Julia Child

7 Questions with Sarina Nicole

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

One common misconception among American diners is that all Latin American food is the same; it’s all Mexican food.  Well, dear reader, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Very few Americans have ever eaten real Mexican food.

First off, what most people think of as Mexican food is not.  Nachos?  American food.  Burritos?  American food.  Crunchy tacos?  American food.  Flour tortillas?  American food.  Yellow cheese?  English food.  Sure in Mexico they eat pinto beans and rice and tomatoes and chilies but so do the folks in New Orleans.  But that does not make gumbo Mexican food.

Few people understand this better than food blogger Sarina Nicole.  Nicole is a true Caribbean girl – half Trinidadian, half Jamaican.  She has dedicated her blog, TriniGourmet.com to educating people to the vast array of foods to be found in Trinidad and Tobago and how it differs from the cuisines of other Latin American countries.

According to her web site her, “. . . motivations are many, however the main impetus is that I feel that for too long now the cuisine of the Caribbean, and especially that of my native Trinidad has remained unexplored by the larger global market.”

Recently the foodie with the movie star smile was nice enough to answer 7 Questions:

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

Sarina Nicole of TriniGourmet.comI was definitely a late bloomer when it came to moving around a kitchen. Growing up, as an only child, I spent most of my time in the kitchen watching my mother cook. She was a prolific recipe collector with a passion for international cuisine, something that definitely rubbed off on me. However, the kitchen was very much her domain and the message was clear that though I was free to watch, I was also expected to stay out of her way. As a result I never really developed any clear understanding of how to handle ingredients, knives, or even a flame/oven! By the time I entered college, I was in the peculiar position of being familiar with a wide range of recipes, influences, and culinary approaches without actually being able to prepare anything more complex than a grilled cheese sandwich!

It wasn’t until my junior year, during an off-campus summer internship, and no college kitchen staff in sight, that I finally came to the realization at the ripe old age of 20 that one can not subsist indefinitely on frosted flakes, ramen and mac ‘n cheese!  For the first time I had access to the Food Network and Emeril Live! was just becoming a phenomenon. His enthusiasm and ‘plain speak’ made me feel that I too could do this. My landlady also had a subscription to Cooking Light magazine that she no longer was interested in. Somehow between the two a light went off in my head and I vividly remember making my first real shopping list, taking a taxi to the nearest Stop ‘n Shop and heading pack to my sublet with a backpack full of ingredients. Needless to say however the first few products of those efforts were pretty near inedible! An exceptionally gritty spinach salad comes to mind :)

2. Can you describe the unique characteristics of Trini food?

Trini food is especially unique because of the diversity of nationalities which have contributed to our culinary vocabulary. Demographically Africans and East Indians make up the majority of the population and those heritages are probably the most immediately recognizable on any menu, however the Chinese, Syrian-Lebanese, and Portugese communities have also made their mark on our gastronomic lexicon. Centuries of Spanish, French and English occupation have also influenced our technical approach to creating traditional fare. Put it all together and we have a cuisine which is unlike any other in the region and one which can present different faces to the visitor depending on the time of the year in which they visit, and the community in which they stay.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Without a doubt Mario Batali has probably had the greatest influence on my culinary point of view. His seasonal approach to using the freshest ingredients, and his emphasis on allowing the essence of a main ingredient to shine in as unmasked a form as possible has really shaped my improvisational abilities, as well as how I interpret and re-interpret the dishes that I have grown up with.

4. What would you tell someone who thinks that every Latin American country eats the same food?

It’s a common misconception that the foods of the Caribbean and Latin American are fairly homogeneous. Some of this is because of the narrow range that gets commercialized overseas, the other is the sparsity of actual local content in terms of what tourists get served at the most common hotels around the region. Adding even more confusion for the casual visitor is the fact that many times the same names are used across countries for dishes/ingredients that can vary quite widely!  To really understand each country’s cuisine is to take a dip into its history, both agricultural and political. Geographic and trade differences often determine whether the primary starches will be corn, root vegetables or rice and whether key proteins are fish, chicken, or beef. Migration and colonization also affect the approaches and spices which play a prominent role.

The following links provide more detail than I can get into here :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_American_cuisine

5. In your opinion, what are the signature flavors of Trinidadian food?

Like Guyana, (and unlike the rest of the Caribbean islands) we have a very strong East Indian demographic. This has shaped and contributed to our own appreciation and desires for intensely seasoned and spiced fare (cumin or “geera” is particularly important). The African contribution for me is especially prevalent in our stewing and ‘browning’ (caramelization) of meats in sugar. This is a step that has always intrigued my Jamaican mother, but it is integral to getting the key flavors of many of our meat-based Creole dishes. Also notable is our propensity towards garlic-based marinades and sauces as well a liberal love of ‘chadon beni’ or ‘bandhania  (also known as culantro) for both seasoning meats and enhancing the final taste of a dish.

6. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, what would you have for dessert?

Oh, that’s an interesting one! There is a small bunch of eclectic historical figures whose stories intrigue me. Anna Pavlova, Olaudah Equiano, Napoleon Hill, Booker T Washington, Hildegard von Bingen. However for dinner I think I would want to sit with the person who is probably the newest (and much belated addition) to my list, Julia Child. We could swap memories of Smith College over croquembouche and turkish coffee and I could find out what/if anything she knew about Caribbean/Trinidad cuisine. Nice dream I think! :)

7. What’s next for Sarina Nicole?

I’ve been running Trinigourmet since 2006 and it really is a labor of love. In the past year I have gotten more involved in the social media side of connecting with readers and other food bloggers and I’ve really been inspired by the support it has received. Emails and interactions with Trinidadians and those of Trinidadian descent who now live all over the world has made me realize that food is an integral part of our connection to our families, and a shared historical/cultural identity that is highly emotional and powerfully healing at times. The site has evolved since its inception and no doubt it will continue to do so. There is a greater emphasis now on meat-free, as well as gluten-free, dishes now because of food allergies and other dietary restrictions in my home. At first I thought this would cause a huge revolt among my readership but I have been surprised and moved by the response of local residents who also have dietary restrictions (either because of religious or health constraints) and often felt invisible/dismissed in terms of local options and accommodation both by friends, family and eating establishments.

Moving into 2011 I would like to present and offer more recipe options for these people (who are no less passionate or patriotic). I also am considering the creation of more multimedia content (something I dabbled with this year for the first time). I have also started receiving inquiries for books so I definitely will be looking into some product launches as well. The sky is the limit and the more Caribbean voices that join the conversation, the more the true variety of the region will become clear to all :)

I’ve been running Trinigourmet since 2006 and it really is a labour of love. In the past year I have gotten more involved in the social media side of connecting with readers and other food bloggers and I’ve really been inspired by the support it has received. Emails and interactions with Trinidadians and those of Trinidadian descent who now live all over the world has made me realize that food is an integral part of our connection to our families, and a shared historical/cultural identity that is highly emotional and powerfully healing at times. The site has evolved since its inception and no doubt it will continue to do so. There is a greater emphasis now on meat-free, as well as gluten-free, dishes now because of food allergies and other dietary restrictions in my home. At first I thought this would cause a huge revolt among my readership but I have been surprised and moved by the response of local residents who also have dietary restrictions (either because of religious or health contstraints) and often felt invisible/dismissed in terms of local options and accommodation both by friends, family and eating establishments.

Moving into 2011 I would like to present and offer more recipe options for these people (who are no less passionate or patriotic). I also am considering the creation of more multimedia content (something I dabbled with this year for the first time). I have also started receiving inquiries for books so I definitely will be looking into some product launches as well. The sky is the limit and the more Caribbean voices that join the conversation, the more the true variety of the region will become clear to all :)

7 Questions with Graham Kerr

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

In the tabernacle of celebrity chefs three names stand head and shoulders above the rest: James Beard, Julia Child and Graham Kerr.  Beard was the original cheflebrity having published his first cookbook (Hors D’oeuvre And Canapes available at amazon.com) in 1940 and he was pioneering food television as early as 1946.  Child’s journey from house wife to household name has been well documented, most recently in the hit film Julie & Julia.  Sadly Chef Beard left us in 1985 and Julia back in 2004 but Chef Kerr, he’s still going strong.

Graham Kerr’s star began to rise in the late 1950’s when he was named chief chef catering adviser for the Royal New Zealand Air Force.  That coveted post led to a series of recipes for radio, magazines and, ultimately, a book, Entertaining with Kerr. Eventually Kerr caught the eye of NZBC producer Shirley Maddock who put the jovial Scot on New Zealand television in 1960.

Graham Kerr the Galloping GourmetSeveral years on TV down under soon brought the New World knocking. CJOH-TV wanted Kerr to star in a new show to be shot in Ontario. To make things better Kerr’s beloved wife Treena would produce the show inspired by a book Graham had co-written with Len Evans entitled The Galloping Gourmets. For making the move to Canadian TV Kerr would be paid the incredible salary of two million dollars.  That’s unheard of today much less in 1967.

