Made By Meg

Our followers on Twitter know two things two things for certain about us on Tuesday evenings: 1) we’re watching Chopped and 2) we’re live-tweeting during the show. In addition to interacting with fellow viewers, we also enjoy tweeting with the contestants and getting to know them as individuals, win or lose. Recently, we caught up with Meg Hall, one of the show’s recent contestants.

Chef Meg Hall

Chef Meg Hall

FP: How did you get your start with cooking? 

MH: I started cooking in grade school but it was merely an obsession with making chocolate chip cookies. I have probably made a thousand batches by now – still working to perfect that! My real passion for cooking came about when my parents left town for the holidays and the rest of the family needed someone to cook the big meal. At 13 years old, I stepped up to cook and it was glorious! Not the food, per se, but the experience. I was hooked on cooking after that!

FP: Your clients are sure glad you stepped up to the plate at 13 years old!

How did the concept of Made by Meg come about?

MH: Made by Meg started as a very small idea while I was in cooking school. I externed at a Michelin Star restaurant in Los Angeles, Ortolan, then worked as a writer’s assistant to a cookbook author. I finally quit all those positions when a catering event conflicted with work in 2008. I haven’t looked back since!  Plus, I come from 5 generations of entrepreneurs and it was sort of expected that I start my own business at some point!

FP: Sounds like you were meant to be in business for yourself!

Tell us about your experience on Chopped from casting to being in front of the bright lights.

MH: The Chopped experience was extremely exciting and nerve racking. The casting team got in touch with me and I did a Skype interview, then found out I would be on the show. They have a huge back office team that was in touch from paperwork to travel to answering questions to sending the rules. It was awesome to be a part of show that was so organized.

The weeks and days leading up to the filming, I had friends and clients come in with “mystery” baskets and challenge me in my own kitchen. The practice rounds resulted in gorgeous plates and delicious flavors. I never had a problem with time until I was taping – arg!

FP: We can only imagine cooking under a time constraint. When Ted Allen counts down, we get so anxious, and we’re only watching! 

What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself? 

MH: I love to grill at home and experiment with different marinades. The grill is such a honest, straight forward cooking technique that I find relaxing. I also love making a quick stir fry for a healthy dinner. I like to play, “what’s in the fridge” and make a delicious meal out of leftovers.

FP: Name three chefs you would like to cook with in the same kitchen and why.

MH: Grant Achatz – I have less than 5 perfect meals in my entire life and one of them was at Alinea in Chicago (which is one of Grant’s restaurants). His style is very playful and is steeped in complex technique.  I’d love to learn from him!

Jamie Oliver – I’m a huge advocate of fixing the food system and getting people to eat healthier. Jamie has been such an important spokesperson in that effort and I really enjoy his recipes. Plus, his accent and way of instructing people is so approachable!

Julia Childs – I loved her role in developing the foodie culture today and her take on the classics. What a tremendous woman and leader – plus I think we’d have a lot of fun together!

FP: Great list of chefs indeed! 

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

MH: I don’t believe in good meals or great meals. I’m just happy to be fed and very rarely complement restaurants. This is a tough list to put together, but all these restaurants have earned my respect and business.

Alinea

1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614

After 3+ decades on this planet, this is my favorite restaurant of all time. I am a huge fan of any restaurant that commits 1,000% to their concept, their passion and their food. Alinea is just that.  Every day when service starts in Chicago, I think wistfully about what the diners have in store for them that night. The menu changes constantly and I can’t tell you my favorite. They were all my favorite. There are going to be tastes you aren’t familiar with or even like, but something about it works. It’s one of those places you can trust to make everything absolutely delicious and presented with incredible flair. I was floored with the look of the kitchen, the presentation, the friendly (!!) staff and most of all, the food. I will never travel to Chicago again without making a reservation at Alinea, as long as they serve.

MB Post

1142 Manhattan Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Chef David LeFevre single handedly changed and elevated the dining scene in the South Bay (Los Angeles) by opening this restaurant. I met David years before having a pint in a local pub. He’s devilishly clever, witty and pokes fun at every turn. That shows in every facet of MB Post. Being a native of Manhattan Beach and a chef, I am thrilled to have MB Post as a part of our community.  The beverage program is exemplary and the wine list has very few misses. Each dish is balanced and composed with care. One of my favorites is the Albondigas. If you’re so lucky or have tremendous patience, wait for a table at his spot next door, Fishing with Dynamite. Another culinary revelation that plays on David’s talent for seafood preparation.

