New #SCBD Jersey Bites Post– The #SCBDExclusive Interview with Chef Robert Irvine of #RestaurantImpossible!

A Chat with Chef Robert Irvine Live in Red Bank 10/5 (via Jersey Bites)

If you are an avid Jersey Bites reader you saw this event in our “Foodie Things to Do This Weekend & Beyond” — Robert Irvine Live in Red Bank, NJ on October 5th at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank at 8 PM. As a huge fan of Restaurant Impossible and a major foodie, I made it my goal to not…

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#SCBD Exclusive Interview with Lauren Berger, “The Intern Queen”

Lauren Berger is CEO of, an online internship destination that helps students find and apply for internships while also educating them on how to make the most of their experiences. Berger grew up in Clearwater, Florida and participated in 15 internships during her 4 years of college, hence the title “Intern Queen”. Berger earned a degree in Organizational Business Communications at the University of Central Florida and interned for top-notch companies across the country such as MTV, FOX, BWR Public Relations, and NBC. Lauren applied her knowledge of the industry to her first job post-college at Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills, California. She told everyone at the company of her business ambitions and it caught the eye of Hollywood Producer, Marshall Herskovitz (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance). Berger worked with Herskovitz in 2008, as he helped her get the business off the ground. In 2009, she went off on her own and formed, Today, Berger is an author, international speaker, spokesperson, and runs Berger works with over 1,000 employers worldwide, connecting them with some of the most ambitious high school and college interns on the planet. Berger’s website reaches over 80,000 different students, parents, and employers each month. She has connected thousands of students with the internships of their dreams. Berger has spoken to thousands of high school & college students at over 50 colleges & universities in 20 different states. Berger’s book, ALL WORK NO PAY, was released January 3, 2012 worldwide. She was recently featured on The Today Show, Fox & Friends, and In her spare time, Lauren loves traveling, spending time with friends & family, and catching up on her DVR! –

If you know the story behind Small Chick Big Deals, you know it wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her influence on me while I was a campus ambassador, read the story behind SCBD, here.

I had the opportunity to interview her the other day and asked her advice on life, internships, and of course food.

SCBD: Why and when did you to start the Intern Queen website?

LB: I came up with the idea in 2006, after completing 15 internships, as I was graduating college and saw that there was a lack of resources for students. I began working on the site full-time in 2009.

SCBD: When did you start interning and what was your first internship?

LB: I started interning in 2003 at an advertising and pr firm, The Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, Florida.

SCBD: What advice do you have for post-grads in regards to careers and life?

LB: Once you graduate work on finding a balance between finding a job and taking it seriously. You also want to balance in having enough time for some fun with friends, family, etc.

SCBD: I used to be a Campus Ambassador for the site, what do you look for in your ambassadors?

LB: I look for the most influential students that take a initiative and are proactive to be ambassadors. Most of the time they are first follow through and continue the process to get accepted. Most of the time they’ve heard about the program already as well.

SCBD: What is your stand on blogging and how can it be a benefit?

LB: It can be great as long as it is appropriate in regards to your job search. It can also be a huge benefit because you can gain more knowledge on the topic you are blogging about.

SCBD: Since this is a food blog, what is your favorite recipe?

LB: I’m currently loving hot Italian Sausage with peppers and onions, because it’s quick and easy and healthy.

SCBD: You’ve been all around the world, what’s the best thing you ever ate and your favorite city?

LB: My favorite city is Vienna, Austria. I went with the MTV Europe Travel Guide and it was a great experience. The best thing I ever ate was the  turkey bolognese pasta from The Pink Door in Seattle, it’s amazing

SCBD: What is your all time favorite food?

LB: I love chicken noodle soup!

SCBD: What’s your favorite restaurant? Why?

LB: For great Italian food in LA, I love  Dan Tana’s and for sushi I love Kabuki.

SCBD:  Would you rather have a night in with a homemade meal and great friends or night out?

