Chefday: A New Yorker’s Dream Come True

chefday

Hungry New Yorkers will have much to celebrate once they hear about Chefday. A new Brooklyn start-up, this company delivers fresh, pre-measured ingredients to your home in order for you to cook a custom recipe created by NYC restaurant chefs. Simply go to their website, choose your meal of choice, and all the ingredients will be delivered to you on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 3 and 5pm or 7 and 9pm. They can deliver it to your office or your home. Once you have your fresh ingredients, tune into the website and check out the video of the chef in action, cooking your meal. The videos are catered to cooks, pausing after each step so you can catch up. The ingredients can also be delivered in different quantities, so whether you are cooking for two or eight, you’re all set.

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Chefday is also philanthropic! Through their Cook One Feed One program, for each serving you order through the company, they will donate an equal amount to the Food Bank for NYC. They are also all about eating healthy! All ingredients are fresh and natural and all dishes come with a calorie count.

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Whether you are vegetarian, pescatarian, or a carnivore, they’ve got meals for you to choose from! You could try asparagus stuffed salmon, courtesy of Chris Leahy of Lexington Brass, Parmesan veal Milanese, courtesy of Victor Laplaca of Isola Trattoria e Crudo, or you can try the stir fried green bean vermicelli, courtesy of Jehangir Mehta of Mehtaphor – which is what I tried. It was easy to follow the step-by-step instructions and was fun to watch the video and make sure I was following the recipe correctly. Each ingredient was fresh and it was easy to identify each since they were all labeled.

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Yummy Chefday meal

I may love food, but I am not a cook – luckily, they made it so easy! Without having to go out shopping for such specific ingredients in the right quantities it took away half the hassle of cooking. In fact, my dish turned out great! This is such an ingenious idea – ideal for those who love to cook and for those who love a restaurant quality meal. Make cooking fun with Chefday!

Salsa Chicken & Chicken Street Tacos

I could eat Mexican food every single day of my life.  If I was in prison and had to choose my last meal, it would probably be Carne Asada street tacos.  One of the best perks of living in Southern California is that we have delicious, authentic Mexican food on what seems like every street corner.  I can’t complain.

This chicken recipe is great because you can throw it in a crock pot with a jar of salsa and forget about it for a few hours.   Once I make a batch of it, I can use the chicken throughout the week for a number of meals.  On top of eggs, mixed in a salad, or maybe even just eating it with a fork out of a storage container.  It’s that good.  First, I am going to tell you how to prep the chicken.  It’s almost unreal how easy it is.  Below that, you can find a taco recipe I made with it.

Salsa Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – as desired, I’d recommend doing 6 so that you have tons of delicious chicken for the week
  • Your favorite salsa, the amount to use depends.  You want to make sure that when you put it all in the crock pot, the salsa covers the chicken.  2-3 small jars should work.
  1. Dump everything in a crockpot and set it on low.
  2. After about six hours, you should notice that the chicken is nice and cooked.
  3. Take a piece out and test it.  You should be able to slice it apart with a fork, like soft butter.
  4. Put the chicken (sliced or whole) in some tupperware and use it when you need it.  I prefer to shred it with a fork before storing it up.

Street Tacos

I came up with this on a whim.  I had shredded salsa chicken in the fridge, fresh corn tortillas from my favorite local Mexican market, and avocado on hand.  Since the chicken was made beforehand, this literally took ten minutes – if even that- to throw together.  Perks of making mass amounts of food ahead of time?  I think yes.

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Marysa’s Street Chicken Tacos

Another staple item that I keep on hand is a bag of coleslaw mix.  While I don’t use the dressing, the veggie mix itself is great to saute for breakfast, or mix into a salad for lunch/dinner.  I’d like to get into the habit of slicing up cabbage and having it stored, but for now, this saves me tons of time since I use it so often.

Ingredients:

  • 3 small, street size corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup of salsa chicken
  • 1 cup of sliced cabbage/cole slaw mix sans dressing
  • Avocado (as desired)
  • Hot sauce

Instructions:

  1. Place the cabbage on the tacos first.
  2. Then distribute the chicken.
  3. Top with as much avocado as desired and put hot sauce (my favorite is Cholula) on top.
  4. Since the cabbage is likely to be cold, throw the finished tacos in the microwave for about 15 seconds.
  5. Devour.

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#SCBD Exclusive Interview with Aida Mollenkamp, Chef & Author of Keys to the Kitchen

A few weeks ago I was looking at cookbooks with my friend Ashley at Williams Sonoma. We came across Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp and we knew we had to get it! It has 305 recipes, 40 fundamental techniques, and 300 photographs & illustrations! It’s an ideal cookbook for any amateur chef since it covers all the basics.  Before Superstorm Sandy hit, I had the opportunity to interview Aida Mollenkamp about her first cookbook Keys to the Kitchen, life and following your dreams.

SCBD: Hi Aida, thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you and tell my readers about your new and first cookbook, Keys to the KitchenYou have always been passionate about cooking, which eventually led to you studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. What was your favorite experience while at Le Cordon Bleu?

AM: There are so many memories from Le Cordon Bleu that it’s hard to pick one, but they all seem to come down to the experience and interaction that the French culture fosters with food.

One of my favorite moments was when my classmates and I gathered in the middle of the night in order to visit the Marché de Rungis when it opened in the pre-dawn hours. Rungis is one of the largest wholesale markets in Europe and has whole hangars dedicated not just to one animal but to one section of the animal, like offal! It was the first time I really understood that nose-to-tail eating was a very real concept and that the French had been doing it for years.

