Friday, January 10, 2014

Q & A With Chelle... How'd You Get Started In The Kitchen?

I get a lot of questions, via facebook, this blog, emails, or in person. One of the most common is... Chelle, how did you get started in the kitchen?

Well, I think it started in junior high - a home economics class that included a brief stint in cooking/baking (which I was more successful in than the macrame and cross-stitch, lol). We'd cook in class then take recipes home to test on our (brave) families. Once a week, I'd cook dinner for my (again, BRAVE) family, testing out my skills and innovations. That class taught me two things:

1. Chicken should never be pink.
2. I love to cook.

Pretty simplistic, but there it is. I've always loved food, the process, the colors, scents, textures, tastes. From my Dad's "you've never had better" barbecue (and fyi, you haven't), to Mom's cucumber dip, Gramma Anne's goulash & dolmas, Gramma Turner's divinity & open face tuna melts, and so on, I've always loved it. And I've worked hard to re-create those family recipes (not always successfully - I'm convinced Gramma Anne left out ingredients on her recipe cards, lol), and to create new ones that comfort, nourish, and engage.

There's something about feeding people that makes me feel good inside. It always has. During my "dark years", cooking/baking became a compulsion - it was one of the few things I could do to earn approval (since being a strong, independent woman wasn't allowed), and so the kitchen became my sanctuary. And where I gained weight and lost myself. Today, the compulsion has been replaced by passion - it's a whole new root system. I feed people - I love it, I love to see folks experience and enjoy the food I create. That process nourishes my soul. I don't do it for approval, acceptance or validation; I do it because I'm a strong, independent woman who's wings are spread wide.

There's something exciting to me, when I find a new recipe to try, or develop one that hits rave reviews, or even prepare a comforting favorite. The kitchen has become an extension of who I am, and a tool to reach out into the world with healthy, nutritious and fun food.  It's no longer my sanctuary, but my well lit and noisy arena. And just like in the arena, when my food bombs, it's boo'd. Hahaha. My family isn't subtle.

I've never been to culinary school, or taken cooking classes. I'm family and self-taught. I'm what's called an intuitive cook... which is a nice way of saying that it's almost impossible for me to follow a recipe. Call it kitchen-ADD. Lol. I throw a little of this in, a bit of that, a chunk of the other, and oooh, wouldn't this be tasty? toss, toss, shake, shake... which is why developing recipes has also helped me developed discipline. I have to write it all down as I go, as I adjust, then I have to reproduce the exact same recipe a few times to be sure someone else can get the same results.

The kitchen is also where I develop alter-egos (or, personalities, as my children would say). George likes sharp things ;-) Francoise is pretty snobby and particular about his ingredients. Jimmy just likes sugar. Bwahahaha. What I'm saying, before you call the men with butterfly nets, is that the kitchen is fun for me.

Now, I realize that it's NOT fun for some folks, which is why companies like My Fit Foods and Midwestern Meats Fitness exist. But... part of my work here at is to take away some of the fear and pain the "I hate the kitchen" people experience. I've developed easy recipes, quick, and tasty. I've laid out a single-day food prep that saves you hours throughout the week. And I've provided meal plans that give structure, nutrition, and flavor.

All because I love the kitchen.
Even if you don't.

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