LB: I like a  little bit of both. An ideal night in for me is good Chinese food and television.

SCBD: Since I cover deals, any budget advice you have for post-grads?

It’s all about the planning, the last day of the month or first day of the month make sure you figure out your budget. Prepare before you go out because it’s important to budget and go have fun. I believe money should never hold you back from having a good time. There are also so many great free things to do in most places now so be aware of them and go out and have a good time.

SCBD: Last question, if you had to pick one motto you live by?

LB: Never take no for an answer, decide what you want to and go out and make it happen. 

Thank you Lauren for letting me interview, it was  a great experience to be a campus ambassador and greatly influenced the start of Small Chick Big Deals! Thank you for being a constant inspiration for me! If you are in high school or college and want to know more about the site & Lauren make sure you go to!

Lauren, the Intern Queen with some of the other Campus Ambassadors & I at the Today Show!

My friend Steph of Doe & Bear photography & I taking a pic with the Intern Queen at a book signing!

This the third interview in my #SCBDExclusive interview series, more to come!

As always, signing off until next time…happy eating! 😀

#SCBD #Exclusive Interview Series: Chef, Attorney & Food Network Star Finalist Serena Palumbo

Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting, interviewing and sharing a meal with Serena Palumbo at Keste Pizzeria & Vino (271 Bleecker Street) in West Village, NYC. Keste is one of her favorite pizzerias in NYC and specializes in serving Authentic Neopolitan pizza. Not only is she an attorney but she also has a food blog with webisodes called Cooking in Manhattan and was also a finalist of Season 6 of Food Network Star.

Serena and I after enjoying our meal at Keste Pizzeria in West Village!

Here’s the inspiring interview I had with Serena Palumbo while enjoying dinner with her at one of NYC’s finest pizzerias:

SCBD: First, you grew up in Italy, what did you pick up from cooking in Italy? What’s your favorite Italian dish?

SP: It’s a pleasure to meet you and do this interview for your blog Small Chick Big Deals. Italians are usually very passionate about food because it is a very strong part of our culture. I see the same applies to the great Italian American community in the US.  It is amazing to see how they have kept their identity as Italians through food and have created a real melting pot of flavors implementing the American traditions as well.  I learned everything about Italian food from my family and friends growing up in Salerno.  But besides the recipes and techniques what I brought with me from Italy when I moved to New York was the concept that your food defines who you are.  The dishes that we tasted in our childhood, are the first step to people’s culinary knowledge and flavor pattern so they are also near and dear to our heart.  In my case, since I am from Campania, I usually crave Neapolitan pizza. And because of the time I spent in Rome, working as an attorney at the beginning of my career, I love Carbonara and Amatriciana.

SCBD: I saw that you went to school in Italy for a law degree, how was it going to school in Italy? Do you have any early memories of food playing a part in your life during that time?

SP: The school system in Italy is very different from the US! My father was a doctor and he would have loved for me to go to Medical School.  I took the tests and I got in but I am not very fond of blood so I had a frank conversation with him and I told him I was going to Law School instead.  He told me I could do whatever I wanted as long as I did not disappoint him. So Law School it was!  I wanted to be a journalist when I was a kid but then I learned that lots of journalists in Italy had a Law Degree so the choice was easy. 

My fondest memories from school are the birthday parties! My mom is really awesome because she always finds a reason to celebrate and invite people over.  So when my birthday  or name’s day approached she would plan great parties. My mom is kind of fearless when it comes to cooking for people, so she would tell me to invite my classmates and other friends and we would discuss menus and cook together. It was SO EXCITING! My friends LOVED coming to our parties because my mom would serve grown up food, not just pizza and cake.

3. I saw that you were a former ballerina. I used to dance as well. How did that shape your life? Did it get you ready for the camera?

