Adventures in Finding Food
Today we focus on Taher Chef Alicia. She took time from her busy schedule and gave us some insight as to her cooking style, vast influences growing up, and the recent Chef Council trip to Spain and Portugal.
What got you interested in cooking?
I love to feed people! I was surrounded by great cooks in my family. And to me, East Indian food is comfort food. Middle Eastern food is comfort food. I had Japanese influences growing up and I was blessed with a very open palette. I love the adventure of finding food!
What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
Fresh herbs! Cilantro tastes like sunshine. I love how fresh it tastes. Fresh herbs from the Farmer’s Market are amazing. I was able to make an amazing chimichurri sauce that impressed a customer from Argentina using them. It felt really great. When we were in Spain I got the chance to try these amazing roasted potatoes with a similar chimichurri sauce and it was life altering how good it was. It inspired me to make it again when we got back to the states!
I also like working on the fly. I think all cooks and chefs do. And grilling! There’s something so basic about using fire and grilling.
Seafood and Spain
What is your favorite memory from your trip from Spain and Portugal?
Lisbon! We realized that none of us had been to Lisbon and Portugal in general. And we were experiencing it together! I wasn’t alone in taking notes and photos of all the meals and food that we ate. It was an amazing celebration of food and culture. And the seafood! We were so near the ocean and it was all delicious.
What’s your favorite thing to teach a student, apprentice, or new chef? What advice would you give a young woman wanting to break into the food industry?
Mis en place. It’s a French term for “everything in its place”. Technically it means having your station prepped and prepared. If you are prepped, you can do everything. Anything you can do and prepare the day before, the better. And taste! Taste everything. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t serve it.
What I would tell a young woman, work hard and never compromise yourself. You deserve to be there as much as everyone else.