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

Taste for the Obscure

Jason Wilson discusses his exploration of the world’s lesser-known wine grapes.

GodforsakenGrapes27580JF (1)There are approximately 1,400 grape varieties used for winemaking, but most of the world’s wine comes from only 20 of them. Author Jason Wilson hit the road to find out why. His new book, Godforsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey Through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine, explores the grapes you never hear about and never see in wine shops—often with good reason. But perhaps the next great grape is just waiting to be discovered.

Q: You’re best known for editing The Best American Travel Writing series, and for your drinks column in The Washington Post, which focused mostly on cocktails. What led you to wine?
A: I had always been writing about wine as well, but it wasn’t as front and center. Honestly, I got pretty bored with cocktails—they’d kind of plateaued in terms of interest and knowledge. I still write about spirits, but wine was just more interesting.

Could it be argued that the wine market’s reliance on 20 grapes is really just market forces at work? Giving the people what they want in the same way that Hollywood makes the same films over and over?
It’s market forces at work, for sure. It’s easier to sell 20 grapes than to expect that people will have a taste for 300 or 400 grapes. But it’s not for me to say what people should drink. If they only want to drink five grapes, go ahead. I’m just telling you there’s a lot more out there you might like that you haven’t been presented with.

And it’s not like I don’t drink Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Of course I do. But I’ve been discovering others I’m interested in as well.

What’s the most exciting wine variety you discovered in your research for the book? Does it have the potential to go mainstream?
In the book I get into the idea that obscurity is relative. Grüner Veltliner is probably my favorite grape, but for most people in the U.S. it’s still pretty obscure. On the other end of the scale are alpine varieties, where there’s one acre of each grown in the entire world. Somewhere in the middle are the wines of southwest France, like Mansois [also called Fer]. If you like Cabernet Franc or those more savory red wines, it’s a cool, inexpensive red. Maybe moving a little less obscure would be Schiava from Alto Adige, Italy—a light red you can drink every day.

Were there any grapes you discovered that have enthusiastic, perhaps delusional advocates?
Some of the Eastern European ones, the jury is out on. Žilavka, from Bosnia, for example. But I feel terrible every time I have to say that about one of these grapes.

wilson_7 PHOTO (1)Is taste the reason why so many varieties never caught on, or is it typically a more nuanced story, grape to grape?
It’s from grape to grape, and because of market forces, power, trends and geopolitics—not because of taste. It’s not monolithic. For example, there are great Chasselas, [a white wine] from Switzerland, and also not great ones—but you can’t get the good ones here. Also, Chasselas is shockingly lacking in acidity, but it’s a perfect wine for certain occasions or times of day other than dinner. You have to think about the situation. Mostly it didn’t catch on here because it’s a hard sell. Oaky Chardonnay is an easy sell.

One of our favorite discoveries for Blue Apron Wine was a St. Laurent. Do you think it has a shot at the spotlight?
It’s a very finicky grape because there’s so much variation from year to year. Some years it’s amazing, some years it’s not. I had one from 1950 in Austria that was amazing. It’s really good [from vineyards] around the city of Vienna.

What’s the endgame for an avid wine drinker? Is it embracing the understanding that there is no endgame at all, and instead enjoying the journey of discovery?
That is it. There’s this idea of wine education where wine is a ladder, and at the top there are all these serious, important wines that you gain enlightenment with. That isn’t the case at all.

Wine is a labyrinth, and it leads from one thing to the next. There’s endless discovery if you’re willing to have an open mind and embrace the fact that you’re never going to know everything. There’s always a new grape or new region. That’s the best thing about wine, really.

Sign up for Blue Apron Wine and save on your first order! Click here.

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.

Matthiasson_blog_03

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.

Matthiasson_blog_04

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

17_0810_Wine_QA_KarenMacNeil

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.

17_0810_Wine_QA_KarenMacNeil3

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

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.

