The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.
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Demystifying Holiday Cooking [Claudine Pepin Takes The Stuffing Out of Thanksgiving Prep]
Posted Nov 21, 2010 by Jeff Houck
Updated Nov 21, 2010 at 10:52 AM
Holiday cooking can be a challenge, even for experienced cooks. Celebrity chef Claudine Pepin, daughter of legendary French chef Jaques Pepin, will simplify recipes and answer questions during a free cooking demonstration Sunday at the Ikea furniture store in Tampa
Pépin, who co-starred with her father on the show “Jacques Pepin’s Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine,” on public television, will demonstrate recipes from Family Circle magazine as part of their Food University tour. She’ll also offer ideas for quick appetizers and entertaining tips
The demonstration is from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Ikea, 1103 North 22nd Street, Tampa. For more information, go online to Food University.
I had a chance to chat with her Friday about cooking and what makes the holidays so complex in the kitchen:
What’s on the agenda for your demonstration on Sunday?
For Tampa and Orlando, going to do with more of a focus on the holidays. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
The high holy days of cooking.
Yeah, exactly. I love Christmas, because, heck, I’ll cook then and any other holiday you want me to cook. I’ll be happy to do it. But Thanksgiving is pretty intimidating to people. So I think that for most people I would say come to Food University, come watch us talk and if you have questions about anything we are not doing that you happen to be making, ask us.
This is the time to demystify things.
I’m not a professional chef. People have said, “Chef,” and I look behind me and say, “Where’s my dad?” I am a very good home cook. Please, I’m not putting myself in Julia Child’s category, other than the sense that Julia wasn’t a chef, she never worked in a restaurant. But people knew her as the person who, “If she can do that and have it fall on the floor and still taste good, I guess I can too.”
How did you affiliation with Food University get started?
Their executive producer Richard Gore and I had worked together with Food Network Live. He invited me to be a guest instructor with them. And I was only too thrilled when he explained to me what the reasoning for us teaching was. We are really there to demystify food and say that you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money. If you feel like using tomatoes from a jar or a can, that’s fine. Or beans for that matter. It’s okay. If you look at the back of the can and it says, “Beans, water, salt,” chances are you have a pretty good product. We’re there to say there is no such thing as culinary prison. If there was, I would be there.
I’d be serving a life sentence myself.
Enjoy food. Have fun. Don’t get too stressed out.
With so much food media, especially compared to 25 or 30 years ago, what is it that still mystifies people?
I think that a lot of the people on TV or who write books have been professional chefs. If you come down on Sunday, you’ll watch me cut an onion. I’m like the slow-motion hand. People get intimidated because they say, “I can’t do it that fast.” I’m not going to make my own chicken stock. The recipe says start with homemade beef stock. Really? [laughs] Lots of people are not going to go buy bones to make a beef stock. I say try and find a good one without MSG or too much salt and take away the pieces so that people are not going to make that meal at home because it’s so complicated for them. Honestly, if the first ingredient is 2 quarts homemade chicken stock, they say, “I’d like the next book please.”
Depending on who you’re talking to and how they choose to present their ideas on food, because of food media and books have been so pervasice. Everyone is looking for the next new thing. It’s cyclical.
Now we’re talking about organic, have a home garden and grow your own vegetables. Really? Because that’s what my grandmother did.
Before we got away from her and decided she was old-fashioned, that’s what they used to do.
That’s what everyone had to do. You had to eat in season. You have to eat local and eat in season. It’s a revolution.” Really? Because before there were trains, that’s what people did.
It’s coming back to our roots, but coming back in an approachable and, hopefully, not a snobbish kind of way. That’s something that drives me crazy, when people try to out-snob each other. We’re not cardiac surgeons.
Shut up and eat.
So don’t put salt in it. That’s fine.