SP: Determination, dedication, and commitment. Those were the values I learned from ballet.  I had a great ballet teacher and have very fond memories of my ballet years and thanks to Facebook I am in contact with all my ballet classmates. They are great girls (and boys) and some of them became professional dancers while others moved to a different career path.  The common denominator is that we are all very focused and have a fire in our belly.  Ballet played a great role in my childhood and teenage.  I took classes for 14 years and graduated at 19 years old.  Today I realize that ballet made me camera ready too. I am not afraid of talking in public, doing a culinary demonstration or talking into a camera because falling from a pirouette or an arabesque in from of the whole theater is a lot more embarrassing!

SCBD: Your specialty is Mediterranean cuisine, what is a signature dish of yours you recommend an amateur like me try?

SP: Mediterranean food is the best! But I might be a slightly bit biased. I think Mediterranean food is the healthiest choice you have, because of its simple ingredients and that the techniques are not overly complicated.  Food should be food, not a product that goes through an industrial process. Mediterranean recipes let the ingredients shine and they are also easy on the waistline and the wallet.  I really resent the recipes that call for 15 different spices and exotic ingredients. The great thing about Mediterranean food is that it is accessible easy and fresh, so anyone can whip it together very quickly.

You should try my Salmon Cartoccio with Pear Arugula Salad. It is super easy and you can’t beat the fast clean up! It is perfect for a small kitchen and people who don’t have time for complex preparations. Check out the video to both recipes here.

SCBD: Before you applied to Food Network Star, you started your blog Cooking in Manhattan, did you expect for it to take you this far? Do you recommend video blogging? I’m just about to start doing it and it’s a big step for me.

SP: The webisodes started as a joke.  I had a friend who could not cook and she wanted to learn. We were both very busy and so one day Kurt, my husband, decided to make a video of me cooking.  I posted it on youtube and soon thereafter it got 320 views… not bad for a newbie!  Cooking in Manhattan is a big part of my life now. I never imagined that posting my recipes on the internet could give me so much joy.  It is the interactive aspect that I like the most: people commenting on the recipes and asking questions. The webisodes are still a homemade production so I have control over every aspect of them.  I think you should definitely consider video blogging but you should have one specific topic for every segment. As for cooking videos you need to limit your message to something that the viewer will follow from the beginning to the end. I try to limit the length of my videos so that I won’t lose the viewer in the process. 

SCBD: Did having your blog help you in regards to reaching your audience on the show?

SP: It helped me introduce myself to the audience because they could see my videos, but once I joined Twitter and Facebook and became more active in social media I was able to really reach my audience. In retrospect, I would’ve joined Twitter during the taping of the show but at the time I didn’t believe it reach could be as big if not bigger than Facebook. I love speaking to my fans on Twitter now.

SCBD: I saw you cover more than cooking on your blog, such as travel & lifestyle. What’s the best thing you ate on your travels?

SP: The website has taken a life of its own in the past few years. I started with food but then readers started asking for suggestions on where to go on vacation or where to eat while in Milan Rome or Naples.  The lifestyle part comes from the fact that (like many Italian women) I am an absolute beauty junkie.  You need a new mascara? Dry Shampoo? Scrub? I have probably tried everything on the market by now. I am also very lucky because I have friends from all over the world and they have been extremely generous to contribute articles for the website.  We now cover Brazil, Peru’, India, UK and of course Italy with CityProfiles and there are many more to come!

I would have to say that the best meal I ever had outside of the US is in Sicily at La Madia, a small restaurant owned by one of the most creative chefs, Pino Cuttaia.  I still remember the 7-course menu I had 3 years ago, and I usually don’t remember what I ate last week so that tells you how great it was.  I had great food in Ecuador too! We visited some friends this winter (it’s summer there) and they roasted a pig on Sunday. It was the best porchetta I have ever had!

SCBD: How and why did you get into Food Network Star?

SP: I decided to audition for Food Network Star because a couple of friends/readers told me I should give it a try. The point is that I love my webisodes and I put a lot of time and effort in them. My friends and family have been very supportive because not only they get the tips and tricks of cooking in a small kitchen they also get to try the food!

