaurant in London called L’Escargot on 3 different occasions, and it was also perfect all three times. (It’s now been sold, sadly.) All three of these chefs have published biographies, and they’re very fascinating if you enjoy that kind of read.
But I’ve also been lucky to have met some chefs in person. For one daughter’s 18th birthday, we went to Chicago and had reservations at Charlie Trotter’s for her birthday meal. We ended up with the best table in the house, menus that had “Happy 18th Birthday Emma” on the top, and a special drink for each of us. I was so thrilled and pleased and appreciative, as was my daughter.
She was already well- traveled and was quite the foodie, even at 18. But then, Charlie himself escorted us around his restaurant, showed us the giant wine cellar, showed where he did cooking demonstrations, and then took us in to the kitchen. He allowed photos, and then pulled my daughter to the side and talked to her about college and her future for about 5 minutes.
He also gave us a goodie bag of cookbooks, some of his gourmet goodies, and a t-shirt. To have learned about his early demise in 2013 made me very sad. I can’t say he was a friend, but he was kind and selfless to have taken his time with us.
8. A message to your readers.
Get in the kitchen and cook!
It’s not rocket science. Keep going to the grocery store and have a well-stocked pantry. No one can cook without ingredients.
And don’t let anything go to waste – even one carrot. It’s not only more economical, it teaches you how to be more creative.
You don’t have to follow recipes to the tee!