Standing Room

144 N Catalina Ave
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

A far cry from fine dining, this little burger stand is tucked in the back of a liquor store in Redondo Beach. The burgers are OUTSTANDING and the fries are mandatory. The idea that you can serve gourmet burgers out of a ridiculously small kitchen and no indoor seating, is goddamn beautiful. These guys can get a bit of a ‘tude, but it’s only because they’re pumping out 100’s of orders a day.  They have made such a name for themselves that they are opening a second location in Hermosa Beach with seating. Way to take a small concept and make something of it. Proud to call these guys neighbors.

FP: Your list is making us hungry and ready to pack our bags!

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

MH: My guilty pleasures – so many!!!  I LOVE stinky, oozy cheese. I have absurd cravings for French Macarons, Frozen Yogurt, Foie Gras, and Pork Belly. I absolutely love sushi – good sushi.  If it’s terrible or even slightly off, I’ll pay my tab and leave without taking another bite.

FP: We love sushi, too– good sushi, that is!

What are some of your non-cooking related hobbies or interests? What do you like to do on your days off?

MH: I love to garden, but I seem to be terrible at it. We are currently working on (not killing) an herb garden at my restaurant. I love to read and play with my French Bulldog, Sugar. After rushing around at events or at my shop, being still and relaxing is so welcoming!

FP: Herb gardens can be harder than they look! Thank you, Meg for your time. We wish you continued success!

For more information on Chef Meg Hall, visit her website, http://www.meghall.com/.

Friday Night at The Ritz

Last Friday, we ended a long work week with dinner with friends at the Lobby Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton in White Plains, NY. Back in May, we attended ArtsBash and met Chef Kennardo Holder, Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton. We tasted his delicious veggie burger at the event and also learned more about him in our interview so it was fitting to stop by The Ritz-Carlton to taste more of his cooking.

It was Friday, so of course we started off with drinks. Kristina enjoyed Prosecco and, per our friend Keisha, the Ritz-Carlton Martini was perfect!

Martini and wine to start!

Martini and Prosecco to start!

Next we ate some delicious appetizers. The crab cake was prepared with just the right amount of kick and the mozzarella with pesto was light and refreshing.

It was hard to choose from all the great choices on the menu but we decided to order the Petit filet with polenta and the Sea Bass, which was highly recommended by Chef Kennardo. After eating it, we can see why! The fish was cooked just right, soft and juicy. The creaminess of the polenta complimented the filet perfectly.

The small sample of the Kobe burger was so good that our fried Tay decided to order the bigger portion for dinner.

Kobe burger

Kobe burger

We’re all sure glad we left room for dessert after Pastry Chef Jackie Wong bought her treats!

photo 3

Cheesecake and dark chocolate tart

We couldn’t have enjoyed our dinner more; the food was delicious and the service was outstanding. It was great to see Chef Kennardo again and it was such a pleasure to meet his team. If you’re ever in White Plains and are looking for a cozy, upscale meal, make sure to visit the Lobby Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton. You will not be disppointed!

Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton
3 Renaissance Square  
White Plains, NY 10601

Deli Part Duex

Delicatessen NYC on Prince Street in SoHo is quickly becoming our favorite place to catch a bite after work. Recently, we dined there with one pair of friends who recently moved back to NYC from Atlanta and another set of friends who were visiting from Germany. With so many different taste buds, we decided Delicatessen was the perfect place to eat!

We enjoy catching up with our friend and Executive Sous Chef Tony Kang each time we visit Deli. With so many delicious options to choose from, we lean on him to recommend the best bites. For our second visit, we had to order a few favorites like the meatballs and the tuna tartare as well as sample some new dishes.

Curious about our first visit to Deli? Read about it here!

Delicatessen NYC
54 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012

 

 

Southern Hospitality

Over the July 4th weekend, we were able to cross Savannah, GA off of our list of places to visit. The quaint city and popular tourist location fulfilled our desire for walking, sightseeing and of course, food! In addition, we were treated to genuine southern hospitality at our AirBnB location.

Curious about Savannah’s food scene? Here’s a gallery of what we ate. There’s truly something for everyone!

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With all the great meals we ate, we made sure to walk it off with some long walks and sightseeing.

If you’re looking to for a long weekend destination, we can’t recommend Savannah highly enough. With lush parks and squares, charming buildings, delicious eats and plenty of history, it’s sure to keep your interest.

A big thank you to Visit Savannah (@visitSavannah) for providing great suggestion via Twitter throughout our trip. Check out these links to learn more about the places we tried!

The Public Kitchen and Bar

Leopold’s Ice Cream

Wet Willie’s

Green Truck Pub

North Beach Bar & Grill

 

 

Elle’s All That

In our last post, you learned about Chef Stephen Yen of Paige Hospitality Group, who served as one of the judges at Culinary Fight Night, which we attended last month. Get to know another one of the judges, Chef Elle Simone, creator of SheChef, an organization that provides mentoring and guidance for young women in urban settings. Curious to learn more, we reached out to Chef Elle for an interview.