Things were going well for Graham and Treena Kerr.  The Galloping Gourmet was a hit easily justifying the big pay day.  Even though some (mainly doctors and nutritionists) were critical of Kerr’s unabashed use of butter, cream and rich, fatty cuts of meat the North American viewers were in love Kerr’s classic French food and gregarious personality.  Graham was a star – bigger than Beard, bigger than Julia.  Things were good.  But like everyone that has ever lived the Kerrs were on that roller coaster called life.

In April of 1971 the good times came to a screeching halt.  Graham and Treena were passengers in an RV that was rear-ended by a speeding produce truck.  The world’s most famous chef was paralyzed for a short while.  It would be three years before he returned to television and when he did it was with a different purpose.

Kerr was still cooking the rich foods that had made him famous but his close call had led him to Jesus.  It was not long before his faith would collide with the often anti-freedom of religion folks that permeate the entertainment industry.  He had decided to include a Bible passage in the closing credits of his new show, Take Kerr.  The media was not happy and as a result the show only lasted one year but new shows and opportunities would make him the chef of the 1970’s.

When the 80’s began Kerr was again on top of the world and in high demand.  However, in 1986 something happened that would forever alter his gallop.  His wife and partner, Treena suffered a stroke which was soon followed by a severe heart attack.  His high fat, high calorie food was killing her.  Now in his fifties, Graham Kerr completely reinvented his cooking style.

Graham and Treena KerrThis is where I enter the story, if only from the fringe.  I was a struggling musician in Nashville who had yet to understand that this fascination with food could eventually pay my bills in ways that music never had.  Working nights as a line cook at a Tex-Mex restaurant I often awoke to the cooking shows on day time cable TV.  That included the Graham Kerr Show.  The show revolved around his “Minimax” approach to cooking; it was revolutionary.

By this time there had been cooking shows about healthy cooking and there had been shows about food that tasted good.  But this was the first show about healthy food that was genuinely tasty.  “Minimax” meant that the recipes minimized fat and cholesterol while maximizing aroma, color, texture and taste.  No show before or since has influenced my cooking more than the Graham Kerr Show.  I learned tricks that have helped me my entire career.

Gone was the butter and in it’s stead an ingenious oil blend – 15 parts extra virgin olive oil and 1 part toasted sesame oil – the result was a liquid very similar in flavor to clarified butter.  Also missing was all that heavy cream; it was replaced with evaporated fat free milk.  Brilliant!  The argument can be made that Kerr was responsible for salsa supplanting ketchup as America’s most popular condiment once he explained about its many healthy attributes while remaining exceptionally flavorful.  He also extolled the important role fresh herbs and produce play in making food delicious without adding unnecessary calories.

After dozens of cookbooks and hundreds of hours of television Chef Graham Kerr still found the time to answer 7 Questions.

1. How many countries have you called home?

United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA (5)

2. From Entertaining with Kerr to Gathering Place you’ve done some 450 hours of food television; is there one series that you think best captures who you really are?

Gathering Place, an in depth search for lifestyle solutions in my life.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Andre Simon (Food & Wine Society Founder)
Maitre Chef des Cuisines Silvano Trompetto (Savoy, London)
Master Chef Karl Guggenmoss, Culinary Dean, Johnson & Wales University

4. Who was better in a street fight, Julia Child or James Beard?

Julia

5. What do you think of this new era of celebrity chefs with their Beatlesque followings?

A rather crowded wave of surfers without a clear line to the beach and diminishing waves.

6. The new Cooking Channel is showing The Galloping Gourmet; do you ever watch it?

I must admit that we no longer have TV.  I’ve only ever seen 4 episodes.  When you watch what you do you can become an edited person.

7. What’s next for Chef Graham Kerr?

A daily web blog on seven major changes we must make by 2020 on www.grahamkerr.com, starting November.

For those of you who have never scene Chef Graham in action enjoy this classic clip from the Galloping Gourmet.

WTVC Exclusive: Bitchin’ Kitchen’s Nadia G

On March 31, 2010 The Fine Living Network officially became the Cooking Channel (aka Food Network 2).  The network features new shows from old favorites like Bobby Flay and Emeril Legasse.  It also presents a whole new crew of TV Chefs to entertain and educate our insatiable palates.

Nadia G of Bitchin' KitchenThe bell cow of the Cooking Channel’s fall season is the craziest damned cooking show you’ve ever seen, Btichin’ Kitchen which blends equal parts Good Eats, Headbanger’s Ball and Lords of Flatbush. At the center of this tempest of audio-visual overload is Nadia G.

