Growing up as the fifth child of six in an Italian family taught me a lot about food and family. Having a stay-at-home Mom really taught me that food always united us as a family. Standing on a chair cooking and baking with my mom really inspired me, and in the fourth grade, at just nine years old, I made the decision to become a chef. My hands were always in dough and to this day I am considered a “dough-head.” From pizza to pasta, to pies and breads, dough is one of my favorite things to make!
Since my Dad was a superintendent and had his summers off, we would plant gardens together. My parents got very creative with canning and freezing food for the winter. Our rooftop garden brings back those childhood memories and reminds me not to waste food. We pickle and make signature jams to offer as a special treat. Any leftover foods are donated to our community soup kitchens.
I just loved seeing how everywhere we went, whether it be a family, friend, church or school function, people were happily united by sharing and eating great food! Family meals were very important and still are today with my own family. Food has always been a big part of the conversation and creating memories.
Pablo Picasso said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” I am thankful to God for giving me such talent and my passion is to make people happy through feeding them.
Now, as I run a 12,000 square-foot kitchen with an amazing staff, I know why I made that decision! We feed people each day and I can see on their faces how happy our food, “made with love,” makes them feel! Food does unite us, and chefs do inspire us! Let’s each do our part in keeping this tradition alive!
In honor of my Mom, I would like to share Rosemary’s Focaccia recipe.
- 7 cups All purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp dry yeast
- 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
- sea salt to taste
- In a measuring cup, combine warm water, sugar, and dry yeast. Stir and let set until foamy.
- Combine flour, salt, and oil. Add liquid from previous step to flour mixture in a mixer with dough hook. Mix slowly until combined, add a bit more water or flour to create a smooth dough.
- Let mixer go for about 8 minutes until dough is smooth. If making by hand, knead until smooth. Rub hands with oil and rub all over dough ball. Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let set in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep cookie sheet with oil, rubbing it on the bottom and sides of tray. Place dough on sheet and press to all corners making it even. Using fingertips, press dough, creating indentions on the dough.
- Drizzle and spread 1-2 Tbsp of oil on top. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and rosemary.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes. Cool on wire rack and enjoy!