Love Chef, Take Two

We were first introduced to Chef Jernard Wells, better known as The Love Chef, back in 2012 after his appearance on Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell. We recently caught up with Chef Jernard after learning about his new restaurant in Atlanta, East Wave Fusion.

Chef Jernard Wells aka 'The Love Chef'

Chef Jernard Wells aka ‘The Love Chef’

FP: Share with us what you’ve been up to since we last interacted. 

JW: I launched a sauce manufacturing company, LeChef  Amours Haute’ Cuisine, competed in the World Food Championship and placed 3rd in the Seafood category. I also won Cutthroat Kitchen, on Food Network, in the episode, ‘Anything But A Cake Walk.”

FP: Great list of accomplishments! Do you sleep? ;)

Congrats on the opening of your new restaurant, East Wave Fusion, in Atlanta. How did the restaurant concept come about?

JW: The restaurant concept came about by the two Asian founders that have traveled the world and wanted to bring all of the many cuisines together, “hint of fusion”, under one roof to the Atlanta area. They united with me as an Executive Chef to bring their experiences combined with mine together to bring the recipes and vision to light.

FP: Sounds like a delicious concept!

You were on Chef Wanted and won Cutthroat Kitchen. Share with us the similarities and differences of competing on both shows.

JW: The shows were very similar in that they were fast paced, competitive, and required you to be able to work under pressure. Cutthroat Kitchen is different in the fact that it is unpredictable. The challenges that you are met with in the kitchen requires requires you to think fast, think outside the box, and work under extreme circumstances to prepare dishes.

FP: We can’t imagine the pressure, especially under Alton Brown’s watchful eyes.

In addition to cooking at East Wave Fusion, what else is keeping you busy?

JW: I am still traveling and catering while running and promoting my manufacturing company. They are keeping me very busy. My products can be found in local groceries. I am often dropping by stores to promote and demo the products. In addition, I am asked to appear as a guest on many local new segments.

FP: Good to keep busy! Any other projects in the works?

JW: I am working on another cookbook and I am really working on getting my own show on the network.

FP: So you’re saying we’ll see you on Food Network again in the future?

JW: Yes, I am very sure of that. Stay tuned in to Food Network!

FP: We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you. Thank you again for your time!

Lunar New Year

We recently celebrated Chinese New Year with a visit to Fantasy Cuisine in Hartsdale. If you read our post back in December, you know that this restaurant is half of FP (Allen’s) go-to place when in the mood for soup dumplings while also saving a drive into NYC.

To celebrate the Year of the Goat, we treated ourselves with the following:

Whether for celebration or good food, we highly recommend Fantasy Cuisine the next time you’re in the mood for some spice and delicious flavors. We wish everyone a prosperous Lunar New Year!

Fantasy Cuisine
20 N. Central Avenue
Hartsdale, NY 10580

Scream for Ice Cream

Even with the chilly temps we’ve been experiencing lately, there’s always room for a little ice cream. Penny Lick Ice Cream Company is a local favorite of ours in Westchester County and we recently reached out to Chef Ellen Sledge, also known as The Ice Cream Lady, to learn about the inspiration behind this sweet company.

Penny Lick Ice Cream Company

Penny Lick Ice Cream Company

FP: We like to treat ourselves to ice cream once in awhile. How did the concept of Penny Lick come about? Where can consumers find your ice cream?

ES: My background is in pastry, primarily in restaurants. Fine dining restaurants generally make their own ice creams for their desserts, and I have made lots of ice cream! When I thought of launching my own brand I knew I would have stiff competition from other small brands. So I committed Penny Lick to being as artisanal and natural as possible. Our dairy is pasteurized but not “ultra-pasteurized” and come from small farms in the Hudson Valley. We have wonderful relationships with lots of NY farmers, from whom we source the majority of our ingredients. We never use artificial stabilizers or emulsifiers or extracts or food colorings. Our ingredients list is old-fashioned for our industry, and exactly what we feel it should be: premium heavy cream, cream lined whole milk, egg yolks, cane sugar or local maple syrup or honey. A “penny lick” is an old fashioned style of vending ice creams, pre-dating ice cream cones, where customers were served a lick of ice cream out of tulip shaped glassware from a push cart. We don’t use the glassware, but we do use push carts! You can find our carts at Stone Barns, farmers markets such as Hastings, Irvington, Bronxville, and at countless festivals and events, such as Stone Barns Harvest Festival or the 92nd Street Y chocolate festival. We’re working on more locations soon, which will be listed on our site and social media.