Nadia’s on screen persona is an amalgamation of Alton Brown, Julia Child and Pinky Tuscadero (Google it, ya mook).  And while her style is in the forefront do not for a minute think that Nadia cannot cook.  She mastered her skills at one of the most demanding culinary institutions on the planet, an Italian grandmother’s kitchen.

And though the glitz and glamor on BK may be part of the show I can assure you the accent is real.  Nadia and her show started out on youtube and eventually steamed rolled into a series for Food Network Canada where it became an instant sensation.  Nadia is a native of Montreal and her brash Italian mannerisms and deft abilities in the kitchen soon made her a house hold name throughout the Great White North.  Check out this blurb from the Food Network Canada web site:

She’s young, funny and can cook up a storm in 3-inch cherry stiletto heels. Food Network’s bad girl chef Nadia G. and her misfit crew of food correspondents look at the funny side of everyday life situations and turn them into occasions worth celebrating — with great food and big laughs. Bitchin’ Kitchen is the first-ever comedy cooking show to hit the small screen and it tastes good: From One-Night-Stand Breakfasts to Break-Up Brunches to Impress the In-laws Extravaganzas, Nadia G whips up the perfect blend of food and humor for any occasion. The focus is on accessible haute cuisine, fresh organic ingredients, and a hands-on approach that will inspire hip audiences of all ages to Rock the Kitchen!

Recently Nadia was nice enough to give this old Southern boy a little of her time.

Say someone asks me what’s this Bitchin’ Kitchen all about? What should I tell them?

There’s three things in life that I love and that’s food, comedy and rock-n-roll.  And Bitchin’ Kitchen combines all three.  It’s my baby like that.  Basically what we do is every week we take a new juicy topic whether it’s rehab recipes, impressing the in-laws or break-up brunches, we lay it all on the table and have a few laughs and then we cook an amazing meal that goes along with it.

What advice would you give someone who is about to experience BK for the first time?

I would say get ready for an awesome ride.  There’s definitely no other cooking show out there like it and sit back, relax and enjoy.

How did Bitchin’ Kitchen go from the Internet to the Cooking Channel?

Well we started online back in 2007 it was a great success fresh out the gate.  We won favorite mobile comedy series and we beat Conan O’Brien’s mobile series and “Tap This” which is another mobile comedy series which is written by one of the writers of the Ali G (no relation) Show.  We were super honored to be you know contending with such hard hitters and then of course to have taken the prize home was awesome.  After that success we got contacted by some publishers and they were like, “We love this concept and we want to do a cookbook.”

Bitchin' Kitchen CookbookSo I designed and wrote the Bitchin’ Kitchen Cookbook: Rock Your Kitchen-And Let the Boys Clean Up the Mess (available at amazon.com) and that cookbook did very well. It hit a couple of “best seller” lists.  And then finally now we had our launch on Food Network Canada and now we’re launching on Cooking Channel I couldn’t be more excited.  It’s great.

Was it difficult transitioning from the 10 minute Youtube format to the 23 minute format of broadcast TV?

You know, initially we thought there’d be some challenges but honestly it translated really, really well.  Basically it just gave us more creative room.  With the quickies (the mobile series and web show) we would get things done in about three to five minutes which only gives us time for one recipe whereas with the cooking show we got a whole half hour.  So we cook up three dishes for each show and it gives us extra time to do funny stuff like skits and songs. . . We’re actually airing the first music video to ever air on a cooking show in our “rehab recipes” show so it was exciting to just expand on the themes like that.

Are you still filming the show in Montreal?

Yeah, we film the show in Montreal.  We do spend a lot of time in New York and Los Angeles as well and I love it but the studios are in Montreal.

About your set – there is a lot of weird crap in the background of your kitchen – what’s up with that?

I’m a big believer that the kitchen should reflect one’s personality.  The kitchen reflects mine.  We got some really hot, cherry red retro looking frig, I think we’ve got the coolest appliances ever.  We’ve got some crystal studding going on on the counter, basically we love to rock the kitchen.  Some people are into granite and stainless steel and that’s great but for those of us that aren’t I love to find quirky fun stuff like a chain mail dish towel and put it in my kitchen.  It’s just great to express yourself with.

What’s your culinary background?

