I am the managing director of a non-profit theater company in New York City. I've been cooking since I was tall enough to reach the stove. Though my current urban kitchen is not conducive to entertaining, one of my favorite things to do is invade friends' kitchens and set up shop to cook for a small gathering or party. I'm the friend that folks call to keep a secret, share a recipe for veal shanks, or take their children on some sort of adventure for the day. (That's one of my favorite Dandylions in the photo, by the way, regaling me with her latest Tai Kwan Do exploits.)
My favorite things to cook
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so my natural cuisine inclinations tend to be farmer's market inspired - whatever is the freshest with perhaps unusual pairings - i.e., using fruit as an ingredient in main courses and vegetable sides, etc. I also tend to veer towards updated (ie more healthful) versions of family classics. I also really enjoy staging, if you will, the entire meal so that each dish compliments one another and the meal, whether casual or formal, is a shared event.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My father was the cook in my family growing up, and the bulk of the time that I got to spend with him was in the kitchen. He taught me how to really taste individual flavors, how flavors work with or against one another and how to observe the chemistry and physics of cooking. He rarely if ever used recipes, allowing his own taste, knowledge and inspirations to be his guide.
My cooking triumphs
Recently, without so much as looking at any recipes for guidance, and having never made anything like it before, I made a veal parmigiana from scratch. I was really very excited how it turned out (and relieved since it was a challenge/dare from friends). But probably my greatest "triumphs" are when I'm able to recreate some of my father's signature dishes without his guidance.
My cooking tragedies
Probably the greatest cooking tragedy was the passing of my father, who died almost fifteen years ago. I really miss being able to commune with him in the kitchen, milking him for his secrets and sharing my own discoveries. On a lighter, less altruistic note, probably another cooking tragedy was when my mother sold my father's cast iron skillet in a garage sale after his death - a skillet that had been in his family for nearly 100 years and had been seasoned to perfection! Ah well, what can you do?