Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing moms out there! In honor of Mother’s Day, Food Network treated Chopped fans to a Mother’s Day-themed episode where four moms competed against one another, sharing both their love for food and for their families. We reached out to mom-testant Lisa Keys to hear her story– and to get the inside scoop on her appreciation for anchovies.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking? Your blog says you’re self taught and do everything by trial and error.
LK: Growing up in a very traditional Italian family I had an early interest in food. My grandmothers did not speak English and had no cookbooks. I learned early to use the freshest ingredients from the garden and/or coop and to taste and smell as I cooked. Turns out I also loved science (went to medical school to become a physician’s assistant), so every recipe became an experiment ever striving to make it healthier or tastier or easier or all of the above.
I especially like to bake and am ever striving to enhance flavor often masked by too much sugar, fat or artificial ingredients. The bottom line is I always seek a balance of flavors–salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami–thus those anchovies in my entree.
FP: Yes we sure remember those anchovies on the show! Speaking of Chopped, share with us your experience on the show.
LK: I have nothing but good things to say about my Chopped experience. First, the baskets really are secret. Contestants have no clue what is in the baskets. Second, the judges and Ted Allen are very professional and encouraging. I had never cooked green plantains before and like Tina had a tough time removing the peel.
FP: What was the hardest ingredient to work with?
LK: I had eaten tostones and knew how they were prepared, but had no idea that they could be poisonous if eaten raw. It was the hardest ingredient for me simply because I struggled to get the peel off. Truth is I thought they went easy on us with the ingredients–nothing too far out or unknown.
FP: Which round was the most difficult?
LK: I suppose the most difficult round was the first one just because of the nerves. Once I got through that I knew I could win. I also thought that it was super fun–a real adrenaline rush.
FP: What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home?
LK: It seems I never cook the same thing twice because I am constantly tinkering with my recipes, but my favorite flavors are Asian and Italian. On a daily basis we eat rather healthy–lots of fresh local ingredients go into soups and salads. I do keep some of my family traditions alive making homemade pastas, cooking the feast of the 7 fishes for Christmas Eve and making Italian desserts. I love to create original recipes to enter into recipe contests, too.
FP: Sounds like your kitchen is the place to be!
When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in your town or other places you’ve visited.
LK: I love a local Kennett Square coffee shop called Philter. The coffee is the best I have ever had. The pastries and breakfast offerings are fresh, innovative and delicious. My favorite Thai restaurant can be found in West Chester, PA–it is called Baan Thai–just a small place, nothing fancy–the food is always perfect, fresh and flavorful. Honestly, I have yet to eat in a bad place in Philadelphia.
FP: We plan to visit Philly in the near future and will have to check out these places!
What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
LK: No doubt my guilty pleasure is french fries and I just had some of the all time best I have ever tasted at a random stop in New Castle, Delaware. The hidden gem is called the Dog House.
FP: We hear ya on the french fries! Thank you so much for your time. We wish you continued success in all your endeavors.
Learn more about Lisa by visiting her blog.