FP: We love your local commitment and look forward to seeing Penny Lick in more locations!

Looking at the website, Penny Lick sure has some delicious flavors! What are some of your favorite toppings or flavor combinations?

ES: My favorite flavor combinations: Hot fudge and anything, butterscotch and anything,  popcorn and peanuts, and blond chocolate. (If you’re unfamiliar, that’s white chocolate, slightly heated in a pan or oven first-turns a golden color and releases a caramel aftertaste.)

FP: Blond chocolate sounds delicious!

When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in Westchester County or other places you’ve visited.

ES: We love to travel. We don’t always have the time, or budget, but we make the most of what we have. Most of our family trips are spent visiting family and friends, most often my husband’s huge family in Hawaii. When we get there, we go straight to Leonard’s in Honolulu for malasadas (Portugese donuts ); my favorites are filled with lilikoi (passion fruit) custard. In Hawaii we love to cook with family, or get take out from Korean BBQ spots or Tamashiro Market. My husband travels for work; sometimes I meet him for an extended weekend. Our last long weekend was in Nice and Monte Carlo. We ate at Keisuke Matsushima in Nice – best meal of my life! (Oh, and best Italian meal of my life outside of my grandmother’s house was in Addis Ababa!) When we do get out, we always go to a great restaurant and get the tasting menu. Mostly, we cook at home. Our kids are a bit young, a bit loud, and not incredibly adventurous eaters. Yet.

FP: Ice cream is one of our guilty pleasures. What are some of yours? (if any)? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name. :) 

ES: I make popcorn almost every day.  I prefer red wine, but I love really oaky Californian Chardonnays paired with buttered movie theater popcorn. And once in a while, my husband and I have champagne and caviar for dinner. It’s an expensive tradition, so we save it for either an exceptionally great day or an exceptionally bad day.

FP: We hope there are more good days than bad! 

When you’re not busy operating Penny Lick, what are your hobbies/interests? What’s a day off like for you?

ES: I’m at the stage in my life where I have little time for hobbies. I have a wonderful husband and three children (Madeline is 11, Sebastian is 8, Adelaide is 5), and we recently moved my 93 year old grandmother into a nursing home a mile away from us. They all get dibs on my free time, and I am quite happy with that.

FP: Sounds like you have your priorities in order indeed! Thank you so much for your time. We’re ready for a scoop of Penny Lick (Roasted Strawberry for Allen, Ethiopian Macchiato for Kristina) right now!

If you’re interested supporting Penny Lick, they have an open crowd funding campaign for a new truck and packaging running ’til early March. Learn more here!

Say Cheese

Half of Foodie Pleasure (Kristina) loves cheese so it was a pleasant surprise that a recent Chopped episode was titled “Say Cheese!” The chefs had to use two types of cheese in each round, and we enjoyed seeing how the the varieties took shape throughout the rounds. As you know, we live and work in NY and are always excited to see local chefs in the Chopped kitchen. In this case, we were pleased to watch Chef Maurizio Crescenzo, owner of Grano Trattoria (Greenwich Village) and Taverna Di Bacco (Lower East Side), be named Chopped Champion. We caught up with him after his victory to learn more about him.

Chef Maurizio Crescenzo

Chef Maurizio Crescenzo

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

MC: When I was 14 years old, I worked as a welder in Naples, Italy. Every day the workers would rotate who would cook lunch. When it was my day, a customer came in and was wowed by the aroma of my meal. The customer convinced me that I should go to culinary school and that is the path I took. I attended I.P.A.S. (Istituto Professionale Alberghiero Di Statoculinary) culinary school in Italy. I didn’t like the studying part of school, but I loved to cook!

My family lived on a farm so we always had fresh ingredients to use. This made cooking more accessible because all the ingredients I needed were right on my own property. Food was always the highlight of our day because we would get home from a long day of working and want to come home and eat.

FP: Sounds like you were born to be in the kitchen!

Congrats again on winning Chopped! Tell us about your experience on the show. 

MC: My experience on Chopped was incredibly enlightening and humbling as well as stressful and enjoyable. We got to the studio at 6:00AM and didn’t leave until 11:30PM, so it was an extremely long day. My adrenaline was sky high which gave me the energy to pull through and win the competition.

