Photo: ©Natalie Lewis
Really Healthy Real Life
Two essential tools: good humor and great technique
BY MAGAZINE COO MARGO MAIER-MOUL
Website Chef Natalie Lewis
Blog Daily Crave
All of Natalie’s Recipes in The Magazine
Margo Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Natalie, we know you’re incredibly busy with your new business launch (the new website is absolutely gorgeous, by the way!). Tell us a little something about what Chef Natalie Lewis is all about.
Natalie I’m so excited about this new venture and being able to share my passion with all of you. Through lessons, private dinner parties, or just by cooking your weekly meals, I am so fortunate to do what I love on a daily basis.
I’ve always been adamant about living for what you love and for me this was a no-brainer.
Margo Making a living at what you love is a real blessing. Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
Natalie I didn’t always know I wanted to go to culinary school, but I always knew I loved to cook. During my senior year of high school when it was time to look at colleges the logical choice for me was culinary school. I wanted to go to a reputable school and my options in Ohio were… well, none.
I first looked at places like the Culinary Institute of America in New York and Johnson and Wales, but the idea of studying internationally was overwhelmingly exciting to me, so Le Cordon Bleu became my first choice.
Margo How intimidating and exciting that must have been! You mention in your blog that your first few days were “disastrous” – amusing in hindsight, but it must have been really tough at the time!
Natalie I’ve never taken myself too seriously, so when I’m faced with disastrous moments I try to find the humor in them and laugh it off. (That is, after the tears have no where left to go.)
Margo That’s great advice. Do you have any culinary role models?
Natalie I greatly admire Thomas Keller for so many reasons, including his sophisticated style, incredible precision, and ability to turn simple foods into culinary masterpieces, and Anthony Bourdain for his forthright comedic attitude… and the fact that he has the most amazing job possible.
Margo Speaking of great cooks… what’s your position on whether great cooks are born, or made?
Natalie Great question! Cooking is definitely an art and there are those who are incredibly talented artists. However, I feel anyone who is willing can learn to be a great cook. I recently heard the saying that if you learn one great recipe, you can cook one great dish – but if you learn one great technique you can cook a multitude of great dishes. The key is to get a few great techniques under your belt and go from there.
Margo Yes, like the “teach a man to fish” proverb! Are there techniques or rules-of-thumb for making healthy food that tastes great?
Natalie Keep it fresh, keep it seasonal, and keep it simple.
Margo What do you tell people who say cooking is too time-consuming or complicated?
Natalie It doesn’t have to be difficult. Just let the ingredients speak for themselves. Is it summertime? Slice a fresh juicy tomato over whole wheat pasta and toss with fresh basil and olive oil. Top it with shaved parmesan cheese. Middle of winter? Roast a butternut squash and carrots, add to a pot with some stock and aromatics, puree and you’ve got a delicious soup.
Margo OK, and what about caution-to-the-wind ultimate comfort foods?
Natalie I get weak in the knees for Southern food. I love it all – buttery southern biscuits, cheesy grits, barbeque pulled pork, fried pickles…!
Margo Oh yeah, bring on the butter!
Getting back to your work for a moment – coming into people’s homes and cooking or teaching – do you ever find yourself faced with an impossible kitchen or inadequate tools or ingredients?
Natalie I always bring my own equipment as to avoid facing this kind of problem. I know ahead of time what I will be preparing, so if I will need something other than my knives and pots & pans I will ensure the client has the necessary equipment. As long as I have a working stove I’m in business. (Don’t jinx me!)
Margo (knocking on wood) This has been fun, Natalie, thanks! Any funny culinary school stories to close with?
Natalie By funny, do you mean embarrassing? Because if so, boy do I ever! I think this needs an interview all to itself…
Margo We’ll definitely take you up on that!
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.