The Blue Apron 20 Questions with Seamus Mullen

The Blue Apron 20 Questions is just what it sounds like: 20 of our most burning inquiries, ranging from silly to serious, that we use to get to know Friends of the Box. In the hot seat today is Seamus Mullen, renowned chef, author and health and wellness authority. We’ve partnered with Chef Seamus to create six delicious, flavor-packed recipes centered around our shared philosophy on health and eating. Read on to learn more about his aptitude for accents and the best way to improve on a BLT (hint: the answer is *also* his most used emoji).


Blue Apron: Running out for coffee, what can we get you?
SM: Almond milk latte.

Cake or pie?
Pie.

Last show you binge watched?
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I’m on season 3 right now.

Salty or sweet?
Salty.

It’s Thursday night and your fridge has seen better days. What’s for dinner?
Soft scrambled eggs, roasted vegetables, and anchovy vinaigrette.

Do you have a secret talent?
I have lots of secret talents. I can do almost any accent. My best is probably Cuban. I can do multiple accents in Spanish, like I can speak Spanish with an Argentine accent, Spanish with a Mexican accent, Spanish with a Cuban accent. And my Irish accent is pretty on-point.

Most used emoji?
A toss-up between the 🥑  and the 👍.

That’s a really good combo. Most referenced cookbook?
Probably a toss-up between The Joy of Cooking and the Michel Bras cookbook.

Why does home cooking matter to you?
Cooking for yourself and cooking for others is the greatest expression of love.

What was your first job?
My first job was dishwasher at Everything But Anchovies, a pizzeria. Sometimes the chef was so drunk I actually had to drive the Chevette and do deliveries too, because he also was the delivery guy. I was 13 years old, and had no driver’s license.

Dangerous! But probably a learning experience. How do you fill 3 free hours on a Sunday afternoon?
With a bike ride in Malibu.

Who was your hero growing up, and who is it now?
My hero growing up was my uncle. He was a really good athlete, super cool, just the epitome of cool in my mind, really handsome, kind of a ladies man, and was just super fun. And now one of my heroes is definitely Malala. She’s amazing. Someone whose come from such extreme adversity and turned it into positivity, and done so much work for girls around the world.

Were you ever a picky eater?
No!

Favorite family recipe?
Toad in the hole. I grew up on a farm so we had our own pork. My grandma would make homemade sausage patties that kind of floated, suspended in a cloud of Yorkshire pudding.

Hot sauce of choice?
I have to say, after visiting Avery Island in Louisiana, I have a newfound appreciation for Tabasco. I think it’s an extraordinary company. The recipe hasn’t changed since, like, the 1860s and there’s just so much heritage to it. It’s really only got a couple of ingredients to it: salt, peppers, and vinegar. That’s all there is to it, plus fermentation and time. The company has also cut their packaging astronomically. They don’t use any plastic to ship from the warehouse to the distribution center, it’s all done with reusable pallets. Just a very progressive, family-owned, heritage American brand.

Have you had a recent “first”?
Yes, I did a sound bath in Bali. It was basically lying on a waterbed that had low-frequency speakers in the bed inside a pyramid, with a wackadoodle dude running around playing gongs and bells and all sorts of crazy stuff while lights were being projected. It was really intense. It was very psychedelic. You experience synesthesia, you hear colors and see sounds. Because the only light is being projected through these fractal projections, you have a sensation of floating. Your sensory perception is totally altered. It was wild.

Spicy or sour?
Sour.

Beer or wine?
Wine.

What goes on the perfect sandwich?
Well, it’s really hard to improve upon the BLT. But to improve upon it you make a BALT.

Ah yes, you add your most used emoji. And finally: what celebrity would you most like to share a side of fries with?
The Rock.

Explore Seamus’s exclusive Blue Apron recipes

Q+A with Winemaker Steve Matthiasson

Steve Matthiasson was perhaps the most in-demand viticulturist in Napa when he and his wife, Jill, decided to start their own wine label. The critics couldn’t withhold their excitement—and we can’t contain ours, with the Matthiasson White blend in our October wine selection. (And today, Steve’s unquestionably the most in-demand viticulturist in Napa.) We caught up with Steve in the middle of this year’s grape harvest to talk about one of his favorite subjects: gathering friends to eat, drink and be merry.