So I went to an audition and there were probably 3000 people so I did not think I would get to be on the show at all. When my time came I went into the audition room and I presented myself and my cooking webisodes.  The lady I interviewed with liked the idea of cooking in the confined of a urban kitchen and she gave me a call back for a screen test. 

After that, much to my surprise I was invited to be on the show! In Season 6 I was the only finalist without a culinary education, and still many people who had a culinary pedigree were eliminated before me.  I am very proud of how I did during the show. The challenges are very complex because there are time constraints as well as the pressure to perform and cook edible food for people that might become your new employed. Still, I had no reputation to tarnish as I was and still am an attorney… the worst case scenario was that someone would sue me because I poisoned them, right? Well I did not poison anyone thankfully most importantly I went into every challenge with the purpose of having fun and testing my limits.

SCBD: How did it change your life?

SP: Well first of all now I can put food network star alumna next to the NYU law alumna badge. That is quite an accomplishment in my book! I am still the same person I was before, I just know a lot more about myself.  The Food Network Star is more than a competition to win a job. It is a real test of your abilities that spans from the cooking abilities to testing your work under pressure. I am used to pressure because of my daily job but no one (including myself) thought that I could endure the physical effort that is required of you on the show.  You wake up at 5AM and go to bed at midnight so it is a real test of how resilient you are. 

The show also changed the way I think of my website and webisodes: I learned that you need to listen to your readers and viewers and cater to their needs first and foremost.  So for example if you have a viewer with food allergies you need to provide solutions for that viewer so that he/she can enjoy the recipe as well with few tweaks.  I don’t come from a marketing background but I believe that listening to your readers and viewers is the best way to build a solid following. Content is king on the internet and if you deliver useful content to your viewers and readers, that is the best marketing you can possible engage in.

SCBD: What was one of the hardest competitions you did on the show?

SP: During my season there were some very difficult challenges.  The producers really upped the ante on what they wanted to see from the finalists.  There was a competition for a party in episode three that was really tough for me since I got injured and the finalist I was paired with was a very difficult character. In the end we did not win the challenge and I kind of ended up at the hospital fearing I had broken my foot…. But at least we weren’t eliminated!

SCBD:  What was your favorite competition, why?

SP: There were some pretty awesome competitions and I loved cooking during most of the show. It was just so much fun for me to be away from my desk job and following my passion for once. My favorite competition was in episode five when Brianna and I were paired to work in a lunch truck.  We have both very strong very assertive women and initially Brianna and I did not see eye to eye, but not only did we work together very well, we won the episode challenge! It was a real underdog story but we surely demonstrated some girl power that day!

SCBD: Last, I saw on your profile on Food Network that you are only in your early 30’s and have accomplished so much. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

SP: You know it is really funny that you ask because some days I feel ancient and some others I feel like an “absolute beginner”.  One of my best friends tells me that I always look like I have a plan and that I know exactly what I am doing.  That is not always the case. I try to use my strengths and downplay my weaknesses but I don’t really have a life plan.

You know that part of your childhood when you plan at what age you get married, buy a house and have children? I skipped that part altogether, I try not to make plans especially the long term ones. Making plans for me is like setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. No matter how much you plan, life always throws you a curve ball and you have to be ready to make the best of it.  If you plan too much and you are too focused on your life plan you don’t see the opportunities around you. They may not be what you planned but they may be great nonetheless.  There is nothing worse than a wasted opportunity especially for a self made girl.  So in 10 years we will have to get together again and I will tell you what happened, but in the meantime I will keep my eyes and ears open!

Thank you again for doing this interview with me Serena, it was pleasure to meet you, another woman making her mark in the food industry! It was truly a blessing to share a meal with Serena at one of her favorite and Authentic Neopolitan pizzerias, Keste! Grazi!

Look out for more interview on the way in my interview series! In the meantime…

Here are some pictures from our dinner at Keste Pizzeria:

Until my next post…. Happy Eating & Drinking!

