TASTY Awards

7 Questions with Zuzy Martin Lynch

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

cooking for the cluelessCooking for the Clueless is a web site for all of those folks who realized that they hit the big 3-0 without ever learning how to cook.  It was started by the bi-coastal couple of Zuzy Martin Lynch and Rick Lynch.  Rick is a California guy who grew up living the hipster West Coast lifestyle which included eating out a lot.  The same was true for Zuzy who grew up in the glamor of the East Coast where dining out is as common to New Yorkers as breathing.  But somewhere along the way neither learned their way around the kitchen.

According to the web site, “Cooking for the Clueless was born in our living room after realizing that we had a storage full of kitchen gadgets, appliances, and registry must-haves that we didn’t know how to use.”  The site features cooking tips and videos, recipes, a team of chefs and food writers that provide expert advice on everything from special diets to supermarket shopping strategies.

The web site soon produced a DVD also entitled Cooking for the Clueless that has been described as a must-have for anyone looking to tackle the kitchen.  The DVD is available on their site and at amazon.com (HERE).  It has received a lot of accolades including winning a coveted Tasty Award for best DVD in 2010.  High praise indeed.

Recently Zuzy Martin Lynch was kind enough to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Zuzy Martin Lynch of Cooking for the CluelessHmmm. This is an embarrassing one, but then again, I am the founder of “Cooking for the Clueless” so the real answer is: late, too late. I learned how to entertain at a very early age. I learned how to eat out very young too. Learning how to cook came late, in my thirties!

2. What was the inspiration for “Cooking for the Clueless?”

My husband and I grew tired of eating out every night because we didn’t know how to cook. One day after realizing that eating out everyday was exhausting and expensive, we decided to get help and help others in our boat (about half of America)!

3. Who would you say has influenced you the most?

My grandmothers, have by far, been the biggest influence on who I am. This includes good and bad habits. LOL. So, I have good old-fashioned values and I’m super nurturing, but I never knew how to cook because they spoiled me instead of teaching me how to cook. Ok, so now that I’m an adult, I won’t blame poor grandmas (God bless them), but they did take part in making me “clueless.”

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

Journalism. Most definitely. I love asking questions and understanding the world through the stories and experiences of others.

5. What’s the highlight of your career so far?

The highlight of my Cooking for the Clueless career has been appearing on some fun morning shows, winning a Tasty Award and meeting my favorite TV chefs in person including Fabio Viviani of Top Chef!

6. What has winning a Tasty Award meant to you?

I love my Tasty Award! It has been great being recognized for admitting that I was clueless in the kitchen and trying to help the millions of America who are most definitely in the same boat. I also love how the Tastys bring all the foodie peeps together in one place – they are so much fun!

7. What’s next for Zuzy Martin Lynch?

This spring (TODAY), we’re launching Fridays with Fabio where I interview chef Fabio Viviani of Top Chef during a weekly series – asking him anything we want to know. My dream is to bring Cooking for the Clueless to more people  – exposing them not only to the kitchen, but to cultures, customs and foods from around the world.

Fridays with Fabio:

LA Smells Like Tacos

The title doesn’t lie.  Everywhere I have been in Tinsel Town there has been the wafting aroma of tacos.  LAX?  Tacos. Santa Monica?  Tacos.  Marina del Ray, Bevery Hills, Hollywood?  Tacos.  I don’t mean that in any derogatory way.  Oh no, it’s a compliment. It smells terrific.

The tacos that produce that intoxicating odor are not the pseudo tacos with fried corn shells or worse those using a seldom seen ingredient in Mexico, flour.  These are the real deal – grilled corn tortillas filled with any variation of slow-cooked or grilled (and sometimes both) meat like Asada or Cochinita Pibil.

After two days of trekking about LA sampling the offerings of great chefs like Wolfgang Puck it was time to listen to my nose.  But I had two problems  A) I don’t know where to find any taco stands and two, my feet were still killing me from hours of mingling at the TASTYs after-party.  So I did what our fore-fathers would have done.  I Googled “food delivery Hollywood” to find a place that would bring tacos to my hotel room.

I stumbled on a great service called LAbite.com that picks up food from a number of restaurants and delivers it to your door.  I punched in the zip code of where I was staying and up pops several restaurants of varying cuisines for me to choose from.  I went with Frida Taqueria in Beverly Hills.  I was rewarded with a truck load of the good stuff.

Taco Sampler from Frida TaqueriaI ordered a taco sampler with Carnitas (slow roasted pork), Cochinita Pibil (Slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus juice), Pastor (Roasted pork in a special marinated sauce), Asada (grilled tenderloin strips) and a pair of Fish Tacos.  I also had them bring me some Guac and Chips and a fresh order of Churros.  What arrived was a revelation.  The tacos were amazingly thick with stuffing, each morsel better than the last.

The guacamole was smooth with chunks of avocado that announce on the first bite that you haven’t had avocados until you’ve had fresh avocados.  They were very sweet and succulent.

The Churros, however, stole the show.  My previous experience with these south of the border donuts has been from the freezer department of the grocery store.  These were so much better as to be a different dish altogether with a soft filling that was the perfect foil to the crunchy exterior and cinnamon-sugar dusting.  And unlike so many American desserts they were not so sweet that all flavor was lost.

In conclusion, and in summary, Frita Taqueria has great tacos and their Churros are fantastic, LAbite.com is a great service and no matter how comfortable the shoes five hours on concrete will make your feet hurt.

In conclusion, and in summary,

The TASTYs – What a Night!

It was a night of glamor, humor and networking.  It was the TASTYs!

