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Chef MJ creates the menu & the mood for the Shameless Garden Party.
Kimlai: Do you have a favorite kitchen gadget?
Chef MJ : Burr Mixer which is basically a stick blender. It’s great for making puree soups or pureeing anything..easy to clean and easy to handle.
Kimlai : What are 5 spices you CANNOT live without?
Chef MJ : Whole Black Peppercorns, Thyme, Cayenne Pepper, Salt (Himalayan, Kosher, Fleur de Sel, Hawaiian Black), Bay Leaves
Kimlai : Do people expect an amazing meal every time they come over because of your cooking background?
Chef MJ : Yes they do! They expect a lavish meal and really the best dish is one that it simple using the freshest ingredients.
Kimlai : Do people treat you differently in restaurants when they find out you are a chef?
Chef MJ : Yes and I must say it’s a nice perk…. sometimes dishes come out that weren’t ordered 🙂
Kimlai : If we opened your fridge right now what would we find?
Chef MJ : My fridge is pretty empty. Just the staples, milk, juice, fruit, eggs, bacon, Sparkling water and arugula, maybe a left over dish if my son hasn’t eaten it yet. hahaha… I buy ingredients the day of cooking.
Kimlai : Does it matter is something is organic?
Chef MJ : Yes, I try to buy all organic if possible. There’s too much manipulation happening in our food sources to make it larger, fatter, shiny and perfect…
Kimlai : What is your style of cooking?
Chef MJ : Healthy and flavorful. I love traditional dishes but always try to tweak it so that it is healthy without loosing the flavor. I try to use the freshest ingredients possible. One should be able to taste the food, not masked by rich sauces.
Kimlai : When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
Chef MJ : I grew up in the kitchen. My grandmother taught her daughters (5) to cook and on the weekends they would gather at my parents and cook for literally an army. (I have a huge family) … all the nieces were given kitchen duties to help out. It was a great way to bond. I decided to go to culinary school at age of 31 to become a food stylist. As I was going thru the curriculum, I decided that I wanted to cook for a living to bring enjoyment to people who ate my food. There’s something very personal about that.
Kimlai : How important is to you to use fresh ingredients.
Chef MJ : Freshest ingredients very important!
Kimlai : What is your signature dish?
Chef MJ : I have a couple but lately my favorite is a simple pasta dish with orecchiette, fresh roasted wild salmon, garlic, olive oil, arugula, capers, green olives and fresh parmesan cheese.
Kimlai : Have you worked in a restaurant or have you always been a personal chef?
Chef MJ : While in school, I interned at restaurants and large catering companies. It was a great experience. It’s a crazy environment and I am very fortunate to have my private clients.
Kimlai : If you could partner up with any chef in the world who would it be? and why?
Chef MJ : Ferran Adria (most noted as the El Bulli chef associated with molecular gastronomy). His style is to deconstruct a dish and transforming certain parts or all of the ingredients and modifying texture, form, temperature, etc…. preserving its essence. Nothing is what it seems– surprises and delights the diner– the ultimate dining experience.
Kimlai : Would you ever consider being on Top Chef?
Chef MJ : No..hahaha
Kimlai : What is your go to weekend meal when cooking at home?
Chef MJ : Keep it pretty simple to salads and healthy pasta dishes. I enjoy going to the Farmers Market and cooking with fresh local ingredients.
Kimlai : What is your favorite cuisine to cook?
Chef MJ : I get bored with one particular cuisine. I enjoy it all.. one day its Italian, next Indian, Asian, French… keeps the taste buds happy.
Kimlai : Do you Americanize Asian dishes for American people?
Chef MJ : For my clients, yes I do Americanize Asian dishes.. you have to… some of our ingredients are too funky in sight and flavor. When I cook at home I try to stick to the authenticity of the dishes… and it’s always fun to hunt for the ingredients.