#SCBD Exclusive Interview: Apron Anxiety Author Alyssa Shelasky


Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky

Apron Anxiety is a memoir by New York Magazine’s Grub Street writer, Alyssa Shelasky. Throughout the memoir we learn about Alyssa’s home life as a child, adventures as a teen, her journeys as an adult, and a relationship with Chef that turns her life around. We see how Alyssa overcomes trials and tribulations and some of life’s hardest decisions. It’s an Amazon best seller and has been big buzz in the food world since it premiered in bookstores in late May 2012.I was fortunate to get an exclusive interview with her where we discussed: food, writing, careers, dating, and success!

SCBD: Alyssa I’m honored that I am able to interview you today. Thank you again for being so open to me interviewing you. You are truly an inspiration to a fellow writer like me. For any of the readers who haven’t read the book, when did you know you wanted to write as a career?
AS: I’m lucky because I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and knowing that has guided me from a very young age. The majority of people really stress out over ‘what to be” when they grow up, and that’s a legitimately tough issue, so I caught a break there. One less point of confusion in my life! Maybe I would have made a great private detective/FBI agent too. SO random, but it’s just the only other job I’ve ever even considered for like 2 seconds. No clue why?!

SCBD: I love the fact that you are down to Earth and honest throughout the entire novel. Many people have a certain idea or stereotype of food writers being experts out of the womb, but like anything it takes time to really know your craft. Do you agree?
AS: Oh totally! I am not a natural born food writer, it’s just the journalistic “hemisphere” where I wound up recently  – and I’m trying to do a good job with it. I try to relate food to things I feel very comfortable with –  like relationships, sex, sense of self. Even comparing food to TV, or wine to music…that makes it more fun for me. Otherwise, honestly, it’s just food. And it’s kind of boring. Actually, the food “scenes” in my book were harder than anything else for me to write…like, I could much easier express the saddest break up of my life, than the smell of slow-roasted tomatoes.

SCBD: In the book you mention doing some public relations work as well, I am currently working for a firm and took courses while I was in college. Do you think it’s good for a food writer/blogger to know it works and have those skills?
AS: It’s daunting figuring out where you belong creatively, especially in NYC where there are infinite opportunities. So it’s great to try out all sorts of jobs, that’s the only way you’ll know what’s right. PR seemed like a glamorous media-type gig, where I hoped there would be writing, but I honestly had no clue what the difference between PR, advertising, and editorial work was back then.  What happened was, I kept pitching stories to these writers and reporters, and I was pitching them amazing stories because I was pretending to be on their end, fantasizing about how and what I would want to be pitched. Ultimately, I connected with the writers and reporters in a strong way because of that, so I was actually really good at PR. But the envy just kept growing. I wanted to be on the editorial end so bad, that was my calling and I knew it. But yes, VERY happy I worked in PR. I made incredible friends (all my best friends are in PR still – it’s crazy!). And knowledge is power.

SCBD: Like you, I’m still learning in the kitchen, in the book there are tons of recipes, what recipe do you recommend I try making first? Why?
AS: The chicken for “hungry and important” people is turning out to be one of the star recipes in the book. Delicious, healthy, easy. Or the Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip cookies. Or the banana bread. Impossible to mess any of those up!

SCBD: What’s your personal secret to success? What do you think attributed to your success?

AS: Courage is Grace Under Pressure — it’s Hemingway, but someone I love and admire very much always said that, and I try to live by it.  Because here’s the thing: life is hard. And life can be cruel. But I’ve always kept moving forward. Always held my head up high. And I think that mentality has kept me from getting stuck in bad situations, or buried in self-doubt. I’ve had just as many hardships and disappointments as anyone else, but I’ve always been resilient. I bounce back. The only tricky thing with that kind of inner-strength, as a writer or an artist, is preserving a certain inner-spirit too.  Because you need both. You need to be tough, without being hardened. You need a thick skin but a beating heart.