Being on Chopped was a way for me to showcase my creativity and ability to cook under pressure. The most important lesson I learned is that you need to stick with what you know and rely on your skills. My cuisine is very homey and laid-back which is the style I wanted to come through in the dishes I prepared on the show.

FP: We can only imagine the pressure in the Chopped kitchen!

What was the hardest ingredient to work with? 

MC: I was lucky enough to be featured on the ‘Say Cheese!’ episode, so the mystery baskets were filled with various cheeses and items that I have previously cooked with. The hardest ingredient for me was garlic scapes because I had never worked with them before. I thought they would make a good seasoning so I used them to flavor my Chicken Cacciatore with cheese mashed potatoes.

FP: We could go for some Chicken Cacciatore and cheese mashed potatoes right now!

What are your plans for the $10,000 award?

MC: With the $10,000 award, I plan to set up a fund for my best friend from Italy who passed away several years ago. He left behind a wife and two children, so the fund will be used by his family for travel expenses to visit America, which was always a life-long dream. Family and friends are extremely important to me so I am happy to make this dream come true.

FP: What a generous and honorable way to give back! 

The menus at both Grano Trattoria and Taverna Di Bacco look delicious! Tell us how you came up with concept for both restaurants. 

MC: When I first came to America, I barely spoke any English and I didn’t really know much about the neighborhoods in NYC. I was given an opportunity to open Grano Trattoria in Greenwich Village and took a chance when opening it up. The menu at Grano is more low-key food that reminds me of being back home in Italy. There is a brick oven where I like to do most of my cooking, especially when making pizzas.

As for Taverna di Bacco, I took a risk when opening it in the Lower East Side in 2011. The neighborhood is more young and sophisticated but I researched the area and knew a change was coming. Bacco has a bigger bar than Grano and has later business hours to keep up with the surrounding area. This is a very homey and neighborhood friendly restaurant. I really enjoy walking around the restaurant and introducing myself to all of the customers.

FP: We hope to visit both restaurants in the near future! 

What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself or for family and friends?

MC: I really love to host gatherings with my family and friends because when I do, I enjoy surprising my guests. They think since they are going to an Italian chef’s house they will be served your typical Italian food, but that is not the case. I love cooking exotic food and experimenting with ingredients. A few months ago I made my guests lobster with spicy mango sauce and it was really delicious.

Besides preparing exotic food, I enjoy making soup because it is one of my favorite dishes to cook for my guests. I don’t have a preference in what type of soup, but as you saw in my Chopped episode love is the main ingredient in my soup.

My favorite meat to cook is roasted lamb. I love to prepare lamb with a side of vegetables and add some Indian spices.

FP: Cooking with love is key!

When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in NYC or other areas you’ve visited.

MC: For special occasions I love to go to Mas Farmhouse in Greenwich Village.

I also love Komegashi which is a Japanese restaurant located in Jersey City.

FP: We hear Mas Farmhouse is great! We interviewed Chef Galen Zamarra back in 2012. 

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name :)

MC: My guilty pleasure is to take six inches of bread and scoop out the inside. Then I stuff it with mozzarella cheese and prosciutto with some spices and olive oil. Once I put all my ingredients inside, I cook it in the oven until the cheese is melted. This is similar to a panini, but it is definitely my guilty pleasure.

FP: We like the sound of that!

What are some of your non-cooking/food related interests and hobbies?

MC: Spending time with my wife and twin daughters is my favorite thing to do when I am not cooking. Besides spending time with my family, I love to ride my bicycle. During the spring and fall I bring my bike into the city and ride it back and forth between my two restaurants.

FP: Thank you so much for your time. We wish you continued success with your restaurants!

The Sweet Stuff

We hope everyone enjoyed their Valentine’s Day yesterday. If you’re anything like us, you enjoyed plenty of sweets and maybe a little vino. We got a head start on Valentine’s Day last week by attending Stamford’s Shelter for Homeless’ Chocolate, Dessert & Wine Lover’s Evening which took place at the Stamford Marriot. There was a great turnout for the event with all proceeds going to the shelter.

We indulged  in various desserts, a few savory food items and dwine from over 70 different businesses, bakeries and restaurants.

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Learn more about the programs and events offered by Stamford’s Shelter for the Homeless by visiting their website.