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How’s the 2017 harvest looking?

We’re picking multiple vineyards every single day right now. We’re doing our first red this Friday. After the last five years of drought we’re finally kind of back on track with normal ripening. It’s still three weeks early as compared to a decade ago, but we’re more in line with where we need to be.

After harvest ends and you and Jill start entertaining again, how do you select wines for your parties?

I think about who’s going to be there, and what they’d all be excited to try. For non-wine-industry parties, I keep it simple. At our end-of-year soccer party, for example, it’s just Cabernet.

For wine-industry people, I try and think about what everyone’s going to get a kick out of that they don’t taste every day. We once hosted for several winemakers and Jay McInerney from The Wall Street Journal, and the theme was all northeastern Italian wines.

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So you do have different plans for hosting wine geeks versus family, then?

Definitely. At Thanksgiving, for example, I work with my cousin-in-law, Coby, who collects as a consumer, and we strategize together since there are 20 relatives who attend. From there, you have to have a mix of whites and reds for the people who only drink one or the other. Then he and I raid our cellars for six bottles each. He brings the richer, buttery whites and fuller-bodied reds to keep people who love those wines happy, and I select the crisp, minerally whites and lighter reds for the other contingent. It’s always my personal mission to get people to open their minds a little, but you still need to have a good mix.

When people bring a bottle to your parties, do you save it or serve it then and there?

One of the great things about being in wine country is that at any party, there’s always a wine table—everybody brings a bottle. You just ask, “Where’s the wine table?” as you show up, and you can always count on a lot of interesting wines to try. It’s like a wine potluck.

Sometimes it’s really nice to bring two bottles: One for them to stash and one to serve now.

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When winemakers get together, do you all try to impress each other with your fanciest wines?

It’s definitely not about impressing. It’s about representing—bringing a bottle that’s special in some way, to you.

I learned this one year that Daniel Johnnes, the organizer of La Paulée, (the famous annual Burgundy tasting event), gave us tickets to the gala dinner. Everyone brings a bottle, and I traded a bunch of my wine for a $1,000 bottle of 1989 Burgundy to bring. A wine writer sitting across from us had brought a $50 bottle of Chablis—but it was well picked out. It wasn’t about price, it was about being thoughtful. The wine was real, handmade with intention. It was every bit as legit as the $1,000 bottle we brought.

What’s the easiest pairing to provide an “aha!” moment?

Pinot Noir and salmon. Also Merlot and lamb. Some of those classics are classics for a reason.

More generally, though, wines with more acidity pair with more foods, so a lot of times the “aha” moment is when people taste a wine and think it’s a little tart at first—and then the food comes out. When they try the two together, all of a sudden it all comes to life.

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What is the safest, most crowd-pleasing wine to serve at or bring to a party?

Just bring your favorite, because someone else is going to like it, too. If not, then you can’t go wrong with a bottle of something sparkling, especially Champagne. But if you found something that you think is really cool and want other people to try, definitely bring that.

Spritzers in summer, mulled wine in winter: Yes, or ultimate party-foul?

All ok in my book. I love mulled wine, and I love spritzers. Here in Napa we have our annual Grape Grower banquet in the summer, and it’s 80 degrees and everyone’s pouring Cabernet. I put ice in mine to make it more refreshing.

Q+A: Wine Writer Karen MacNeil

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Formal wine education didn’t exist when you started out. How did you teach yourself?

In the 1970s in New York, wine was a closed society. There were five men who controlled wine media, who wrote for every magazine in the US. Eventually, I was assertive enough to one of the five men, who said they would let me taste with them if I didn’t talk. I tasted with them for eight years, and I never said a thing. But I listened and started to piece things together.

What makes the The Wine Bible different from the other wine books available?

I wanted to have an American voice and viewpoint. That is, by nature, more casual. The wine books I learned on were really stripped down—there was very little history, culture, food and never anything funny. Mine was the first book to have sidebars about tangoing in Argentina, or the history of the French baguette or why the Italians never use spoons with pasta—asides that put wine in its rightful context and its place in that culture’s history, art and life. It made wine more understandable.

