Tips From Food Industry Experts

To conclude our month of food industry experts, we chatted with 10 more field leaders — including a spice mixologist (above), a chocolate specialist and a fishmonger with a degree in marine biology. Here, they share the tips they’ve learned over the years…

Essie Bartels, founder of Essie Spice, on spices:

“Garlic, of course, is one of the best spices to have on hand, but Grains of Selim is another good one — I grew up with it in Ghana. It’s similar to licorice, but not so strong. It tastes best roasted and ground, and then added to soups, stews, meats and vegetables.”

“Experiment with mixing spices. The combination of roasted garlic, shallots and coconut oil might seem surprising, but the flavors work seamlessly together. Our Coco-For-Garlic makes the most of this combination — add it to everything from chicken to omelettes to pizza.

Lawren Askinosie, Chief Marketing Officer of Askinosie, on chocolate:

“Chocolate is special because you can get the best of the best for $10! You can savor different top-notch chocolate bars made from the most exquisite cocoa beans without breaking the bank.”

“People are often surprised by how well chocolate pairs with cheese. Milk chocolate with brie is out of this world. Also, try pairing dark chocolate with scotch, or sea salt chocolate with an IPA. White chocolate and Champagne is delicious, too. The main thing to keep in mind when pairing is balance. Flavors should complement each other, not compete: mild with strong; soft with hard; etc.”

“Never store chocolate in the fridge or freezer. Moisture is the death of great chocolate, and your chocolate can even take on the flavors of the other foods in there.”

Jen Latham, bread baker at Tartine Bakery, on bread:

Country bread is the workhorse of a dinner party — it’s the classic ‘breaking bread’ bread. It has a crisp caramelized crust and soft, custardy interior.”

“If you’re baking bread at home, take your time and pay attention. People are often used to following recipes that say ‘rest one hour’ etc., but the thing that distinguishes an experienced baker is the ability to read the dough. Times can change dramatically depending on the temperature of the room, the flour and the water you use. The best indicator of when to move onto the next step is the look and feel of the dough. It takes practice, but the payoff is huge.”

Dillon Edwards, founder of of Parlor Coffee, on coffee:

“If you’re making coffee yourself, use fresh, filtered water and always bring the water to a rolling boil before brewing. These tips may seem simple, but water is the one element which is universal in all coffee brewing and cannot be overlooked.”

“When shopping for coffee, look for packages that highlight origin traceability and that have a roast date. Coffee is at its best within a few weeks of roasting.”

Bianca Piccillo, founder of Mermaid’s Garden, on fish:

“Navigating fish markets can be tough. Look for wild seafood; and if you live on the coast, scout for local fish. Fresh fish looks it — avoid fish that looks dried out or discolored. Whole fish should have clear eyes and red gills. Fish should smell clean, not ‘fishy.’ There’s a difference, trust your nose!”

“If you can, choose fish to eat based on the season. Right now, it’s time for wild king salmon, west coast halibut and soft shell crabs. You can’t go wrong pairing them with whatever produce you find at the farmer’s market, like asparagus, peas and lettuces.”

Ivy Mix, partner and mixologist of Leyenda, on cocktails:

“Fresh citrus is the number-one thing that will change a cocktail. Buy a hand juicer, and juice your lemons and limes for drinks at home.”

“When entertaining guests, serve a punch. That way, you can make it beforehand and actually hang out at your party. Punch is super easy: just choose a spirit of your choice, a little something sweet, a little something tart and dilution.”

“Swipe out simple syrup for a tea syrup. It’s the same as making simple syrup, but with tea instead of water! It adds a new element to a drink.”

Nicholas Coleman, co-founder of Grove and Vine, on olive oil:

“If you’re looking for a nice budget olive oil, California Olive Ranch is readily available in supermarkets throughout the country. The company plants high density Arbequina olives which are machine harvested and cold extracted. This keeps labor costs down and when fresh produces a clean, simple oil.”

“When choosing an extra virgin olive oil, two important things to look for on the label are the harvest date and the region from which it originates. Unlike many wine varieties, olive oil does not improve with age. After two years, olive oil becomes rancid, so freshness is key. Also, there’s a saying: ‘What grows together, goes together.’ Be sure the olives come not only from one country, but from a specific, localized region within that country.”

Pat LaFrieda, owner of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, on meat:

“For hamburgers, season and salt only the exterior of a burger (otherwise it will taste like meatloaf) and use high enough heat to sear without overcooking the center.”

Courtney Cowan, founder of Milk Jar Cookies, on cookies:

“When baking cookies, set your timer for a couple fewer minutes than the recipe says and check the cookies for hairline cracks in their surface when the timer goes off. Add a minute at a time from there until you see the little cracks make it halfway up the side of the cookies. This is the sign that they are baked to perfection — they’ll have a crisp outside and doughy middle.”

Sarah Schneider, founder of Egg Shop, on eggs:

“Always add a fat, like butter or heavy cream, to scrambled eggs (the ratio is two eggs to one tablespoon). This gives you that classic French-style scramble — silky, light and smooth.”

“Don’t forget about eggs for dinner. Many people still associate eggs with breakfast, but they can bring new life to basic dinner dishes, like pizza, salads, even a slice of bread. I live by the motto, ‘Put an egg on it.’ And bring on the harissa!”

Egg Shop cookbook

Thoughts? What are your cooking tips? We’d love to hear!

P.S. What food experts eat for lunch, and five-ingredient dinners.

(Photo of Essie Bartels/Instagram. Photo of eggs by David Malosh from Egg Shop: The Cookbook.)