I’m In the Kitchen with Alex Stupak

Empellon Push Project

My editor at Serious Eats warned me that Alex Stupak, the chef/owner of Empellon in NYC, could be a bit brusque in interviews. Instead, I found him to be incredibly articulate, respectful and humble. Since then I’ve interviewed Alex and his awesome wife/partner chef Lauren Resler on various other projects, and am continually delighted by how thoughtful, considerate people they are.

Oh, and their food is pretty incredible too. I’ve been to both of their restaurants several times and am consistently satiated by the time I leave.

I recently covered Alex’s second Push Project dinner, where be brings another chef into his kitchen for a 9-course joint tasting menu. For this incarnation he brought in Jordan Kahn from Red Medicine in L.A.

Alex let me hang in the kitchen. This is what I got to see happen:

I Chat With Chef Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Cafe

Chef Carmen at Union Square Cafe

Chef Carmen at Union Square Cafe, photo Brent Herrig Photography

Chef Carmen Quagliata is practically the quintessential Italian grandma. I experienced this first-hand when I showed up for a small private dinner and he’d made me an alternate menu sensitive to my allergies, one that was course-for-course on par with the other guests’ dishes. It wasn’t expected and hardly requested; he responded to my effusive thanks with a humble, “I just didn’t want you to feel left out.”

So begins my interview with Chef Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Cafe. I had gone there a few weeks before for a press dinner at the new chef’s table, where Chef Carmen does family-style dishes including whole fish and entire porchettas. To my surprise he had made me an entire five-course meal on par with the diners around me, from three kinds of gluten-free bread to nosh on in the beginning through to a goat-cheese cheesecake for dessert.

“I just didn’t want you to feel left out”, he said during our interview for Serious Eats. I almost cried.

Italian chefs quickly hit my heartstrings, and Chef Carmen had them dancing. Please check out the full interview on Serious Eats, drop him some love in the comments, and head to a stellar meal at Union Square Cafe very soon.

I Chat With… NYC’s Finest Tastemakers

At the table with Executive Chef April Bloomfield, photo Brent Herrig

At the table with Executive Chef April Bloomfield, photo Brent Herrig

I get all reflective around the holidays.

My birthday, too, when I come to think of it.

As the year comes to a close my current focus is on my health – following your passion into the kitchen and on the city streets as a writer puts a lot of stress on a body with a chronic illness. I love my jobs. Cooking, nourishing, interviewing, covering events, working on building up Easy Eats Magazine… they really fulfill me. But sometimes I let the balance tip too far towards overworking and too far from sustaining my health. As proven by having to take a day completely off of work this week – literally, calling in sick which I never do – because of back pain limiting my capability to cook.

But while my health is wavering, reflecting on the beautiful things I’ve gotten to accomplish this year is so satisfying.

One is the insane amount of talent I’ve gotten to sit from across a table, as I’ve interviewed chefs, restauranteurs, writers and mixologists/sommeliers. I’m blown away by who I’ve gotten to speak with.

The faces below are my most recent – taken before, during and after Hurricane Sandy ravaged my city. I have interviews on the calendar through January and am excited by the endless list of tastemakers to speak with.

For my entire gallery, visit my I Chat With… page. And for links to all the interviews, including the most recent ones pictured here, check out my page on Serious Eats.

Happy Friday,

– Jacqueline

Rise Up, New York. (and Big Apple Cupcakes)

My friend Robbie…

There’s something about when the lights go out in New York City.

When restaurants are closed, Broadway stages are dark, and bridges and tunnels flooded.

I’m incredibly fortunate. Washington Heights is called the Heights for a reason in that we’re elevated, so my neighborhood wasn’t in danger of flooding – though ten blocks away and the highway below me got wiped. We passed a relatively uneventful night, the howling outside and occasional crash of something flying and falling a soundtrack to the news we couldn’t look away from and the movies we eventually distracted ourselves with. Eerily, the streets were empty. But, though it flickered, we never lost our electricity. We woke to quiet.

Everyone I know is safe, though many are still without power and a few have flooded homes.

I am very fortunate.

Anytime something strikes NYC – a madman with a gun, a massive transportation strike, a blackout, a hurricane – I become even more in love with where I live. I truly love New York City. I love the community, the diversity, the possibility. Yes, it takes energy to live here, but it gives me energy as well. It doesn’t feel like a big city at all. It just feels like… home.

So, thank you to those who are working to repair our home. To those who helped evacuated the hospitals without power and on fire. To the emergency responders who helped people out of collapsed homes, evacuated the areas in danger of being crushed by a falling crane, who worked to put out fires through floods and who are still working in teams to bring help to those in need. Thanks to those hauling away debris, washing muddy roads, pumping out the subway tunnels and working to get the millions of us without power back into the light.

