I’ve been looking high and low for volunteers for a charity fashion show that I’ve been organizing since January. One of the volunteers I needed, are chefs who can provide food samples at the event. I was checking my email, and a chef based in New York volunteered. As I was browsing through the chef’s website, I was so surprised to see that it was Chef Nicole Karr from Food Network’s Chef Wanted! In this episode, Anne Burrell was helping Chef David Burke to find a new executive chef for Fromagerie in Rumson, NJ. Among the candidates was Chef Nicole Karr. I emailed her back to check if it was really her — she responded “Yes” and that just made my whole day. I feel very lucky to have been able to interview an awesome chef.
Me: Where did you grow up and can you say that is one of you influences?
Chef Nicole: I grew up in Queens, NY. Growing up in such a diverse place like NYC, where you can experience any type of cuisine at any time, has been a huge influence.
Me: When did you know you wanted to be a chef and who inspired you to become one?
Chef Nicole: My Grandma Rosie has been my biggest inspiration to become a Chef. She was such an amazing cook and tough woman. She really puts love into every dish she made. When she made Sunday dinner everyone knew better than to miss it.
Me: What is your favorite food memory?
Chef Nicole: Some of my best food memories are Sunday dinners when my Grandma made gravy and my whole family came over. I have always associated food with family and that closeness it brought.
Me: Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?
Chef Nicole: I received my culinary training at the New York Restaurant school in downtown Manhattan. I also have studied and traveled throughout Italy. Culinary school is nothing compared to actually working in a restaurant. That is when the real training begins.
Me: What’s your favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
Chef Nicole: The most important tool for me is a sharp Chef’s knife. I also have a set of plating spoons that I am very protective over.
Me: Favorite foods to cook with?
Chef Nicole: I love to make fresh pasta. Ingredient wise, I love the spring/summer when I can go to the farmers markets.
Me: What can you say or advice to home cooks like me?
Chef Nicole: It is very important to taste as you go. Sometimes recipes aren’t accurate so you need to be able to adjust and fix. (Me: I totally agree.)
Me: Who in the food world do you most admire?
Chef Nicole: I love seeing all of the innovative things chefs are doing now — transforming ingredients and creating new textures. Cooking has become more of a science in that sense. It is interesting to me but I stay true to my cooking style and the belief that if you use quality, locally sourced ingredients all you need to do as a chef is to highlight that ingredient. Marc Vetri is a great example of that and is a real inspiration to me.
Me: What are your favorite cookbooks?
Chef Nicole: I love “The Flavor Bible” and “The Silver Spoon”. Those are my go-to cookbooks when I’m looking for inspiration for a dish.
Me: What else do you do for fun aside from cooking?
Chef Nicole: When a hobby becomes your career it is hard to find something to match that. I love cooking but I also love eating. I really enjoy dining out and traveling.
Me: How does it feel to be part of Chef Wanted?
Chef Nicole: Chef Wanted was a “reality” show with a script. The producers have you all figured out and have a storyline that they want. Meeting Chef Burrell was the only thing that was worth it to me. (Me: Wow! Very well said!)
Me: What do you love most about your job?
Chef Nicole: Being a Chef is not the easiest job. Working late nights and holidays, standing on your feet for twelve plus hours. All the cuts, burns, and scrapes. The high pressure and urgent environment. What makes it all worth it is it the gratification you get when someone appreciates the food you’ve made.
Me: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Chef Nicole: Five years from now, I hope to be running my own restaurant. At the end of the day all I really want is to be happy and healthy, cooking, and surrounded by the ones I love. (Me: With your talent, skills and extreme passion for cooking, I am pretty sure you will get there soon.)
There you go folks. This interview is only a snapshot of Chef Nicole Karr, but, this is as real as it gets. I have so much respect for her. She may be young, but her vast experience and passion for cooking makes her a tough cookie. I’m officially a fan of Chef Nicole Karr.
Chef Nicole Karr is a Chef and Owner of Pure Catering — A company built on the belief that sustainability is complementary to exceptional cuisine, and fresh, local ingredients can be a part of your event regardless of the scale. Catch her on the upcoming Step Up — Modeling for a Cause charity fashion show on May 10th, 6pm – 9pm at the Unitarian Church of All Souls NYC.