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A Not-So-Brief Introduction

October 27, 2009

At Jim's Cheesesteaks on South Street in Philadelphia, 2005


I love to cook. I guess it started when I was about 4, when I told my babysitter that I wanted to cook something and knew how to do it. I went over to the cupboard and picked out the peanut butter and some grape flavored powdered juice mix and proceeded to mix them together.  Obviously this concoction did not turn out to be delicious (and was very, very messy), but it was the beginning of a life-long love affair with food.

My mom was an assistant chef at a country club before I was born, so she knows her way around the kitchen (not to mention that my Grandma is also a fantastic cook, even though she insists she isn’t to this day). Mom started teaching me to do simple things like shredding cheddar cheese and peeling potatoes early on, and as time progressed I gradually became more at home in the kitchen. At around 13 I started really chipping in, cooking basic skillet meals for the family while my mom was busy with three little ones (and whoever she was babysitting at the time). It never occurred to me how important all of this cooking experience would become as I got older.

I left my home in rural northern New Jersey to head for college outside of Philadelphia in 2003. Suddenly I felt completely naked without a real kitchen! Having only a microwave, a mini fridge and some microwave safe dishes in my dorm room; my options suddenly became very limited! I felt lost without easy access to a kitchen, and very, very quickly grew tired of dining hall food. My second year at school I lived in an apartment on campus that HAD a kitchen. I was thrilled! And so began a new chapter in my cooking journey: i was always having people over for food or heading to friends’ apartments and cooking up a storm; using recipes only as a guide for my own creativity.

When I moved into South Philadelphia in 2005 I began exploring even more; stopping at small eateries in the Italian Market, wandering into poorly marked, mostly unknown establishments off of alleys around Rittenhouse Square and South Street and learning how to LOVE a cheesesteak, Philly style. This is when I first started trying out restaurants that I knew nothing about and finding myself in awe at the quality of food placed before me for mere pennies. Since then, I’ve discovered that price is no indication of quality. I’ve paid $30 a plate for food that is inferior to what I cook at home; I’ve had delicious meals for just a few dollars from restaurants with “B” health ratings (always a sure sign of authenticity) and grown to love Korean Barbecue and Mexican food straight from the taco truck. I’ve discovered that every city has its own unique, vibrant food scene. The way I see it, you can either go to a chain restaurant and pay too much for something standard, or you can seek out the lesser known, smaller places where they’ve truly mastered a specialty, and serve it up for a couple of bucks!  Great food crosses all social and economic borders, you just have to be willing to go find it!

Long story short, food has always been a huge part of my life. Over the past few years (especially since moving to Los Angeles in 2007) I’ve tasted some amazing food at some super fancy restaurants, including Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in New York City, Paul Bartolotta’s Bartolotta in Las Vegas and Gordon Ramsey’s Boxwood Cafe in London. But I’ve also eaten food from a Gyro place in the not-so-nice area of Corfu, Greece, at a tourist dominated Greco-Italian pizza joint in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and inside a tiny shack that makes Mexican-style flame-grilled chicken in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. I’ve eaten food from countless trucks around the United States, and had a Mixed Seafood Grill at a small hotel restaurant in Venice, Italy that was every bit as good as the fish I’ve eaten in many highly regarded (and far more expensive) restaurants in American fishing cities.

Learning how amazing food can be when you’re not eating at Applebee’s has been a huge turning point for me. My horizons have been expanded and i’ve become ravenous for great food at home. This blog will mark yet another new chapter for me in my love affair with food: challenging my palate, creativity and cooking chops to provide you with recipes that will hopefully make you fall in love with food again and again!

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