I am someone who is passionate about food. My experience in the food and beverage industry is vast. I grew up in a small rural farming town in southern New Jersey. When I began working in the restaurant business my first waitress job was in my mother’s café when I was 10. All the railroad workers would come in just to have her daily home made soup selection.
Food has always equaled love to me. Cooking and people go together, my two loves. I’m what my friend Charlie refers to as a “feeder”, I love to feed people; it’s the Italian in me. If I cook for you or give you a container of something I cooked in my kitchen then I must really like you. It’s my way of showing love. Cooking is also a creative outlet for me. Ingredients and spices are like my painters palate allowing me to create masterpieces. I have always said cooking has to be born within you. Sure anyone can follow a recipe, but if you are truly a good cook and have a palate for tastes, you can create without a recipe. Truly good cooks can create a flavor profile and tweak a recipe by taste, by adding what it needs to be complete. I like to call it umami.
My love for cooking began as a child. My mother was good at everything, especially cooking. As young as 10 years old I loved watching my mother in the kitchen. I went food shopping with her, and later she’d send me to shop for groceries because she thought I was a better shopper than she was. I helped her bake and decorate Christmas cookies every Christmas. Every spring and summer we’d can various farm fresh produce by the bushel full. I even derived pleasure from organizing her pantry cupboards. In my freshman year of high school I won a cooking contest in home economics class. My mother found the recipe I prepared in a Family Circle magazine. It was called “Polynesian Pork”, basically sweet and sour pork with rice.
As a child, when my family went to a restaurant for dinner I remember eating unusual offerings such as lobster and even frogs legs. When I was 10 both my parents worked outside the home. My mother taught me how to make dinner for the family and have it on the table by 5 p.m. every night. When I arrived home from school she’d have the cook book on the kitchen counter open to the recipe, ingredients assembled and some notes. Although my brother hated my cooking and thought I was trying to poison the entire family my mother still gave me praise and encouraged me to continue on my journey in the kitchen. She also encouraged my brother to go hungry or eat elsewhere if it was that bad.
As I became a young woman I left my parent’s home in N.J. and moved to New York City where my real culinary adventure began. I ate at many truly wonderful restaurants, and sipped many delicious wines and various cocktails, which refined my palate. Adding to my resume, through the years I worked in various restaurants in N.J., N.Y., California and Oregon gaining even more food knowledge.
Although I love to cook many things, soup has always been my passion. Maybe I get that from my mother. There's something comforting about preparing a big pot of soup, it warms the heart. Soup is the ultimate comfort food. Homemade soup is better tasting and better for you than the canned variety. Soup is so forgiving, you can throw caution to the wind and add as much as you like to the pot. In the end, it always comes out good. Of course I always make too much and wind up freezing it or giving it away to friends by the quart. When I was 19 I made my first pot of soup for my dear friend Peppi. He loved split pea, so I found a recipe and went at it. To this day I say split pea is my signature soup because it was my premier soup recipe. Since then I have tweaked the recipe and have been told many times how it is the best split pea soup they have ever tasted, some even comparing it to Anderson’s brand.
Although I have been in the restaurant business in one capacity or another all my life, I gained my professional kitchen experience during the last 5 years at Queen of Tarts Bakery & Café at the Salem Public Library. In Dec. of 2006 Jamie Schulte hired me to open the café and work the front of the house. It didn’t take long for Jamie to discover my passion for cooking and put me in the kitchen. It took very little time for me to settle in as the lead kitchen person.
I possess strong culinary skills and have gained much kitchen experience preparing lunches in a dynamic and fast paced environment, along with catering and managing various components of the kitchen such as cleanliness, menu input, designing daily specials, preparing quality salads, dressings and sandwiches, and large quantities of soups all from scratch daily, including general daily kitchen prep work. I also have hands on experience with pastries as I assisted with baking beginning at 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings in order to ready for the Saturday Market.