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At all levels, from newbies to sommeliers, what’s the consistent piece of advice you give students?

The best way to learn nothing about wine is to continue to drink only what you know you like. We tend to drink pretty narrowly—two or three varieties. That’s the equivalent of eating carrots and chicken for every meal the rest of your life. There are at least 5,000 grape varieties. At least 150 of those are widely available. So to be choosing between two or three any given night is kind of crazy.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen a new wine drinker do?

I’ve taught thousands of people, and one of the things that always happens is someone cries. It hits them how deeply evocative of the earth wine is, how mysterious it is. You begin to understand why it was and is the beverage of religion. People have this oh-my-god moment, when they’re really emotionally moved, when their first instinct was purely hedonistic.

What do you tell students to help them get over wine’s intimidation factor? 

Wine is merely liquid flavor. At its core, that’s all it is. If you can go to a restaurant and understand if the burger tastes good or not, then you have all the brainpower you need to understand wine. The brain makes no distinction between solid and liquid flavor. As soon as I tell people that, they get it.

What’s your secret guilty-pleasure food-wine pairing? 

I could drink sparkling wine and eat potato chips all day long. I don’t even feel guilty about saying that. Salt and acid is the ultimate, all-time great pairing.

 

Click here for $25 off Blue Apron Wine!

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Home Cook Hall of Fame: Dan Barber

Dan Barber - temp stand inWe consider cooking the best method of doing dinner, because homemade food tastes best, is good for you, and brings you together with people, from family and friends to the artisans who melted your ghee. You already know that.

But we hardly came to this conclusion on our own: home cooking has a long history. To catch you up, we’ll be sharing the (abridged) stories of those home-cooking heros, the chefs and reporters and cookbook authors and bloggers whose work has helped make us–and you–feel at home in the kitchen.

Today, meet Dan Barber.

Who He Is

The co-owner and executive chef at Blue Hill restaurant in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a working farm and sustainable agricultural center in Tarrytown, NY, Barber is a thought leader in conversations about food, agricultural policy, and the connection between sustainable farming and the delicious breakfast, lunches, and dinners we like to cook and eat. He’s also the author of 2014’s acclaimed book, The Third Plate.

His Story

“The truth is, I was trying to make money out of college,” says Barber when  asked how and why he came to cooking. “But I kept going.” He moved to France to train seriously for a year, figuring he’d see if the culinary career would stick under that kind of intensity. It did. He thrived abroad, then kept on cooking when he returned to the U.S. Now, at his  restaurants, he hopes to serve “the kind of dinner that is memorable and inspiring – so inspiring that you want to replicate a part of it in your own home.”

Why Cooking Matters

“Cooking doesn’t just matter,” he says. “It’s everything. You can have all these strong views about global climate change, about soil health, about water usage, about animal cruelty, in between and beyond that. If you’re not opting out of a food system that prepares your food for you, you’re not making a dent in the things you believe in.”

“There are certain companies – like yours and mine – that do things differently. But they’re few and far between.”

Who He Hangs With

His cooks at the restaurant. “They’re a source of great ideas,” he says. “They’re really amazing.”

Takeaways

Cooking, says Barber, “is a strong act. That’s a big act. It’s under-appreciated. It’s an increasingly novel act. It’s a revolutionary act. For the most part it means the food is probably more delicious, and you’re probably sourcing better ingredients…and it generally means a healthier meal and a healthier environment. You can’t have a delicious carrot without good soil, crop rotation, and without good decisions made by a farmer.”

You Can Cook Like a Top Chef with This Season’s Winning Recipe & a Lesson with Mei Lin

Congratulations to Top Chef Season 12 winner, Chef Mei Lin!

Top Chef Mei Lin and Blue Apron

You might remember Chef Mei Lin from our collaboration earlier in the season. Once again, she’s bringing the flavor in a dish inspired by her finale-winning menu, and on February 23, you’ll get a chance to cook Crispy Chicken Thighs with Braised Lettuce, Kimchi and Maitake Mushrooms from Blue Apron. In the recipe, Chef Lin takes inspiration from the flavors of Mexico – where the finale took place – with Asian flavors, like kimchi, which bring a fusion-style depth and real creativity to the dish.

