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Q & A with Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli

Guarnaschelli shares her inspirations, whether it is at a farmers market, in a cookbook or along the supermarket aisle.

by: Richard Leong: Reuters | 09 Dec 2008

Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli is in constant search for inspirations, whether it is at a farmers market, in a cookbook or along the supermarket aisle.

Her culinary journey began when she was a child in New York City, helping her mother, a cookbook editor, to prepare eclectic meals.

In her pursuit to become a top chef, she moved to France where she studied at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy and worked at the Michelin three-starred Guy Savoy.

Since her return to New York, Guarnaschelli became the executive chef at Butter and has just completed the first season of her television show, "The Cooking Loft."

Guarnaschelli, 39, spoke about her culinary inspirations and why she looks into shopping carts.

Q: Who inspired you to become a chef?
A: "I became a chef largely because my mother was always cooking from the books of James Beard, Julia Childs and Craig Claiborne. My mother's cooking and techniques were really French from books with America ingredients. She made a lot of the staples that you would often buy in a store."

Q: What inspires you now?
A: "A common thread in my professional cooking is green markets. I used to go the market with a list. Now I go to the market and see what they have. That's a completely different reversal in my process for making new dishes. I'm also really a big fan of the cookbook. I think it's a dying art. I look through old cookbooks and get ideas. By reading a lot of old books and seeing a lot ideas and techniques, they give me different perspectives."

Q: Do you get ideas from what other people shop for?
A: "I love to see what other people buy. I don't want to give the wrong idea. I'm not a supermarket stalker. Just to walk through the rows of canned vegetables, I will say to myself, 'I forgot about that.'

Q: What is your signature dish?
A: "It's steak tartare with parmesan and bone marrow gratin. There is also a tomato-and-watermelon salad with a sprinkle of strawberries."

Q: What do you cook for yourself?
A: "I'm huge sandwich person. I toast the bread very carefully. I use salty butter. I'm a really big ham person."

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