Chef Elle Simone. Picture courtesy of SheChef.

Chef Elle Simone. Picture courtesy of SheChef.

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

ES: I grew up in a very kitchen savvy family. My grandmother was an outstanding cook and her mother was very talented in cakes and breads. My great-grandmother ran a Kosher kitchen in a Jewish nursing home and would bring home Challah. My great aunts would come to my grandmother’s to prepare holiday meals together. It was those moments that made me aware of the process of cooking and fresh ingredients. We would drive out to the local farms in Michigan (I’m a native Detroiter) and Canada and pick our own apples, berries/cherries and collards for the holiday. We all cook well and I know it was because of the way our ancestors revered food and cooking.

FP: Half of FP (Kristina) is from the mitten state!

We love the concept of SheChef! How did the idea come about?

ES: After working in the kitchen brigade system for so many years, I noticed that women chefs were not being promoted as rapidly (or at all in some establishments) beyond entry-level positions as their male counterparts. I remember being told by my executive chef, while training for a job, that I would never move beyond Garde Manger. I was promoted to Saucier because those words struck me and I wanted to prove him wrong. Unfortunately, every person is not able to move past adversities in that same way so I created SheChef as a vehicle to destroy, on a legislative and social level, gender inequality in the workplace.

SheChef also provides a platform for women chefs to showcase THEIR talents in an intimate setting for an exclusive group of people and mentoring for those trying to find their niche in the culinary industry.

FP: Glad to hear that you’re helping women chefs to follow their passion!

What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself? 

ES: At home is where I do the bulk of my experimenting in the kitchen. I enjoy creating dishes and creating flavor profiles. I tend to collect a lot of samples of salts and sauces from the time I spend at food shows and networking with people who are introducing their products to the culinary world. Overall though, I think I enjoy making classic Italian food, or at least what I imagine it to be since I haven’t visited Italy yet.

FP: We enjoy our share of classic Italian food. We hope to visit Italy someday also!

Name three chefs you would like to cook with in the same kitchen and tell us why.

ES: I would love to cook WITH (because I’ve cooked FOR already) Chef Carla Hall because she cooks well a lot of the foods I grew up on with straightforward but refined recipes. I would also love to cook with Chef Eric Ripert; Classic French technique is so amazing to me. Finally, I would love to cook with my Grandmother one more time but she’s no longer with us so my list will remain at 2.

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

FP: I LOVE regional cuisine so some of my favorite spots may or may not be found on a “best eats” list even though they should be. One of my favorites is The Purple Yam. I worked on a major cruise line and most of my co-cooks were Filipino. Due to that influence, I’ve come to love authentic Filipino food and The Purple Yam has that! It’s located in the Carroll Gardens area of Brooklyn.

My second favorite place is Old Homestead Steakhouse. I think it’s New York’s oldest steak house and is the place to go for the PERFECTLY cooked steak. It’s kind of pricey so I reserve it for a special occasion.

Finally, a small taco stand inside Chelsea Market called Los Tacos. I can’t even find words that describe the authenticity of these tacos. There are even two Mexican sisters making fresh corn tortillas there! It can’t get any better and you can eat well on a budget.

FP: Like you, we like finding the hidden gems and enjoying good food on a budget!

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

ES: I have a few guilty pleasures: Baked Alaska, Key Lime Pie, Bread Pudding of any sort, my Granny’s sweet potato pie and FINE DINING! I won’t hesitate to pay a lot of money for the culinary greats to cook for me.

FP: We’ve been craving key lime pie recently! 

Besides being a Chef, what are your non-cooking hobbies/interests?

ES: My hobbies vary depending on the seasons. I love outdoor events like concerts or botanical gardens in the summer. In the spring and fall, I enjoy garage sale-ing and vintage boutiques/ gallery shopping. I especially love to collect vintage cooks tools. I have a vintage whisk tattoo on my left forearm that I designed!

FP: It was great learning more about you! Thank you again for your time and we wish you continued success!

A Paige from Yen’s Book

Last month we attended Culinary Fight Night at Sons of Essex down on the Lower East Side. During the competition, we listened to the input of the judges as they provided their culinary expertise. One judge was Chef Stephen Yen, Corporate Executive Chef of Paige Hospitality Group, which manages popular NYC eateries such as The Ainsworth, its sister restaurant Ainsworth Park, 121 Fulton Street and The Chester in the famous Hotel Gansevoort. We reached out to Chef Yen to learn more about him.

Corporate Executive Chef Stephen Yen

Corporate Executive Chef Stephen Yen

FP: How did you get your start with cooking? 