SCBD: Working for New York Magazine is a big deal and writing for Grubstreet is a big deal in the food world, when you started your career did you ever think you’d end up there? Why?
AS: Writing for New York Magazine was definitely a dream. Grub Street was a big decision for me…I had a book coming out that demanded a ton of time and energy, and a personal life to rebuild after a bad breakup…However, I’m a major “When opportunity knocks” person. And I just knew that was an opportunity I had to grab hold of. Job offers like that don’t come around often. Even if I was scared (I was). Even if I felt completely out of my comfort zone (big time). I had to take it; there was nothing to discuss. 

Alyssa Shelasky, writer for New York Magazine’s Grub Street and author of Apron Anxiety

SCBD: I love going out to eat, which is why I started my blog and every so often I cook. Before Apron Anxiety was a book, it started as a blog. What is your advice for young blogger like me? What do you think will happen in the blog world in the future? Do you think blogs can expand into more?

AS: I don’t think I would have gotten a book deal if there weren’t a blog. Having that platform is so important. It makes all the difference these days. But a blog is definitely a commitment, it comes w/ all those nonstop social media obligations, and a responsibility to your readers. It’s not as breezy as non-bloggers think! 

Alyssa featured in Elle Magazine

SCBD: If the world was ending tomorrow where would you have your last meal out and with who and/or what would you cook/bake for? Why?
AS: Wow. It would be so much more about the company than the cuisine. It would be me, my family and my boyfriend, and maybe it would be like big, fresh delicious sandwiches on a picnic blanket somewhere, along with my mom’s brownies, and Dorito’s for my Dad and sister, and some old-fashioned bottles of Coca-Cola. But the thought of that makes me sad, actually. So, another scenario could be me and Clive Owen, and a lot of chocolate cake. 

SCBD: Apron Anxiety also discusses dating, what’s the best dating advice you ever received? From who? Do you think what your boyfriend/girlfriend does can make a big difference in a relationship?
AS: I’ve always had a few older girlfriends who I think are just innately cool, unique people. And in awkward dating moments, I’ve sort of just pretended to be them. Yes, of course, you should always “be you,” but it’s only human to get scared and nervous around boys/girls you like. It 100% helps to channel women you look up to. My friend Pippa Lord from asks herself, “What would Madonna do?” I love that! And I know there’s a “What Would Gwyneth Do?” blog. Those little psychological tricks work!

SCBD: In part of the book you go on tons of dates with a man who loves dive bars and restaurants off the beaten track in NYC. What’s the weirdest thing you ate? What’s your favorite? 

AS: I’m not into weird foods. That in itself makes me a shitty food writer but I don’t care! I’m never going to choose goat brains over grilled cheese. But the best off-the-grid discovery was this Thai place called Sripraphai in Queens. Freaking insanely delicious. I dream about it.

SCBD: Is there a movie in the works? 

AS: I have agents in LA working on things, so we’ll see!!!

SCBD: I would recommend Apron Anxiety to any of my friends whether they cook or not. Food and fellowship with loved ones is a heavy theme in the book. In one sentence why should someone read Apron Anxiety? 
AS: Thank you so much. I’ve been getting the most amazing feedback. But every now and then someone will say, “Your book was really cute!” or “You’re book was like candy!” – and while I’m thankful for the kind words, I also think to myself…okay, they didn’t totally get it. Because it’s not all about sex and cupcakes or whatever. There’s a tenderness to those pages…a quiet depth. The best readers are like you…people who enjoy the lightness and sweetness of it all, but are also deeply sensitive to the struggle.

 Thank you again, for letting me interview you tonight! Reading Apron Anxiety has inspired me in so many ways as a budding food writer and has been a huge encouragement to me to not give up trying recipes in the kitchen. Apron Anxiety has made my top ten favorite books to read. Congratulations on the success of the book, you deserve it!

To find out more information on the book, go to Alyssa Shelasky’s blog:
 Happy Eating & Happy Reading, ’til next time!