Cheers for 25 Years

Our past interviews with Chef Kelvin Fernandez, Pastry Chef Thiago Silva and Food Network Star Yvan Lemoine introduced us to the non-profit organization, Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP). We’ve been fortunate to attend great C-CAP events in the past and are excited for this year’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Benefit taking place on March 3rd at Chelsea Piers’ Pier Sixty.

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Former Chairman and CEO of Time Warner Dick Parsons and Restaurateur and Executive Chef Alexander Smalls will be honored at this year’s benefit. Parsons and Smalls are partners in the Harlem restaurants Minton’s and Cecil’s, which was recently named Best New Restaurant in America by Esquire Magazine.

Attendees will move from table to table, sampling delicious cuisine prepared by some of NYC’s most celebrated chefs, including Daniel Boulud of Daniel, Bryce Shuman of Betony, Michael White of Marea, and Dan Barber of Blue Hill. In addition, C-CAP Alumni Cesar Gutierrez of Lexington Brass and Veronica Rivera of Restaurant Marc Forgione. Cooking alongside the chefs will be more than 60 New York City C-CAP high school students and alumni. Click here for a full list of the renowned chefs and restaurants that will be in attendance.

All funds raised will support C-CAP’s programs providing scholarships, education, and career opportunities in the culinary arts to disadvantaged.

If you enjoy food, you do not want to miss this event! Tickets are selling fast so make sure to purchase your tickets here or by calling Emily Hewitt at (212) 974-7111. Trust us, you’ll be in for a delicious treat!

Cho Knows BBQ

If you read our post yesterday, you know that Allen had a delicious time visiting Kimchi Smoke, which recently popped up on the Lower East Side. Get to know the man behind Kimchi Smoke, BBQ Pitmaster and Chef Robert Austin Cho.

BBQ Pitmaster and Chef Robert Austin Cho

BBQ Pitmaster and Chef, Robert Austin Cho

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

RC: Although I’ve been cooking and grilling for a long time, my love for cooking came into full effect after watching an episode of Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay, where Flay challenged someone to smoked ribs. Ever since, I’ve been hooked on cooking with wood and smoke.

FP: We love the idea of your Kimchi Smoke pop-up! How did the concept come about?

RC: I won a couple of church cook-offs but I thought the real test to my BBQ skills would be selling it. If people would pay for my food, then I knew I had something. It took a couple of years, but I finally gave it shot in 2013 at a street festival and have been looking for spaces to showcase my food. I posted on Instagram that I was looking for a pop-up space and someone responded!

FP: Glad to hear your concept came to fruition!

Name three people you would like to cook in the same kitchen with and why.

RC: I’ve never met my wife’s grandfather, but he was a Grandmaster Chef at various restaurants in Chinatown. I would’ve learned so much from him. Everytime I make some Chinese dish, I always ask my wife, “Do you think your grandfather would’ve like this?”

That Korean lady from Youtube, Maangchi! I use her as a point of reference all the time. Plus, she seems like a real fun person. And cooking should always be fun.

Chef Edward Lee in Kentucky. His concept of cooking is similar to mine, incorporating Kimchi with Southern traditions. But of course, he is on another level. I think we would turn out some amazing food!

FP: Sounds like a great (and delicious) list! 

Outside of Kimchi Smoke, what are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself?

RC: I like making steamed flounder with ginger and scallions. Very simple, but very healthy and delicious. My kids really like spaghetti and meatballs.

FP: Can’t go wrong with good ol’ spaghetti and meatballs!

When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in NJ/NYC or other places you’ve visited.

RC: The best restaurant experience was at Gramercy Tavern. Excellent food and stellar service. I need to go back!

Lucky Eight in Brooklyn, Cosmo’s Italian Salumeria in Hackensack and Peck Peck Chicken in Teaneck are some good places too.

FP: We’ll add those places to our ever-growing list!

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name :)

RC: Raspberry Truffles and Salt & Vinegar Chips.

FP: We’re with you on those… good choices!

What are some of your non-cooking/food related interests and hobbies?

RC: Play and watch football.

FP: Speaking of football, what was Pete Carroll thinking on that last play in the Super Bowl?

RC: Yeah, I don’t know what Pete Carroll was thinking! As a Cowboys’ fan, I’m just glad Romo didn’t throw that pass. 

FP: Thank you so much for your time. We wish you continued success with Kimchi Smoke!