Kathy McDaniel is a professional chef turned home cook. Her first job out of culinary school was for The Food Network working for Wolfgang Puck’s TV show. She then joined the culinary team of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Kathy has taught cooking classes, was a private chef for a few celebrity clients, and then began her impressive and successful blog, Lemon Blossoms.
She now brings her skills into your kitchen via her videos and easy-to-follow recipes.
Kathy answered a Q and A with us to share her experiences with our readers.
Kathy, can share your chef/ cooking background- The Food Network- Celebrity Chef?
I wish I could say that my interest in cooking started when I was a child while watching my grandma cook daily. Although she always put me to work, it was not something I did willingly. My interest at that time was trying different foods and experiencing different cuisines – as long as I didn’t have to set foot in the kitchen! Funny enough, I opened my first “rustic restaurant” when I was 16 years old. Think of it as an upgrade from a lemonade stand. As a first-time restaurateur, I hired 2 cooks and a dishwasher to do all the work for me!
Years later, while living in Southern California and working an office job, I found cooking to be a much-needed outlet for my creative side. I became obsessed with cooking and was an avid reader of cookbooks; that, however, wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know the secrets of the professional chefs and what they were taught so I enrolled and graduated from a professional culinary school.
After graduation, my first job was supposed to be as a prep cook but somehow, I ended up working for Chef Wolfgang Puck and the Food Network as his on-set assistant for his TV show Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class. Later, I was called to work on a few episodes of Throwdown with Bobby Flay.
The culinary world is fascinating and I have experienced it in many different roles. I have worked as an executive chef in a restaurant, I started and operated my own catering company, sold a line of gourmet food products, worked as a Private Chef for a few celebrity clients, and served as a kitchen manager and teacher in a cooking school where I had the opportunity to meet other amazing chefs like my friends Jet Tila and Amanda Cushman.
What are your cooking specialties?
I love all types of food. Although most of my training was in French cuisine, I have a special place in my heart for Asian and Latin American cuisine, especially Mexican cuisine.
As a mom, wife, and businesswoman wearing many hats at work (I call myself the unicorn in chief as I do all the jobs!) I think that what is important is to focus on high-quality food that is easy to prepare and always delicious. We are all busy but that doesn’t mean we should compromise on flavor or quality. I understand the need to have simple, easy, and budget-friendly meals ready to go when we hear the first “I’m hungry” or “what’s for dinner?”. Having worked in commercial kitchens standing on my feet hours at a time, I know the importance of not using every dish, bowl, pot, pan, and skillet we own just to make a family dinner! Let’s be honest, no one wants to do dishes after a fabulous meal! I think that with my experience I can help you find the perfect balance between simple, quick, easy, one-pot meals as well as enjoying more involved dishes that perhaps can benefit from a shortcut or two!
How can women make high-quality food at home, without breaking the budget?
Easily! Plan ahead and eat in more than you eat out.
In California, I was blessed with the most beautiful local produce 12 months of the year. Now, I know that I need to plan ahead and be smart in choosing what to cook and when.
Seasonal cuisine is of the most important when cooking on a budget however, it’s good to take advantage of frozen items like raw fish and seafood. They are actually fresher than most of the “fresh fish” sold at supermarkets. The same goes for produce.
Buy in bulk when possible (especially nuts which can be pricey). Although I hardly ever freeze cooked meals (because they die in my freezer before I remember about them), I do freeze ingredients that I purchase when on sale. Some canned goods like tomatoes and beans are also great as they can be purchased on sale and will cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen.
For the most part, my recipes use ingredients you can find in most supermarkets; however, I give ideas on how to substitute hard-to-find and/or pricey items.
At the end of the day, channeling your inner Julia Child goes a long way! Even if cooking is not your thing, you can find pleasure in sharing food with your loved ones or the adventure of enjoying a particular dish from a distant country. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just amazingly flavorful. Savor the moment and keep in mind that cooking is simply an artistic expression that should always come from the heart – it sure tastes better that way!
Kathy chose a recipe for our readers.
Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan
Caramelized Oven Roasted Asparagus get an extra dose of flavor from the best crispy, buttery and cheesy Parmesan cracker crumb topping! This easy recipe is perfect any time of the year and fantastic for a Thanksgiving side-dish.
Check out more amazing recipes at: www.lemonblossoms.com