How We Created a Blue Apron Recipe with Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs with Roasted Baby Zebra Eggplants & Fennel Salad

In two weeks–the week of August 11th–you’ll have the chance to cook with Gramercy Tavern’s chef, Michael Anthony (a longtime friend of Blue Apron). Sure, his beloved, award-winning 20-year-old restaurant is located New York City–but you get to travel there without ever leaving your kitchen. (Sign up by August 6th to be sure you get a delivery!)

On the menu: Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs with Roasted Baby Zebra Eggplants & Fennel Salad.

The Blue Apron recipe is inspired by one Michael Anthony included in The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook. The dish makes use of seasonal zebra eggplant, prepared in two different ways, as well as ripe tomatoes and fresh fennel. All that vegetable-centric goodness gets topped, at the end, with a crispy piece of chicken.

Michael Anthony Crafting the Blue Apron Recipe

We spoke with Michael Anthony and our own Chef Matthew Wadiak about cooking in restaurants, cooking at home, and his affection for eggplant in our behind-the-scenes video:

Since you’ll be bringing restaurant dining home with this recipe, we  wanted to hear more about how Michael Anthony cooks when he’s not on the job. So we asked the chef a few questions about how his cooking changes once he walks out the door of Gramercy Tavern.

Chef Michael Anthony

Blue Apron: What are the hurdles to re-creating restaurant-style food at home?

Michael Anthony: On a daily basis, whether we’re cooking in a beautiful kitchen like this or folks are cooking at home, you can turn an ordinary day into a celebration. The difference between cooking at home and at a restaurant is really about the number of hands and the number of pans.

At home, wearing a white jacket for a living doesn’t get me a free pass for getting dinner on the table on time and having to clean up all the mess. I really cook in the same spirit, with ingredients that are grown close to home – most of them we’ve picked from the green market or from our favorite local farms -and cooked them simply, quickly. With three daughters, I have to make sure everyone is smiling. And then after dinner is finished, I want to be sure I’ve used one pan to cook dinner in, not four or five as might happen in the restaurant where we have a professional dish-washing team.

The Kitchen at Gramercy Tavern

 

BA: What are a few tips from the restaurant kitchen that do translate to the home kitchen?

MA:We want people to know that cooking is not a spectator sport, that it’s fun, manageable. The backbone at Gramercy Tavern is about cooking food that’s distinctive to this particular place and celebrating the changing seasons. We share this philosophy with Blue Apron. And if we’re doing anything right, we’re sharing enthusiasm for cooking, so folks who come in and eat a variety of great vegetables, well-chosen fish and seafood, amazing meats from around the region, it encourages them to want to cook more often at home. It only adds to the dialogue of good cooking and good eating.

 

BA: So many home cooks revert to the meat-at-the-center of the plate mindset. Take us through the process of planning a home-cooked meal that’s centered around one of the “meatiest” vegetables: eggplant.

MA: Eggplant is one of my favorite things in the world to eat. I discovered loving eating eggplant mostly as an adult, when I lived in Japan. I never knew eggplant could taste so soft and sweet. I grew up in an Italian American family, where we were used to eating eggplant in heavy preparations in parmesans, roasted. My grandfather’s favorite thing to eat was pickled eggplant. When I moved to Japan I discovered that lightly roasted soft sweet medium sized eggplant are some of the most luscious things to eat. Now, more than ever, across the United States, they’re easy to find. We grow a wide variety. Baby zebra eggplant are really a treasure; when you see them arrive in the kitchen, they’re very easy to cook, they’re healthy. For all those reasons I love eating eggplant.

 

BA: Anything else Blue Apron chefs should know about the meal you created for them?

MA: I’m hoping that the Blue Apron customers’ response, when they open their boxes and see this ingredient, is one of amazement. I like to hold those eggplant up  and show my three daughters, and say, “look what we got here!” I hope people have fun discovering a fast, easy way to cook eggplant.<

Blue Apron at Gramercy Tavern

Are you as excited about this partnership as we are? Then share it with your friends for the chance to win over $500 in prizes! Head to our Facebook page to enter the Blue Apron and Gramercy Tavern Summer Recipe Sweepstakes.

Don’t miss the limited-edition Blue Apron recipe – sign up by August 6th, 2014 to receive your box.

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