Egyptian Theater in HollywoodWhat happens when you get Jolene Sugarbaker (the Trailer Park Queen), Average Betty, the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, Chef John of Foodwishes and the Bikini Chef together?  I wish I could tell you.

It’s not a secret – one of those “what happens at the TASTYs stays at the TASTYs” scenarios.   Nor is it the result of alcohol-amnesia albeit not for a lack of trying.  The entire evening was such a blur that my feeble mind struggles to put things together.  My memories seem like one of those flash back episodes that sitcom’s do when everyone wants a week off.

Here’s a short rundown on the celebs I hung with:

  • Manouschka Guerrier and Sasha Perl-Raver of The Private Chefs of Beverly Hills are far more beautiful in real life than on the tube.  They are both extremely sweet as well while oozing sex appeal.  Chef Stuart O’Keeffe was also there and the few femmes not hooked on his James Bond looks were undone by his Irish brogue.
  • Jolene Sugarbaker was a huge hit in LA!  Her humor is so natural and genuine that everyone wanted their picture taken with her.  A true original who refuses to let corporate bigwigs force her into the cookie cutter molds they so love.
  • Chef Nathan Lyon of PBS’ Growing a Greener World and Discovery Health’s A Lyon in the Kitchen appears to be the next big chef sex symbol.  His easy style and and charming mannerisms were even noticeable in a town filled with those traits.  He’s also a great guy with an inspiring message about knowing the person who grows your lettuce.  This cat is also hysterically funny.
  • Average Betty, Chef John and Jolene SugarbakerSara O’Donnell, known to the world as Average Betty, was like the hippest chick in high school – funny and unpretentious.  She is the female friend that guys love to hang out with which is shocking since her long shapely legs and seductive red locks drew more second glances than the runway models on hand for the fashion side of the awards.  She was stunning!  Let that be a lesson to you model-types – eat a F’ing sandwich!
  • What can one say about Chef John?  The most humble guy ever.  He’s so good at teaching people how to cook that they never notice they are learning something.  If there is a word that sums up John it has to be “wholesome.”  Just a real guy with a charm that sneaks up on you.  And I’m not just saying that because he promised me a bottle of his wife’s new San Francisco style BBQ sauce.
  • Bobby Bognar of the History Channel’s Food Tech posses all the cool I have come to expect from musicians.  He’s as funny as a stand-up comedian, a good one, too, not like Pauly Shore.  He has that every-guy appeal that makes you want to be his friend.  He also seems like a good guy to have at your back in a bar room brawl.
  • Susan Irby the Bikini ChefSusan Irby was sporting her trademark Bikini Chef jacket with strategically placed see-through polka-dots that reveal just a hint of her hard body.  The brilliance of her jacket is that it doesn’t really offer a glimpse of the scandalous lady-parts but bewitches you with promise of more.  One photog remarked to me that she beams like the sun; an understatement.  Susan made sure I got to meet Wolfgang Puck and introduced me to the people that mattered at the pre-awards reception.  She took me into the Hollywood Hills so I could see everything LA has to offer in one awe-inspiring view.  Thanks for keeping me from looking like a rube.

This is but a capsule of the great people and sites of the evening.  There’s more to come.  I mean, I still have two more days to kill and I don’t plan on spending them tapping on a laptop from my hotel room when Los Angeles is just outside my window.  I’m off to find a taco!

LA Skyline

Chef Stuart O’Keeffe

Roadblocks to the TASTYs

Today I head to the West Coast for the TASTY Awards.  If the trip is as interesting as the week leading up to it then I should have some crazy stories to share.

The Encounter restaurant & bar at LAXThis trip to LA is way more important to me than just getting to go see an awards show.  The potential for networking and bringing what I do to the attention to people who can make a difference is immense.  That in and of itself is stressful so I clearly didn’t need all of this:

My week started with the good old US Postal Service losing a deposit I mailed to the bank – my spending money for the trip.  I love how when they lose your mail they always ask, “Did you purchase insurance for your parcel?”  Yes, as a matter of fact I did;  it’s called a stamp.

For the record, the US Constitution gives the federal government two responsibilities – maintain a military and to provide postage FREE OF CHARGE to all citizens.  If you are going to charge for postage then you damned well better guarantee it gets there.   I really should think about moving to a bank in my own state.

A few days later my water pump goes out on my car which forces me to dip into my vacation funds.  That sucks considering the USPS has just lost my hard earned money.  Again, Post Office, when I pay you for a service I expect you to provide it otherwise don’t take my money.

2010 national championship Auburn SI CoverAs if this weren’t enough I have the added stress of my Auburn Tigers playing for the National Championship in football.  It’s been a great year but I won’t bore you with the details.  I just never knew how nerve wrecking it was to have your favorite team play for all the marbles until this year.

There is an old saying in the South, “If you die and go to heaven you still have to change planes in Atlanta.”  This holds true with my trip to LA.  I depart from Pensacola and switch planes in the same Atlanta that is currently bogged down with a freak winter storm that has to put the final nail in the coffin of Global Warming.

As a lad in Sunday school I was taught that God never gives us obstacles we cannot overcome.  I’ve never actually seen that in the Bible.  Not saying it isn’t there, just saying I’ve never read it.  But I do know this, I got my water pumped fixed and for less than a $100, the head of payroll at The Kitchen Hotline has overnighted me a replacement check, the Auburn Tigers are now officially the best team in college football and if there’s a delay in Hotlanta I can finish watching season two of 30 Rock via Netflix on my laptop.  That Tracy Morgan kills me.

If the resolutions to the few remaining roadblocks I have left pan out half as well then this will quite possibly be the best week of my entire life.  Oh who am I kidding?  When Wes Byrum put the ball through the uprights as time expired it was already the greatest week of my life.  And that was on a Monday.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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