Top Chef Winning Recipe

Top Chef Mei Lin and Blue ApronTop Chef Mei Lin and Blue Apron

The judges were so impressed with Chef Mei Lin’s meals, and now you’ll have a chance to be impressed with her too.

That’s because we’re giving you a chance to cook like a Top Chef – with a Top Chef! – by entering our contest. The winner and a guest will land a trip to New York City, where you’ll learn to cook your favorite dish from Top Chef Season 12, with the winner, Chef Mei Lin.

Top Chef Mei Lin and Blue Apron

After your cooking lesson, you’ll go home knowing you’ve got a year’s worth of Blue Apron coming your way. That cooking, along with Top Chef’s inspiration, will help you continue your lifelong journey to be the best possible cook, eat delicious food, and have more fun in the kitchen.

Top Chef Mei Lin and Blue Apron

How One Pizza Lover Became a Pie Maker: The Story of Nice Pizza

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All photos by Matt Borowick

The more you cook, the better you get: practice, of course, makes perfect. So when your business is pizza and your life includes tons of pizza-making, long-term experience creates better crusts, sauces, and techniques. We talked to one pizza devotee to see how he became a master.

Benjamin Duff’s first pizza pie came out a triangle. Since this geometric accident, his pizzas are a lot more circular shaped – and always satisfyingly delicious. From eating pizza twice a week as a child, the owner of Nice Pizzeria in Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn has rolled out hundreds and hundreds of pizzas, so he knows a thing or two about making some good dough.

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“Did you know that the French eat more pizza than the Italians?” offers Duff, a native of Nice, in southern France. “Nice used to be Italian 150 years ago, but it was given back to the French by Giuseppe Garibaldi. There is a lot of Italian influence, all the names are Italians, all the street names are Italian – they really stayed Italian.”

“My oldest friend, Leonnard Mallo, owns a pizza truck in Nice. He taught me everything about pizza.” Everything. Duff didn’t know how to make a pizza until he opened his pizzeria. He says he mastered the pizza-making process on the job. “As you get busy, you get it.”

Duff’s light as air pizzas are actually way thinner than the Italians’ (if you can imagine it), made using a machine bought from France that flattens the dough very thin. This makes is crispy when it bakes, “and people like crispy,” he says. How he makes “French” pizza, as he calls it, goes like this:

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Above all, have quality ingredients. When making a very simple dish you must have the finest ingredients. All of his ingredients are fresh, and nothing’s canned or frozen. His enchanting “La Baltique” was crowned with pleasantly acidic tomato sauce, moist mozzarella cheese, smoked salmon, lush heavy cream, mushrooms and capers.

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As for the dough: “Everybody’s got their own little thing, but at the end of the day it’s flour, water, salt, oil, and yeast,” says Duff. You have to find your own proportions.

He uses the “Rolls Royce of the flours,” a high grade, double-zero flour. Instead of using Cantalet cheese as he would in France, Duff uses a sprinkle of fresh, milky mozzarella to achieve a cheesy pie. While many choose to top off their pies with a shake of cracked red pepper, Duff (as the French do) prefers a drizzle of spicy homemade oil. Another one of Duff’s master tips: Work the dough for 30 minutes and let it sit for 1 hour. Then, use a lot of flour to prevent sticking.

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What did he learn through all this pizza making, from France to the streets of Brooklyn? keep it fresh, keep it simple.Continue reading “How One Pizza Lover Became a Pie Maker: The Story of Nice Pizza”

Home Cook Hall of Fame: James Beard

via Food Republic
via Food Republic

We consider cooking the best method of doing dinner, because homemade food tastes best, is good for you, and brings you together with people, from family and friends to the artisans who melted your ghee. You already know that.

But we hardly came to this conclusion on our own: home cooking has a long history. To catch you up, we’ll be sharing the (abridged) stories of those  home-cooking heros, the chefs and reporters and cookbook authors and bloggers whose work has helped make us–and you–feel at home in the kitchen.

Today, meet James Beard.

Who He Is

A cookbook author, food journalist, champion of foodie entrepreneurs, and general epicurean  around town, Beard’s early belief in the power of good food was immortalized by the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate and nurture this country’s food past, present, and future.