My heart is downtown…

…and for all those who have made sure we’re safe and sent loving energy from Toronto, Cape Town, Denver, Tampa, California… please hug someone you love.

Because hugging is awesome. And we should do more of it.

For a NYC-inspired recipe and more blubbering about why I love my city so much, check out my Big Apple Cupcakes with NY Cheesecake Frosting.

– Jacqueline

I Chat With: Chef Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill

“When you do something good for people you don’t do good because you want something good to come out of it: you do it for the goodness of your heart and soul, what your parents teach you to do. I believe that if everybody does their part this would be a better place to live in.”

It’s not often that a chef moves me to tears in an interview, let alone twice.

Yet Chef Cardoz did just that.

Our chat together inspired many such moments, where his balanced belief system gave me confidence that kitchens aren’t always about ego, celebrity doesn’t always mean drama, and good food can be created by happy hands.

I could go on about how special this interview was, and how much I look forward to heading down to North End Grill again for a long lunch. Or how much I hope that Chef Cardoz and I do get to share a Portuguese meal together in Jersey (he’s from Goa, a Portuguese part of India where my Indian godfather is from which is how he met my Portuguese family). Or how the world, this city and my profession do seem friendlier knowing that such chefs are out there.

Head over to Serious Eats NY to read the full interview.

Stay dry and warm,

– Jacqueline

Oh, and if you missed it earlier today, check out my new “Private Chef-ing By the Book” post with Seamus Mullen’s HERO FOOD. I also interviewed Chef Mullen for this Serious Eats series!

I Chat With James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur Magazine

When I set out to start shaping my writing career around the culinary world, I had no real expectation. At the time I was more focused on getting in front of a camera, sharing my dusty little recipes in a friendly environment for those struggling with food allergies. But, honestly, it takes a lot of energy to be a performer, and after 10+ years of pushing to find it I’ve realized sometimes my body doesn’t have that energy.

So writing became the focus. I’ve always been a reader, and an observer, and been most excited by what excites others – hence why I wanted to slip into the skin of another person as an actor, or make documentary films on other kinds of performers, or now interview chefs in their own kitchens.

I remember my first issue of Saveur Magazine… or at least the first I purchased and the one that made me sign up for a subscription shortly after. It was #123: Why Lamb Rules. Along with a diagram of cuts of lamb and recipes from all over the world on how to prepare it, the issue also featured different types of cinnamon and which apples proved to be best for baking (I remember all of this, including the images of lamb, cinnamon and apples, as I sit here… I didn’t have to look this up).

I read a lot about food. But Saveur has a special place in my heart. Reading it – both in print and now on my iPad – takes me all over the world and into the kitchens and dining tables of places I could only dream of eating at and exploring.

So today’s interview on Serious Eats was a special one for me. James Oseland is incredibly kind, passionate, energetic. His love of food and his trajectory with how he got to Saveur is delightful. He talked for over an hour, and it was a nightmare cutting down some truly entertaining tidbits for the article. He uses such colorful language so fluidly, and paints incredible pictures with his words.

One thing I pointed out in the interview is how much I admire how Saveur’s stories really do tie together food with family, culture, the earth, and god – however the subject perceives those to be. When Brent and I went to the Acores last year, several of the stories we were working on I had with Saveur in mind. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll get back there together.

Until then, please check out this very special interview on Serious Eats.

Happy Tuesday,

– Jacqueline

The NYC Wine and Food Festival (and on Not Eating At Work)

Elizabeth Karmel’s PB&J Cupcakes at NYC Wine and Food Festival SWEET event, photo Jacqueline Raposo

There’s something curious about straddling worlds as a food person who writes things that people (sometimes) read and pay attention to.

I’ve had these fun little allergies for a few decades now, but for the most part rarely feel deprived, as there’s a plethora of alternative ingredients to cow-dairy and gluten that didn’t exist when I was a tween battling her first bout of Lyme disease. I can ingest a small amount of gluten without killing myself, and a few times a year indulge on something really special: a local beer at a baseball game with friends on the Ohio river in Cincinnati: a piece of a hot, crusty Portuguese roll with my family. I admitted this in a blog post for Easy Eats after a and the response from the gluten-free community was mixed, with some challenging my credentials in working for a gluten-free publication and one person saying flat out that they were no longer going to follow the magazine.

So there’s that.

My piece on Tacos and Tequila rocking the hour on Serious Eats (and SWEET is up there too)

On the flip side, I interview chefs and cover events for Serious Eats NY, where I often can’t eat what is offered to me. I either pick what I can off a plate, rely on my partner (Brent Herrig, who thank dog can eat everything) or question those around me for details and opinions. So far no one has questioned my credibility to write in this world, though I haven’t called particular attention to the fact that I didn’t eat a single bite from the NYC Wine and Food Festival’s SWEET event because every single dessert offered contained gluten and/or dairy, most often both.