Aida Mollenkamp, Photo Credit: Robin Jolin

SCBD: I’ve been thinking of taking cooking classes so I can be a better cook & writer. Do you think it’s a good idea? Why?

AM: Well, I think that it’s important to learn something new everyday whether it’s a shortcut on your way to work or trying a new food when you eat. I personally really enjoy classes and like working collaboratively so cooking school really gave me a lot. It may not be for everyone but my belief is you build a solid and then you’ll be able to find your own voice, be it on the page or in the kitchen.

SCBD: You’ve had tons of editorial experience, what was the best part of working for a food magazine like CHOW?

AM: That too comes down to the things I learned. CHOW was founded by Jane Goldman who has had an impressive editorial career that’s included Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, Wired, and Industry Standard. Her journalistic approach to food reminded us that food writing doesn’t have to be precious and that we can and should talk about it in plain terms. That concept imbued the whole editorial vision and allowed us a lot of creative freedom in our recipes, food photography, and story concepts.

SCBD: You have quite a record and had two shows. Ask Aida which aired on Food Network followed by foodCrafters on The Cooking Channel, what was your favorite part about filming? What was your most memorable segment (on both or either show)?

AM: Oh, the crew would be my favorite part about filming – you get to work with amazingly talented people and it really is a group effort to make a show come to life. As for my most memorable segment, that’s really hard to say as I had some seriously awesome experiences. On Ask Aida, it would probably be one of the first days when I was told to never stop or call cut and to leave that to the producer. I began doing the show intro and had a pan with oil heating on the stove. Well, I went on a little too long and the pan caught fire but I was thinking, “the show must go on.” The producer thought I had a screw loose but I was just trying to follow orders!

On FoodCrafters it’s really hard to say because each experience was really unique. I adored making orange marmalade in traditional copper pots with Rachel Saunders of Blue Chair Fruit  because her work is proof that attention to quality ingredients and detail really makes a simple product like a preserve that much more exceptional.

Aida Mollenkamp, Photo Credit: Bonnie Tsang

SCBD: Those eventually led to you writing your first cookbook, which I bought this past weekend Keys to the Kitchen. It’s a cookbook that covers all the basics that every chef should know along with some delicious innovative recipes. How does it feel to have your first cookbook published?

AM: It’s really quite surreal. Keys To The Kitchen has been over two years in the works yet nothing really prepared me for the publication day. A fellow food writer told me it was like having a baby and, though I haven’t had a child, I do feel like this book was almost as much effort, attention, and work. The fun part is that now I get to travel around and share this book with people and do what I love: encourage people to have fun in the kitchen.

SCBD: All the recipes look delicious, what’s your personal favorite in the cookbook? Which should I start with?

AM: The great thing about Keys To The Kitchen is you can pretty much start anywhere. If you’ve really never cooked before, I’d take it easy and make baked eggs or one of the pastas. If you feel like baking, the Sage-Maple Cornbread is a lot of flavor for minimal effort. And if you want to try something different and a bit challenging, try out the Caramelized Fennel Tarte Tatin.

Aida Mollenkamp, Photo Credit: Bonnie Tsang

SCBD: Why do you think it’s so important for every chef or just newbie cooks to know basic techniques?

AM: My other love aside from cooking is music, and many a great musician would claim that you can’t make it your own and riff until you know the basics. Those basic techniques function like directions on a compass, without them you wouldn’t really know which way you’re headed.

SCBD: What’s your favorite dish to cook?

AM: That’s a hard question because it’s constantly changing. If I’m in the kitchen, it’s almost always about recipe testing so I don’t have a ton of time to cook just any old thing. I do really enjoy doughs and pastas because it’s a really apparent payoff as the effort and time you put in directly results in the level of quality of the finished product.

SCBD: You have a cookbook tour going on, what should people expect at the tour?

AM: What’s really great about this tour is that I’ve got an assortment of events as we’re doing almost 40 events in nearly 20 cities. I’m traveling with Williams-Sonoma to do cooking demonstrations in a variety of their stores; I’ve been holding cocktail parties in locations such as urban farms; am collaborating with some of my favorite food stores for hands-on cooking classes; and am doing a number of ticketed dinners through mid-December.

My belief is you eat three times a day so you might as well have fun with it, keep in interesting, and know how to make a few things and all these events weave in those concepts.

SCBD: What was the last dish you cooked?

AM: Let’s see, that would be veggie tacos I made for the site yesterday. I have a series called Pretty. Easy. where I teach simple recipes and ways to dress them up or further simplify them and this month will be quinoa, black bean, and caramelized onion tacos.

SCBD: What’s your life motto?

AM: I aim to seek adventures – be it as little as a new nail color or as massive as a trip somewhere foreign – every single day.

Aida Mollenkamp, Photo Credit: Bonnie Tsang

SCBD: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone trying to break into the many facets of the food industry?

AM: Well, it’s a lot of hard work so do what you love. Think about why you want to be in the industry – if you like making food gorgeous, you should aim for food photography; if you like food science, maybe a test kitchen is for you – and find people doing those jobs. Ask them what they’ve done and how they’ve gotten where they are. Finally, always be willing to take a bit of risk to go after what you want – I started as an unpaid intern at CHOW because I wanted that badly to be a part of something new and different like CHOW.

SCBD: You’ve accomplished a lot in a few years, where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

AM: To be honest, I’m just focused on the next 5 weeks. After that I’m going to need some serious rest and then I’ll start thinking about the long term future.

 Click here to order a copy of Keys to the Kitchen.

Aida Mollenkamp on Facebook & Twitter.

Be sure to grab a copy of Keys to the Kitchen!

It’s a cookbook I highly recommend– happy cooking! 🙂

#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!