His Story

In 1952, Beard made a damning observation about American food: “Why is it that each year our bread gets less and less palatable, more and more flabby and tasteless?” he wrote.

He might have specified bread, but he was likely talking about a larger , which had come to rely on processed, convenience food. The same year, he published Paris Cuisine, his fifth cookbook, one of many moves he made to get his countrymen to return to the kitchen and cook well and often. Though he’d been a public figure since the 1940s–hosting parties, attending New York City’s operas, writing, and consulting for food companies–his definitive book, American Cookery, wasn’t published until 1972. Beard passed away in 1985.

Why Cooking Matters

James Beard believe that cooking embodied the ideal education: with cooking, you never stop learning. The more you cook, the more you understand your ingredients: where they come from, how they work together, when they’re ready to eat. In other words, he believed a lifelong education in the kitchen kept the belly full and the brain sharp.

Who He Hung With

Beard and Julia Child were two pivotal figures in bringing fresh home cooking back to the United States. Both were enamored of European cuisine, especially French food, and they used this obsession to show American eaters how good food could be. But in his 30-year culinary career, he met and befriended pretty much all the restauranteurs, writers, chefs, and personalities in the industry.

Takeaways

“In my twenty-five years of teaching I have tried to make people realize that cooking is primarily fun and that the more they know about what they are doing, the more fun it is,” Beard wrote in Theory & Practice of Good Cooking. Fun, you say?! We’re in support of that!

Home Cook Hall of Fame: Julia Child

via PBS

We consider cooking the best method of doing dinner, because homemade food tastes best, is good for you, and brings you together with people, from family and friends to the makers who crafted your goat cheese. You already know that.

But we hardly came to this conclusion on our own: home cooking has a long history. To catch you up, we’ll be sharing the (abridged) stories of those  home-cooking heros, the chefs and reporters and cookbook authors and bloggers whose work has helped make us–and you–feel at home in the kitchen.

Today, meet Julia Child.

Who She Is

You probably already known Julia, she of the ringing “Bon Appetit!!” An American who moved to Paris with her husband, Child’s first wave of fame hit in 1963, when episodes of “The French Chef” became the first cooking show to air on PBS. In 2009, Meryl Streep portrayed her character with gusto in Julie and Julia, the movie.

Her Story

Child’s cooking career got off to a late start. At age 32, while working for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, Child moved to Ceylon and fell in love with her future husband, Paul Child. Only then did she start cooking–for him.  Together, they moved to France, because Paul was working for the U.S. State Department. In Paris, Child met two French chefs who were writing a book for American home cooks, and she started testing recipes for them. That led to a joint cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which came out with its first volume in 1961 and its second in 1970, and a TV show. By the time Child passed away at 92, her books, shows, and charisma had smilingly urged an entire generation to cook.

Why Cooking Matters

Well, you’ve got to eat. Child often noted how, until she got married, she didn’t cook, she merely ate. But sautéing and roasting not only became her career, the passion also cooked up a full, satisfying, and amusing life for her–a life full of dinner parties with interesting people whom her food had brought together. Conquering fears in the kitchen, she told us, can help with conquering the rest of life. Cooking matters precisely because it can be a testing ground for other ambitions, a place to flourish, try new things, fail, and get back on your feet.

Who She Hangs With

Child was at home with the top French and American chefs of her day, like James Beard. Her French collaborator on Mastering, Simone Beck, went on to write influential cookbooks of her own. Judith B. Jones, an editor at Knopf, published Child’s cookbook when no one else would and went on to edit many of the culinary stars of the 20th century.

Takeaways

To cook à la Julia, you have to be simultaneously ambitious and forgiving. You’ll never get into the kitchen if you’re afraid, she believed, and yet if you do spend time in the kitchen, you’re apt to mess up in a big way. So, you have to embrace this duality. “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure,” she said. “In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

Home Cook Hall of Fame: Carlo Petrini

Carlo Petrini, father of home food
via Slow Food USA

We consider cooking the best method of doing dinner, because homemade food tastes best, is good for you, and brings you together with people, from family and friends to the producers who pressed  your tortillas. You already know that.