SY: I started cooking when I was a kid, as helping my family in the kitchen was not only fun but also part of our culture. In the kitchen, stories were shared and memories were created. Growing up in New York and being exposed to different cultures through food is the best way to learn about life. In college, my friends and I were always trying to replicate what we couldn’t afford to buy. My professional career started when I enrolled at The French Culinary Institute.

FP: What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself?

SY: Some of my favorite meals to cook at home are different types of curries. South East Asian curries require making a paste of ginger, shallots, galangal, turmeric, garlic, chilies, and making sure your spices are toasted and ground. Indian curries require different variations of masalas which some blends are very secretive. The aroma from the different spices that come together transforms a small NYC apartment to smell like a “home”, and for a moment you forget you live in a concrete jungle.

FP: We enjoy different types of curries also!

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

SY: I would like to cook with Rene Redzepi, because of his calm personality and love of pure flavors. I would also love to cook with Ferran Adria because of his out of the box culinary concepts. Lastly, I would also love to cook with my mother, which I have not had the chance to do so in years. The fast paced life of a NYC Chef has of course not allowed me to spend much needed time with the person who has sacrificed so much to make me who I am today.

FP: We can only imagine the busy life of a Chef in NYC!

When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in NYC. 

SY: Favorite places to eat are Nyonya, Imperial Garden, Hill Country, and Hakata Ton Ton.

FP: We’ve heard great things about Hill Country. The others are new to us, which is exciting since we love learning about new places to eat!

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

SY: Guilty pleasures are Roti Canai, soup dumplings, chili crab, banh mi, Pho, Cuban sandwiches, smoked brisket, and BACON.

FP: All sound like foodie pleasures to us!

Besides being chef, what are your non-cooking hobbies/interests? What do you like doing on your days off?

SY: On my days off I like to sleep and catch up on some reading. Cookbooks, and books on society (Malcolm Gladwell essays, etc). I also love to play golf, I don’t get out there much anymore.

FP: Golf is one tough sport! Thank you again for your time. We wish you continued success and hope to stop by one of your restaurants in the near future! 

Puttin’ on The Ritz

In May, we were in attendance at ArtsBash in White Plains where we enjoyed looking at art created by talented artists and also enjoyed food crafted by some of  the area’s best chefs. When we think back to the food we ate, a veggie burger by Chef Kennardo Holder, Executive Chef at the Ritz-Carlton Westchester, still comes to mind. We caught up with him recently to learn more about him. This evening, we’ll be stopping his restaurant to taste more of his cooking and we can’t wait!

Chef Kennardo Holder

Chef Kennardo Holder, Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton Westchester

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

KH: My parents did not enjoy cooking, so I would prepare the meals for our friends and family. Everyone always complimented me on the flavors and presentation of my food, so I began spending more time in the kitchen preparing even more elaborate meals.

During one of my high school outings, I was provided an opportunity to tour one of the local hotels in Jamaica. It was there that I discovered a career that would allow me to travel and explore new countries while doing what I loved.

FP: You know the saying, “follow your passion.” Guests of your restaurant are sure glad you pursued your career!

You’ve worked for The Ritz-Carlton brand since 2000. Share with us your experience working for the company.

KH: My experience with The Ritz-Carlton has been filled with personal exploration, growth and development opportunities. I began my career as a line cook at The Ritz-Carlton, Jamaica and was afforded an opportunity to work as a Sous Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain.

Three years later I moved to The Ritz-Carlton, Abaco Club as a Chef De Cuisine. Two years later I relocated back to Bahrain as Executive Sous Chef, and three years later I transferred to Bachelor Gulch as an Executive Sous Chef to run my own department. Following these experiences, I became Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester.

FP: Sounds like you’ve paved your own path to success!

What are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself at home?

KH: I make an incredible Jerk chicken. I tell my closest friends that when I retire, I am going to open a food truck on the beach in Jamaica and sell Jerk Chicken.

FP: We like jerk chicken so we’ll have to try yours! As for the food truck, count us in! :)

Name three chefs you would like to cook with in the same kitchen.

KH: I have enormous admiration for Thomas Keller’s high personal standards of product and presentation, Rachel Ray’s tenacity and modest cooking style and lastly, Eric Ripert for his use of classic French techniques.

FP: All great chefs indeed!

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

KH: My favorite foodie pleasure is Rum Raisin ice cream.

FP: Ice cream is such a guilty pleasure!

What are some of your non-chef hobbies and interests? What do you like to do on your days off?

KH: Hiking, I lived in Colorado for 2 years and fell in love with the beauty of the outdoors.

FP: Thank you so much for your time. We look forward to seeing you tonight at The Ritz-Carlton!