'Critic-Turned-Cook' on Serious Eats

Closing The Book On Critic-Turned-Cook

Time to 86 this critic-turned-cook. Stick a fork in me; I'm done. A reader recently gave me a gentle nudge, pointing out that it seemed as if I had strayed from my original mission of working in professional kitchens. It's been a while since I've punched a clock, donned an apron, and spent a day on my feet. I make dinners for my ever-appreciative and very generous neighbors a couple of nights a week, but I am no professional cook and I never will be. Here's why. More

Critic-Turned-Cook Makes Vegetarian's First Fish In Decades

Imagine my shock when my vegetarian-for-30-years friend Dan recently told me that he was ready to try eating meat again. A nutritionist suggested it, as a way to up his protein intake. And then imagine my giddy delight when he said yes to my suggestion that I cook his first non-vegetarian meal in three decades. The only proviso was that it had to be lean. No bacon. No huge honking steaks. More

Critic-Turned-Cook Says Goodbye To Some Old Cookbook Friends

Like most food junkies, I've got a wicked cookbook habit. I constantly need a fix and, as a newspaper food writer/critic for many years, that itch was easy enough to scratch with a steady diet of review copies. I have also scored scores of recipe-filled tomes at bookstores, junk shops, and from friends. Yet, like all addictions, there comes a day of reckoning, and mine happened last week when a bin of cookbooks came tumbling down from on high in my ridiculously cramped and crowded garage. More

Critic-Turned-Cook Gets An Earful About Front-Of-The-House Drama

Way back when I first asked Seattle restaurateur and chef Tom Douglas if I could come work in his kitchens, he asked if I also wanted to try some front-of-the-house shifts. I didn't hesitate: No way! I was terrified of cranky customers, the incredible amount of multitasking, and the risk of ticking off the cooks. It's hard to be a good server. How do you keep your cool when somebody's all fired up and in your face? More

Critic-Turned-Cook Steps Up Her Game at Tom Douglas' Culinary Camp

I went to camp this week. Not weenie-roasting, Kumbaya-singing, capture-the-flag camp, but the Tom Douglas Culinary Camp: five days of demos and eating, cooking competitions and more eating, then some drinking and some snacks, and maybe the chance to chat up a famous chef like Vikram Vij from Vij's in Vancouver, B.C., a restaurant that's so freaking fantastic people are willing to wait three hours for a table. More

Critic-Turned-Cook Goes On SFA Field Trip, Eats Nasty Bits

I've been a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance since 2004, the year I moved to Memphis and fell hard for the rich regional cooking traditions. Loads of glowing praise has been heaped on this incredible organization, but I've got to pile on: I've never learned so much or eaten so well among so many good people as when I'm at an SFA event. That's why I was more than willing to brave the wilting summer heat in Atlanta to climb on board a sweltering yellow school bus to explore the global South along Hotlanta's Buford Highway during this year's SFA Field Trip. More

Critic-Turned-Cook Searches for Signature Dish

What's your signature dish? You don't have to be a four-star chef to have a dish that defines you. My grandmother was famous for her baked beans, fried chicken, and snappy dill pickles. Like the scribbled handwriting that has become illegible over time, my signature dish has shifted through the years. More

Critic-Turned-Cook's Top 5 Cheap Meals

This has been a lean year, but not necessarily a mean year. I've learned a lot about doing more with less. I still think "budget" and "economize" are dirty words, but cold reality transformed the way I shop and cook and, guess what? I'm up to the challenge. Here are my top five super cheap meals. More

Critic-Turned-Cook Recalls A Few Perfect Bites

Perfection is a lofty goal rarely achieved in busy kitchens where there are tons of little details to execute. Which means there are so many ways for things to go wrong. Yet, it usually goes all right. It's such a sweet miracle when ingredients get put together by talented, hard-working people and sometimes, perfection appears on the plate. Here's a short list of some perfect bites. More

Critic-Turned-Cook's Recipes Not Exactly Success

Are you the kind of cook who follows recipes? Or do you wing it? At home, I'm more of a toss-it-together-and-hope-it-works kind of cook. Most of the time I pull it off. But recently a friend asked for my help coming up with recipes for gluten-free sausage dishes. Gulp! More

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