Interview with Heather Christo: Mother, Chef, and Blog Author (future Food Network celebrity?)
September 26, 2011

Spend any time watching the litany of cooking related TV shows and you’ll learn some important lessons. One valuable lesson - the enthusiasm you have for making that night’s dinner during any given show probably wont last past the show’s credits.

You’ll also start to pick up on a certain celebrity star quality among all the hosts. Today’s featured blogger, Heather Christo, author of the self-titled cooking and lifestyle blog, has just that. If her career was a stock, now would be the time to invest. We were lucky to catch up with Heather recently to talk cooking inspiration, must have kitchenware, and tips for the novice cook:

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get into cooking?

My passion for food began as a child, when I learned to cook as I helped my mother in the kitchen. Born and raised in a large family in Seattle, my father was in politics, and my mother was a classically French-trained cook. The combination of my parents created massive-scale entertaining in the home for years.

My love for cooking and eating became so great, that I wound up going to the California Culinary Academy/Le Cordon Bleu after college. I worked in the bay area for a while and then headed back to Seattle. In Seattle I ran my own catering company, throwing parties and private cheffing for my clients.

5 Years ago, I hung up my chef whites to start a family, and now spend my time working on my cooking and entertaining blog heatherchristo.com, finishing up my first book and raising my two beautiful little girls. Oh wait, and of course, cooking and eating!

What are your sources of inspiration when you’re cooking? Blogs? Cookbooks? Farmers market?

For me, inspiration is everywhere I look. The Pacific Northwest is packed with stunning produce, seafood and high quality ingredients. I love to cook with fresh, local ingredients and always follow the seasons.

But my greatest inspiration comes from cooking for my family and friends. While I have formal French training, years of practice have helped me to find my own style, which is far more relaxed! I just want to make food that tastes good to the people I love.

For anyone looking to start cooking, what advice do you have on where they should start? Must have kitchenware, etc.? Spices they should always have around?

Start with some recipes that sound good to you, and are not overly complicated. Begin with simple dishes, and as your confidence and skills improve, the sky is the limit!

Some of my favorites: 

  • A big heavy pot. You can do simple things like boil pasta or potatoes in it, but it is also incredible for soups, stews, braises, fry’s- really just about anything!
  • Tongs are a must. I don’t like burns, and tongs are like an extension of my fingers.
  • Heatproof spatulas are great for baking and scraping sauces or anything else sweet or savory!
  • Wooden spoons are great for polenta, risotto, chili’s, soups and stews.
  • Sheet Pans. I use them for everything from baking (obviously) to prep trays for my ingredients.
  • Stone ware baking dish. Everyone should have one of these for baking or roasting. Both Le Crueset and Rachel Ray make great versions.
  • The most important spices you can (and should always) have on hand are a box of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Those are essentials.

Do you have a favorite “go-to” dish that never gets old? What do you like to make on particularly busy days?

I have several; it just depends on the season! The Mac n’ Cheese with cauliflower and bacon (I included) is a family favorite. But minestrone, enchiladas and spaghetti and meatballs always make my family’s greatest hits list. Uh, we like comfort food.

If it is a really busy day (and these happen all the time), I love to make a fresh seasonal pasta with whatever I have in the fridge. That could be fresh tomatoes and basil, zucchini and goat cheese or just fresh herbs ground into a light pesto. I also love a good salad for dinner loaded with fresh veggies, grilled meat or chicken and a sprinkle of nuts or cheese.

Have you had any meals go horribly wrong :) ?

Lol! Lets just say yes. I still make “mistakes” all the time, but I try to have a sense of humor about it. Cooking is a creative process and I am still learning every day.

Any other tips for the novice cook? Anything that really has helped you in the kitchen?

A few tips (that may seem basic, but are easy to forget!)

  • Read your recipe all the way through before you start cooking!
  • Do all your prep work and gather all of your ingredients before you start cooking!
  • Taste constantly as you go along.
  • Trust your own palate (as in, what tastes good to you??) If you think it needs more salt, add it. If you think it needs more spice? Add it. If you think it needs a little zing, cut a lemon up and squeeze some in. Having said that- add a little bit at a time and taste, taste, taste before you add some more!
  • Have fun and enjoy. People can taste the mood of the kitchen in the food!

Credit to Heather for going above and beyond - when we asked for her one recipe recommendation she actually suggested a number of recipes all of which looked ridiculously good!

We’re buying ingredients for the corn and shrimp chowder, but we’ll pin all today for anyone looking to do a week of Christo recipes :) Thanks Heather!

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