As per suggestion of one of my readers (thanks Snuffles!), I would like to share with you, my culinary roots. Just in case some of you wonder, “Where does she come up with this stuff?” These are the people who are my culinary heroes, my inspiration, and mentors:
My Grandmother: My original inspiration. I grew up in her home until I was a teenager. She loved to cook, and although her cuisine was mostly Mexican, she would get creative in subtle ways. As a child I followed the good kitchen smells to the source, and became so intrigued and wondered how I could do the same thing. She took me under her wing, and taught me many of the fundamentals I still use today. She even brought some of her cooking friends over and they all taught me how to make tamales from start to finish (which is hard work by the way!). Unfortunately her increasing age decreased her mobility, so she rarely cooked towards the end of her life. Before she passed, I was still able to serve her everything she taught me. I still keep a copy of an older than dirt cookbook she gave me, and some of my most treasured recipes come from it.
Julia Child: I do love my late grandmother to no end, but Julia Child also influenced me in my youth. I considered her to be the ultimate grandma and somewhat fictional. I didn’t get to experience cable TV until college, so public television cooking shows were the only culinary inspiration available to me. I always thought her voice was a bit of a nuisance, but the lady always knew what she was talking about, and it showed!
Jacques Pepin: Some people might not even know who he is, but he used to be on public television as well. A soft-spoken French chef with the heaviest accent I've ever heard. I enjoyed how he made the concept of French cuisine more humbled and down to earth. If it wasn’t for his teachings, I would still think that French food is ridiculously pretentious. I gained a firm understanding about technique and history from him, and also opened my eyes to some flavors previously unknown to me.
Duff Goldman: The Ace of Cakes guy. I really admire Duff, because I feel like if I owned or worked in a bakery, I would be just like the staff at Charm City Cakes. Seeing them erases my previous notions of stuffy old ladies working in cake boutiques. I’m a puck rock fan, and I love to find the humor in even the most adverse situations. I also have an undying appreciation for how Duff has no limits. He is so innovative with his cake decorating, that he really raised the bar for cake shops around the country - and the world. Although I’m not the biggest fan of cake fondant in terms of flavor, it’s a nice cosmetic touch…but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Duff.
Alton Brown: The original food nerd. I admire him in similar fashion as Duff. I can relate to his personality being a fellow nerd myself, haha! He takes cooking to another level by telling us the why’s and how’s about cooking techniques, hardware, and the variations of food themselves. In school I always had know why or how something occurs. Don’t expect me to really learn anything of you simply tell me, “Well, that’s just how it is,” because I’m not buying it. Alton answers so many of my culinary questions that no else can. He really is my culinary encyclopedia.
Paula Deen: As a fellow woman of the South, I’ve gotta tip my hat to the “Butter Queen.” Sometimes the health craze can be a drag, and I think comfort food is a necessary part of life. Besides, what do you look forward to when you go home for the holidays or any special occasion? All that rib-sticking food and good people, that’s what! She’s an hero and inspiration to me because she keeps it casual and lively. After all, one of the main ideas behind cooking is to bring people together and have a good time. I like to keep my cooking the same way; casual, fun, and full of satisfying flavors. I know plenty of people with larger than life appetites, and I can’t serve them rice cakes and tofu.
Last, but certainly not least, my taste tester (guinea pig) friends and my better half. My boyfriend of over 6 years (his name is Mike), whom I guess could be considered my unofficial husband at this point, is perhaps one of my biggest inspirations. I always enjoy the challenge of catering to his finicky tastes, and my success rate is very high. I even get him to open his eyes to new foods, which always gives me a sense of fulfillment. He’s also been a cheerleader of sorts, always encouraging me to embrace and expand my talents. My friends are always ready and willing to sample my latest creations, and I appreciate and enjoy their insights, suggestions, and recommendations.
All of these people are what make me stay in the kitchen and stay creative. If it wasn’t for them, I really don’t know where my life would be…I honestly can’t imagine another way of living!