But we hardly came to this conclusion on our own: home cooking has a long history. To catch you up, we’ll be sharing the (abridged) stories of those  home-cooking heros, the chefs and reporters and cookbook authors and bloggers whose work has helped make us–and you–feel at home in the kitchen.

Today, meet Carlo Petrini.

Who He Is

Petrini is the founder of Slow Food, an eco-gastronomic organization that connects the way we create and eat food with the way we live.

His Story

In 1986, when the first McDonald’s was slated to open in his city, Rome, Petrini panicked. Could the hallmarks of Roman cuisine survive in the face of salty, fatty fast food hamburgers? He rallied together with others who worried that the loss of local food and culture would be a really big problem and founded Slow Food to center the movement. Today there are 150,000 members of Slow Food and 2000 food communities involved in more than 150 countries, according to the organization’s site.

Why He Thinks Cooking Matters

In Petrini’s view, local food cultures and systems can best support our communities. That means, as eaters, that we have to choose to buy, cook with, and eat the foods that support the people and institutions we care about. Unlike some activism, this is hardly drudgery. “Conviviality is central to our mission,” it says on the Slow Food website. That means we should slow down, skip some of our favorite convenience foods, and cook and eat with family and friends. For Petrini and Slow Food’s leaders and members, the best way to celebrate how important food is to us and our ecosystem.

Who He Hangs Out With

Petrini is often seen with  Alice Waters (founder of Chez Panisse and the Vice President of Slow Food International).

Takeaways

“Cooking isn’t just pots and pans,” Petrini said to a Brooklyn audience that gathered to hear him earlier this month. It’s not just food either. It’s about the bigger decision to cook, and then it’s about the decision to care for the world, your family, and your body through the choices you make in the kitchen.

Photos of New York’s Short Order Cooks

At home, in your kitchen, you find yourself juggling multiple pots and pans, cooking potatoes and roasting broccoli and searing turkey cutlets all at the same time. Read more: Turkey Cutlets with Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli & Caper Sauce

You may say to yourself, “I feel like a short-order cook,” picturing a chef who moves so fast to complete so many orders at once that he or she seems to have more than two arms. Three, at least.

And so, in honor of that feeling and DIY take-out month (you can still enter our #DIYtakeout Contest here!), we sent a photographer out into six New York cafes and diners with really speedy, multi-tasking chefs. Scroll through the images below to enrich your dinner-time fantasy of being a short-order cook.

Stop 1. Chop Chop Grub Shop, a “modern lunch counter.”
Cook/owner: Malcom

2. Sabor Latino
Main cook: Leo

3. Syd’s Serious Sandwich Shop
Cook: Tony

4. Rosco’s Pizza
Cook: John


5. Tacqueria de los Muertos
Cook: Carlo

6. Exquisite Caribbean

All photos by Ryan C. Jones.

How I Learned: Chef David Venable Loved Mom’s Pre-Measured Ingredients, Reads Through Recipes Twice

At Blue Apron, we’re all about getting into the kitchen and cooking up some seriously delicious food. Of course, there’s a first time for everything, and that includes chopping an onion! Every cook has to start her cooking journey somewhere, so we decided to chronicle the first-ever kitchen ventures of people who got into the kitchen and stayed there. Today, we’re sharing the words of someone whose cooking journey took him really, really far. That is, a TV chef, David Venable, host of In the Kitchen with David on QVC.

We asked Chef Venable some questions to find out how he became the able, TV-ready chef he is today. Here’s what he told us.

BA: Who taught you to cook?
DV: My mother. She allowed me to help get food prepped and put together—I cracked eggs, stirred batters, and poured in ingredients she (wisely) pre-measured. Some of my earliest cooking memories were at Christmas time. We had a lot of time to make all those special recipes and I remember taking great care to gather and add all the ingredients.

BA: How old were you?
DV: I must have been 7 or 8. As time went by, my mother was working full-time as a nurse and she made it a point to teach my brother, sister, and me how to cook because she really needed the help in the kitchen. But, I kept finding my way back to the stove. I loved cooking and experimenting with ingredients.