I grew up in a food-obsessed Italian family.  The kitchen was really the heart of the home.  I learned to cook with my mom, my grandmother, my aunt and I really believe that anyone can learn to make a great meal with the right attitude and the right ingredients.  So as much as I love food from professional chefs and I love to go to restaurants I also know that some of the best food I’ve ever eaten have been home cooked meals.  And I continue to cook Catalina-style Italian food.

If someone wanted to cyber-stalk you where should they go?

All my recipes are available on CookingChannel.com and my website is BitchinKitchen.tv where we have a ton of great, funny articles.  If people want to know what it was I was wearing during the episode we got these great little “rock this look” fashion files.  And you can also find us on Facebook where ever day we have awesome conversations about all kinds of bitchin’ stuff.

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Butter or margarine? Definitely butter.
Favorite celebrity chef? Alton Brown.
Which Jersey Shore cast member would you most like to kick? Hmm. None of them really.  Feed them maybe but kick them not so much.
What’s sexier – abs or attitude? I’d have to say attitude.
Foie gras, raw oysters or caviar? That’s a tough one.  I’m gonna go with oysters.

Bitchin’ Kitchen airs on the Cooking Channel Wednesdays at 10:30pm ET.

Review: Bitchin’ Kitchen

Thanks to my lofty position as the most famous nobody in the world of Internet-based culinary personalities I occasionally get to see a new series before the average Joe.  That is the case here.

For nearly a dozen years now Good Eats has been entertaining while teaching about the art of gastronomy.  Alton Brown’s brainchild is as iconic today as it was groundbreaking back in 1999.  In all of that time GE has remained an island in the sea of stand-and-stir cooking shows, in a word unique.  But if you are successful enough, long enough eventually you see some imitators.

Nadia G of Bitchin' KitchenEnter Bitchin’ Kitchen.  The Cooking Channel’s latest offering is the first Good Eats imitation to hit the airwaves.  You know, imitation isn’t the right word.  BK doesn’t imitate as much as it pays homage.  Bitchin’ Kitchen and host Nadia G are definitely originals but there is a noticeable Good Eats influence.  It’s kind of like how Guns N Roses was influenced by Led Zeppelin, but the two bands sound nothing a like.

Bitchin’ Kitchen is a whirlwind of campy characters swirling in a maelstrom of culinary comedy.  There is Panos the Greek fish monger, Spice Agent – an Islreali with an unpronounceable name and Hans the musclebound whatever the hell he is.  Together they are the boys.

And of course there is host Nadia G a brazen guidette with enough bling to be a Mr. T stunt double and the chops of a 3 star chef.  Nadia is a blonde bombshell with a thick Brooklynish accent that will make you think she is an extra from Grease.

To say that BK is ripe with sexual innuendo is like saying Angelina Jolie likes kids.  The racy content is so thinly veiled it’s like they wrapped it in a single layer of cellophane and then they ripped a few wholes in that.  Let’s face it, Nadia and her boys are all sexy.  Rather than going with subtle hottness like Giada or Nigella, Nadia opts for the in your face sex appeal of a punk rocker.  She weaves fetish into her show as masterfully as she folds egg whites into a mousse.

Everything about this show is over the top – the characters, the dialog, the set design, even the wacky recipe names (Get Famous Frittata, Anxiety-Stricken Chicken Soup).  In fact it’s so tacky that it’s cool. And the best part is that all of this started out as a 10 minute webcast on youtube.  It’s high time the folks at Chelsea Market realized that the Internet is the best place to find up and coming talent (and if Bob Tuschman is reading this please feel free to check out the WannabeTVchef channel at youtube – I could really use the job).

The end result of this furious ball of energy is a show that is both entertaining and informative.  There is so much going on that often times you won’t realize how much you’ve learned until later.  The entire time you watch an episode of of Bitchin’ Kitchen you’ll be dazzled by bright colors and torrents of information disguised as witty banter.  It’s kind of like what would happen if Tony Soprano, Julia Child and Barbie dropped acid while online for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Like it’s predecessor Good Eats, Bitchin Kitchen never takes itself too seriously.  In the annals of cable TV there has always been that one show that put each new network on the map.  For Bravo it was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Emeril Live was that show for the Food Network and let’s be honest if it wasn’t for Steve Irwin hunting those crocodiles Animal Planet would be but a footnote in the history of alternative cable programming.  It is my prediction that Bitchin’ Kitchen will be that show for The Cooking Channel.

Bitchin’ Kitchen premieres Wednesday, October 6 at 10:30pm ET/PT on the Cooking Channel.  Click HERE for my exclusive interview with Nadia G.  In the meantime here’s a little taste of what you’re in for:

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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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