We can’t be the only ones who were jealous of Bravo TV’s Around the World in 80 Plates “cheftestants” as they explored global sites and cuisines earlier this summer. Impressed with her bubbly personality and culinary talent, we got in touch with Liz Garrett to learn about what got her started in the kitchen and her experience on the show.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking? When did you decide you wanted to be a chef? What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
LG: I started cooking professionally when I turned 30 in August of 2009. I was at a point in my life where I had to try and do something that I loved and make a career of it. I went to The Foundry on Melrose to get advice from Chef/Owner Eric Greenspan about culinary school. He said school was a waste of time and money and that I would figure out pretty quick if I really wanted to be a chef after a week in his kitchen. I worked free for a week and then he hired me. I started working as Garde Manger and assisting the pastry chef. I just never left that kitchen and two years later, I was the Sous Chef to Chef de Cuisine Nick Russo at the Foundry. I think one of my proudest days was when I got my name on the menu there. Eric and Nick have been the two most influential and supportive mentors in my career thus far. I mean I worked my ass off, but they invested a lot of time and faith in me. I love being a chef because it gives me an outlet to express myself as an artist and also allows me to take care of people. I think I’m a very nurturing person and what’s more nurturing than giving people food to eat. I’ve always been like that though, like come over for dinner and I will send you home with a full belly and lunch for tomorrow.
FP: Sounds like you have lucky friends who get to try your cooking all the time!
Name some of your favorite chefs and why.
LG: Jaques Pepin is my all time favorite chef. I love reading his books and watching him on TV. He is timeless to me and I love watching him use that little knife on Fast Food My Way.
FP: Tell us about your experience on 80 Plates from casting to filming. What was it like to compete with the other chefs? Would you do it all over again?
LG: The whole experience of 80 Plates from casting to watching it on TV has been the best and most significant experience of my life. I learned so much about myself throughout the process. I got involved with casting because they did an open call at The Foundry. I got to work one day and a couple of the guys in the kitchen kept telling me that someone wanted to talk to me out front, and I didn’t believe them because we are always playing jokes on each other. They persisted and then I talked to a casting rep and the next day I had an on camera interview. The only place out of the country that I’d traveled to before 80 Plates was London when I was 18, so the opportunity to travel had me engaged right away. It was surreal getting that final call and plane ticket. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I am so happy that I did it, though. There have been times when it kinda sucked, like missing my friends and family while we were taping or my feelings getting kinda hurt by things people say but all that stuff passes and I am left with so many great memories and a much stronger sense of self. Plus, I have eleven new friends. I really have so much love and respect for all the chefs on the show. We all went through a pretty crazy experience together!
FP: We read that you also worked in the fashion and retail industry. How would you compare the two…cooking and retail?
LG: For me retail was 40 hour work weeks, paid holidays, salary + commission, and days spent talking about what I had for breakfast, then what I should eat for lunch, and then what I was gonna make for dinner. Being a chef is long hours, lower wagers, no weekends, burns, back aches, and general chaos, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had.
FP: When you are home, what are some of your favorite meals (if any) to cook for yourself ? If you go out to eat, name some favorite places either in the LA area or other cities you’ve visited. What are some of your guilty pleasures (if any)? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
LG: I love to cook at home. I spend most of my time at home in my kitchen. My favorite thing to make at home is a roasted chicken. It’s simple and delicious and there are always leftovers enough for at least another meal. In LA, some of my favorite restaurants are Western Doma Noodle for Korean and Las Fuentes in Reseda for the best burrito in the world. I swear by that. My favorite food in the world is French fries. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, never have, so my favorite dessert is a perfect watermelon.
FP: Name three individuals you would want to invite over for dinner and what you would prepare for them.
LG: I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m at home. My favorites are hosted by Dan Savage (Savage Lovecast), Marc Maron (WTF), and Erica Wides (Let’s Get Real). I would invite them because I am always so interested in what they have to say and I think the conversation would be great. I would go to the Farmers Market and get inspiration from the ingredients that I picked out. Stone fruit is at it’s peak right now so one of the courses might be like cucumber gazpacho w/ peaches, mint, and coriander.
FP: We love podcasts, too! They’re a great way to learn a little more about the world.
In three words, how would your friends and family describe you.
LG: Funny, stubborn, and loyal.
FP: If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be doing? Any non-cooking hobbies? We read you enjoy singing Karaoke…name the one song you would sing to right now 🙂
LG: If I hadn’t become a chef, I don’t know what I would have done. I’ve had a lot of jobs before the chef part so I guess I could go back to one of those. My go to karaoke song has been the same for years, Hurt So Good by John Cougar Mellencamp. It’s probably time for a new one but it’s just such a strong karaoke choice. I live in a neighborhood where I can walk to Target, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, The Grove, etc… so I spend a lot of time walking around, running errands, with my headphones on way too loud.
FP: Great song choice! Thanks for your time, Liz. We loved learning about how your passion drove you from retail to the kitchen and look forward to following your career. Keep us posted on your future ventures!