BA: What was the first dish you ever cooked?
DV: Gosh, I’m trying to remember…I remember the first time I tried to fry chicken, I didn’t know how to bread it. I didn’t understand what made the coating on fried chicken, and I thought it just happened when you cooked it in oil. So, I filled my mother’s cast iron skillet with oil and literally dropped in a frozen drumstick. It was just awful. It burned really badly, but it was raw in the middle and this awful blood leached onto the plate. Nasty!

BA: Why did you keep cooking?
DV: Two things: a curiosity of cooking and a love of great food. I love eating great food (who doesn’t?) and I just had to know how to create it and how to make something good “great.” I’m still learning all of those tricks—I don’t think we ever stop learning, which is why after all this time I’m still so passionate about being in the kitchen.

BA: Why do you love to cook now?
DV: It’s so much of the same thing—I’m curious in the kitchen. I love great food and I love sharing it with other people. Cooking is a way for me to express my love for others.

BA: How would you go about teaching someone else to cook?
DV: I’d first help them understand the basics. New cooks need staples in their pantry—flour, sugar, good-quality olive oil and vanilla extract, fresh baking soda and powder, etc. They also need fridge essentials like ground beef, boneless chicken breasts, and all your dairy foods like fresh butter, eggs, and milk. It’s so easy to get frustrated when you first start cooking because it seems like you never have the ingredients recipes call for, so having the basics is a giant step forward.

Then, I’d give them a really good beginner recipe like my Cheesy Cheeseburger Casserole or Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake. Both are true dump-and-stir recipes, which tend to be remarkably easy and family-friendly. They’re the kinds of recipes people request again and again. And, as long as you’ve got those pantry staples, you can make them on a dime.

Read more: Our Favorite Mac ‘N Cheese Recipes

Finally, reading through any recipe at least twice before you start cooking is very important. I’m also an advocate of pre-measuring ingredients. If everything is there and measured, it makes it a lot easier to assemble your recipe and you maintain a sense of confidence and control while you’re cooking. It also ensures you don’t forget an ingredient, which is so easy when you’re rushed or adding as you go.

Thanks, David! Want to share your learning-to-cook story? (You don’t have to be a celeb!) Email contact@blueapron.com with the subject line Blog: How I Learned To Cook

How I Learned: Chef Ralph Scamardella of TAO Learned Cooking from Macaroni, Lentils, and Daniel Boulud

At Blue Apron, we’re all about getting into the kitchen and cooking up some seriously delicious food. Of course, there’s a first time for everything, and that includes chopping an onion! Every cook has to start her cooking journey somewhere, so we decided to chronicle the first-ever kitchen ventures of people who got into the kitchen and stayed there. Today, we’re sharing the words of someone whose cooking journey took him really, really far. That is, a famous chef, Ralph Scamardella, the Corporate Executive Chef of Tao Restaurant.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Chef Scamardella learned Italian cooking from his mother long before he worked under Daniel Boulud at Polo Restaurant. Travels to Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong influenced his cooking and helped inspire the roasted rack of lamb with green massaman curry, a staple at the Tao resturants.

We got to ask Chef Scamardella a couple of questions to find out how he became the awesome chef he is today…

**How I Learned: Chef Ralph Scamardella** 

BA: Who taught you to cook?
RS: Many different people taught me how to cook, but the first was my mother. Later, I worked for many famous chefs, such as Daniel Boulud.

BA: How old were you?
RS: I was 12 years old

BA: What was the first dish you ever cooked?
RS: Lentils and macaroni

BA: Why did you keep cooking?
RS: I kept cooking because I enjoyed it–and I enjoyed eating even more. I figured I would never go hungry if I was a cook.

BA: Why do you love to cook now?
RS: It’s my work, my passion, and my therapy.

BA: How would you go about teaching someone else to cook?
RS: First thing you need to do is know the foundations and understand the ingredients and how they react to each other. You can teach anyone techniques but you have to get to know the flavors.

BA: What would you tell a newbie about why cooking is so great?
RS: It truly is a profession of love, passion, and constant dedication and evolution.

Want to share your learning-to-cook story? (You don’t have to be a celeb!) Email contact@blueapron.com with the subject line Blog: How I Learned To Cook