Seems that one world is easier to get by in and the other more serious, though curiously juxtaposed in their titleage.

I never quite how odd my absence of eating could be until covering the New York City Wine and Food Festivals Chopped, SWEET and Tacos and Tequila events. At Chopped (all the judges from the TV show Chopped dishing out at Marc Murphy’s Landmarc) I could literally only eat Murphy’s pork belly – if I just ate the meat off the bun. At SWEET – nada. I went home both nights very hungry. At Tacos and Tequila, I picked my way through (and thoroughly enjoyed) what I could. Luckily Brent has become part of my anti-allergy team and questions ingredients alongside me, warning me when not to take a bite (and refilling my tequila and soda as needed).

This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t love straddling both of these worlds. In fact, I don’t see them as two different worlds. They’re just… well… my world. There was no “gluten-free community” or food blogs when I started on my personal relationship with watching how food affects my body. There was just me, my plate, and how my body accepted or rejected what I put on it.

So I’m still celebrating what I can eat and what I can’t. For some reason, this has resulted in my profession being creating and writing about food. And now and then accepting that maybe I’ll just have to go a little hungry… and drink some tequila and shake it on a dance floor.

Check out the little colored words in the post for my pieces on Easy Eats and Serious Eats, and the images below to take you to those events.


– Jacqueline

NYC Wine and Food Festival’s SWEET event, Friday October 12th (photo, me)

NYC Wine and Food Festival’s Tacos and Tequila, Saturday October 13th (photo Brent Herrig)

Female Chefs join to Benefit SHARE, a breast and ovarian cancer organization

Chefs Gabrielle Hamilton, Sue Torres, Anita Lo, Amanda Freitag and Elizabeth Faulkner. Photo Kym Fajardo.

“Pathology’s benign – just have to repeat the test in 6 months. Thx for all your love + support.”

That is exactly the kind of text you want to receive from a good friend, especially when a long day is going to be celebrated by covering a benefit for breast and ovarian cancer. I got off the subway to find it flashing triumphantly on my phone yesterday, and almost cried out in relief. I know these kinds of texts are going to change the older we get, but I really wasn’t ready for hearing the opposite. I know – we never are. But I’ll push off that moment as long as possible.

Yet, when it comes, at least I know there’s a community of love and support waiting. The world surrounding breast and ovarian cancer support has grown dramatically in my lifetime, and continues to thrive today. Last night I attended A Second Helping of Life, an event bringing together some of New York City’s best female chefs to benefit SHARE, a breast and ovarian cancer support organization. It brings together survivors and their families, offering education, a forum to discuss, and community.

It was a beautiful event, and I was psyched to see so many of the chefs I’ve interviewed there and make connections withe more to come. And, of course, it was just delicious.

Head on over to Serious Eats NY for the full coverage.

I Chat With: Chef Jim Botsacos of Molyvos and Abboccato

Chef Jim Botsacos at Molyvos, NYC. Photo Brent Herrig.

There’s something about an Italian chef.

And there’s something about a Greek chef.

Jim Botsacos is both Italian and Greek.

He had a lot to talk about.

Today on Serious Eats NY I chat with Chef Jim Botsacos of Molyvos and Abboccato restaurants in Manhattan. It was a truly delightful interview. For he talked mostly on family, and food, and culture. On how we inherit food traditions from our elders and how to bequeath them to the younger generations.

Chef Jim’s eyes light up when he talks about dishes and methods and ingredients to the point that both of our mouths were watering and he had to punctuate his sentence with a hand-gesture or a “boom” or “pop” vocally. His “tutti mangiare”, “shit, man” and “amazing” made him sound so New York City. He pulled out pictures of his kids. I walked away with tips on making meatballs incredibly fluffy and how to bake eggplant down to buttery, soft deliciousness.

And then there were things, as someone who also comes from very food-centered Mediterranean roots, just really hit home:

“Over the course of time you lose the language and people change, but you still have a close connection with the food.”

“Instinctively I gravitated towards the food of my culture. It’s imbedded in me. Family dynamics change, but no one can take food away from you.”

The interview is up today on Serious Eats NY.

Check it out.

Tutti mangiare!

I Chat With Chef Anita Lo of Annisa, NYC


“I’ve always been a fan of language in general. On some levels I think that literature is the highest art—it excites the imagination, which had no borders to it.”

Today a particularly lovely interview goes live on Serious Eats NY: a chat with Anita Lo of Annisa. The 25th in this very special series, it’s another one that makes me feel so fortunate to be so welcomed into the kitchens of some very generous, talented, hard-working people.

And head here for a roundup of my favorite quotes and stellar images (from my rockstar partner, Brent Herrig) with the chefs in e series thus far.

Happy Monday!

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