Friday, 16 May 2014

LATEST SWEETNESS INTERVIEW: With Chef instructor and cookbook author, Lucy Vaserfirer

Greetings fellow readers! My latest foodie interview is with the talented Lucy Vaserfirer, cookbook author (x3!), chef instructor, and overall food-lovin' gal (my type of person). We met during our baking and patissier education at Western Culinary Institute (Portland, OR). From chef instructing, to food writing, and recipe development, Lucy brings a wealth of knowledge to the food world.

Lucy, cookbook author and chef.

My interview:

1) What inspired your culinary and pastry career?

I grew up in a very food-centric family and everything we did seemed to revolve around food and cooking, so it was a natural obsession for me from the very beginning. Then when I was in college, I came across a new book called Becoming a Chef and read it cover to cover in a single day. It showed me that culinary arts could be a career. My fate was sealed—I set my sights on culinary school and never looked back.    


2) Explain your most memorable dining experience at a restaurant.

My most memorable dining experience was actually at a bakery, not a restaurant. Seven years ago my husband and I visited Pierre Hermé on a trip to Paris. At that moment I found myself inside my wildest fantasy. It was like being in a jewelry shop, only instead of diamonds, the display cases were full of cakes and tarts and macarons! We ordered a Kouign-Amann, a Tarte Citron, a Carrément Chocolat, an Émotion Ispahan, and a chocolate macaron. It was love at first bite. The Kouign-Amann was light as a feather, with croissant-like layers of slightly salty pastry and a shatteringly thin caramel crust. The chocolate macaron melted in the mouth. The lemon tart was so puckery it tingled. The chocolate dessert was rich and intense and deeply satisfying, even for a chocolate lover who can’t be satisfied. And the Émotion Ispahan was simply the most delicious thing that has ever crossed my lips. A layer of litchi gelée, a layer of raspberry gelée so vibrant it almost seemed effervescent, and a layer of slightly sweetened rose-scented cream, all topped with a wafer of pink macaron and a single red rose petal, made for a perfect flavor combination. It was divine. All I can say is believe all the hype you hear about Pierre Hermé—he is indeed a pastry deity.


3) What tips would you give to a basic cook or baker just learning his/her skills?

Cook and bake as often as possible and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Try to focus on learning fundamental techniques rather than just specific recipes. Take any opportunity to watch other skilled cooks and bakers work. And taste everything.


4) Describe your cookbook "Marinades." What made you write a cookbook?

My desire to document my family’s recipes is what led me to writing cookbooks. We immigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan when I was just a little girl, and of course we brought our food traditions with us. When I was a teenager I endeavored to record all of the Uzbek and Russian recipes I grew up with so that I would know how to make them myself when I moved away to college. As my collection of these recipes grew, so did my desire to get it published. The market wasn’t ready for a cookbook of recipes from Uzbekistan, but I could never shake that dream to write a cookbook…

Some years later, I was working as an instructor at a school for home cooks. I came up with the idea of doing a class on searing since it’s the one technique that really separates the home cooks from the chefs. The class proved to be extremely popular, and students clamored for recommendations for further reading. Surprisingly there was no book on the all-important subject of searing, so I decided to seize the opportunity and write one myself. Seared to Perfection came out in 2010.

My first cookbook
Lucy's first book, Seared to Perfection.

The sidebar about compound butters in Seared to Perfection provided the inspiration for my second book Flavored Butters.

My second cookbook
Lucy's second book, Flavored Butters.

With Marinades, my newest cookbook, I’m out to prove that marinades are the secret to getting amazing dinners on the table every day. It contains 200 different marinade recipes and each one is accompanied by an additional recipe showcasing a way to use the marinade to make a complete meal, for a total of 400 recipes. The wide variety of marinade ideas will take you through every shelf of your pantry, up and down every aisle at the market, and then all the way around the world. I have to say my favorite recipe in the whole book is my family’s Shashlik Marinade from Uzbekistan.

My latest cookbook
Lucy's third book, Marinades.

By the way, I'm still looking for a publisher on the Uzbek cookbook in case anyone's interested…


5) What is your food guilty pleasure?

Anything fried!

I looovvveeee Lucy's blog Hungry Cravings! Be sure to check it out for food inspiration. Her latest book, Marinades: The Quick Way to turn everyday food into exceptional fare  is available at anywhere cookbooks are sold or just click the link to order.
I am very lucky to have read Marinades and it is sure of the most well-written and straightforward cookbooks on the market. From what ingredients do to the variety of recipes, it is a great addition to any professionals or domestic cook's library. I can't wait to try the blood orange-rosemary,  IPA-Jalapeno, and peach-poblano marinade this summer!

Lucy's other cookbooks included Seared to Perfection: The Simple Art of Sealing in Flavor  and Flavored Butters: How to make them, shape them, and use them as spreads, toppings, and sauces are also just as delicious and well-written!

Happy Baking,

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