Chef Alex Guarnaschelli has become synonymous with Food Network, and there’s good reason: she’s an integral part of their food programming. Whether it’s through her culinary prowess as an Iron Chef, her show Alex’s Day Off, dishing about her favorite eats of all time on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, or throwing down her expertise as a judge on shows like Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay, Chef Guaranschelli’s resume speaks for itself. In addition, she’s executive chef of Butter in NYC which brings in stellar reviews and press.
We recently had the chance to interview Alex and talked to her about her most difficult challenges, what she really does on her days off, the importance of social media, a sneak into her recipe creation process, and more. Don’t forget, you can see Alex at this year’s Greenwich Wine + Food Festival. She’ll be hosting a sustainable dinner along with Marc Murphy which includes local chefs, she’ll also be a judge during the Burger Battle, signing copies of her book at 2:00, speaking at 1:30 in the Green Room, and cooking up an amazing demo at 3:00 at Dacor Kitchen Two.
It seems like you’ve always been up to something in the food world for as long as you’ve been a household name, whether it’s judging one of many food competitions (on and off television), wielding the power of the Iron Chef title, hosting your own show, Alex’s Day Off, or cooking at your restaurant, Butter, in NYC. So, which of your many experiences was most exciting for you? Most challenging? Why?
The most challenging was the first day I took over Butter as the executive chef. To realize that the menu would contain what I say it does? Wow. I didn’t yet have the confidence to maneuver that easily. It takes a long time to build experience and confidence. I’m still doing it. But I love the challenge.
And, what do you REALLY do on Alex’s day off to find balance with all of this going on in your life?
I like needle pointing and boating…just kidding. I cook for my daughter. I go to farm stands and markets; I love food shopping. I also read to remind myself how big the world is. I just finished Eric Ripert’s 32 Yolks and it was life-changing. I also love Ray Donovan and Billions on Showtime, so I watch that…a lot.
As if all of that weren’t enough, you are (impressively) always engaging with fans on Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media accounts. Why is it important for you to stay in touch with your fans?
I think it’s important to engage in a dialogue about food with people that are watching and cooking. We’re all doing it, so why not make it a community? I am also head of the Twitter Food Council. By using the hashtag “foodflock” you can engage with the chefs in the conversation about food, ingredients and cooking!
You seem to be a fan of food festivals, making appearances, doing interviews, and conducting cooking demos…what keeps you coming back?
I feed off of the community! The fans, the cooks, the ingredients; it keeps things fresh around here.
You’ve had so many great and memorable meals in your lifetime. Does that make it harder for you to enjoy all the meals and things that you taste as part of your shows, having had amazing versions of the same dish so many times already? Do you ever get “food burn out”?
Like an athlete rests his or her muscles on a day off, so must I rest my tastebuds. Some days I just have toast and tea to take a break.
Take us into a time when you’re working on creating a new recipe. What gives you the inspiration, how do you take the recipe from the start to the finish?
I read cook books, I shop in markets, I eat out, I cook. What starts as a great dessert idea might become a great soup a few weeks later. It’s not a linear process.
In addition to being interviewed during the Greenwich Food & Wine Festival, you’ll be signing your book, Old School Comfort Food, and will also be a judge in the 5th Annual Burger Battle. What are the keys to making a perfect burger and what will you be looking for as you try all of them out?
The bun is the first thing you taste – that’s important. So is the meat-to-bun ratio. I’m also a sucker for anything with pickles and cheese.
What new things do you have in the works that you’d like to share?
I am hosting a great event for “Alex’s Lemonade Stand” on October 4th in NYC. I am appearing on the new Food Network show Cooks Vs. Cons (which I love) and I am about to start developing dishes for the fall season. Exciting stuff!