Food

Food Experts Share Their Biggest Lessons

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.)

  1. This post was so interesting, especially about the spices. I’d never heard of Grains of Selim… will have to try. I have a few to add:

    * Chocolate – is amazing with popcorn.
    * Eggs – scrambled with truffle salt (not truffle oil!) is a taste sensation.
    * Coffee – try to find beans grown in Sumatra, Indonesia. The best coffee I’ve ever tasted was grown there.

    http://www.thislifeisbelle.com

  2. as an ice cream expert, I have a few good tips on Ice Cream :)

  3. Dylan says...

    Here’s a couple more coffee tips that I think can make or break your cup (I’ve been a barista for 5 years)-
    If you’re brewing anything that you have to manually pour water onto grounds (chemex, pour over, french press) start by pour only a teeny bit of water to get the grounds wet. The coffee will then “bloom”- literally will bubble up. Let it rest for about 30-40 seconds before you continue, and pour your water in slow circles, resting every few seconds to let the grounds bloom. It really makes all the difference- when you just dump hot water in (always use water that’s at least 200 degrees like the tip said!), it’s like your coffee just gets drowned out, whereas letting it bloom allows all the best flavors/notes to be enhanced :)

    • Jen says...

      Thanks for this tip! I use a Chemex and am definitely going to try this tomorrow.

    • Kristen says...

      Tell us more! Making my morning french press is one of the best parts of my day.

  4. I think Lawren Askinosie and I just became best friends, why has no one ever told me that cheese and chocolate can be paired!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s like the intersection of all things good and true.

  5. As for a healthy eating suggestion, mine would be: add, don’t subtract. If you’re just starting out, trying to eat more plants, or changing the way you eat, start by adding positive foods you actually LIKE, whether it’s kale, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, lentils, etc. Over time, not only will your tastebuds change & crave those healthy options, but you’ll be full from eating such nutrient dense, fiber-filled foods that you won’t need (read: want) that extra serving of pasta or bread.

    http://hyggewellness.com/blog

    • Rachel says...

      Brilliant! Love this approach; thanks for sharing!

    • Florrie says...

      Wise words!!!

  6. Sarah says...

    Love the tip about cooking eggs with fat- we cook ours in coconut oil! Add some hot sauce…perfection.

  7. Nora says...

    I LOVE Essie Bartels’ outfit/style! That collar (?)! You should do a week of outfits on her!

    • I second this motion!

    • Yes, that collar-bib thing is SO COOL!

  8. Caroline says...

    I am really surprised by that coffee tip! I have always been told that you shouldn’t use boiling water to make coffee – it’s even in the instructions for the Aeropress that the water should be 70 degrees (centigrade).

    • justine says...

      That was my first thought too.

  9. Lo says...

    Super handy tips, although I’m a little sad at the fridge and chocolate as I love my chocolate cold and solid…

    Lo
    http://www.themixtures.com

  10. Excellent tips! Love the chocolate pairings. I think I’ll have to print that out and hang it on the fridge. And I totally get “put an egg on it”. I do that whenever I have no idea what to feed the kids. Rice with a fried egg, toast with fried egg, tortilla with fried egg. They love it all. Good stuff!

  11. The eggs one is good to know! I love using California Olive Ranch olive oil. Definitely our favorite one! This may be an odd one, but we like to make hot chocolate and use Twix bars to mix in. The caramel and chocolate melt, which makes the hot chocolate taste amazing!

  12. Sara says...

    So many great tips from so many awesome people! My husband and I were lucky enough to come across Askinosie chocolate while we were in Springfield for a wedding a few years ago and it’s some of the best chocolate we’ve ever have. Great pairing suggestions — I stopped drinking alcohol about 6 months ago and one of the things I miss most is pairing my dark chocolate with bourbon! For any bourbon and chocolate lovers out there, give it a try – such a good combo! I have herb tea with my chocolate instead now and it’s just not the same haha. And I am allllllll about putting an egg on it anytime of day!

    My other tip is room temperature butter. No, your butter does not need to be stored in the fridge! We keep ours on the counter in a glass butter dish – I often just put half a stick out at a time since we’re just a 2-person household and that’s about what we use in a week these days. I hate trying to spread cold butter on toast and it’s one of my biggest restaurant pet peeves when they put rock solid cold butter on the table with your nice soft bread! For those concerned about food safety: http://www.thekitchn.com/does-butter-really-need-to-be-refrigerated-224036

    Happy eating and cooking everyone! :)

    • Mary says...

      Thanks, Sara. I’m trying to cut down on my bourbon consumption and you’re so right–tea isn’t the same. I need to find the perfect tea-chocolate combo. I totally agree about the butter, too.

  13. Anna says...

    this is so good!!

  14. Trish says...

    Essie is an absolutely stunningly gorgeous woman.

    • jillygirl says...

      agreed…my first thought as this page opened was, WOW

  15. This is such a great post, and such helpful advice! I always love all your food posts : )

    Lately, I’ve been roasting all kinds of produce – it makes just about everything so much tastier, and is so low effort since you just have to throw it in the oven. We love brussels sprouts or broccoli with dinner, but also things like radishes, whole corn cobs, tomatoes, and strawberries (using Heidi Swanson’s instructions: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/roasted-strawberries-recipe.html). It makes produce that’s not at it’s absolute best much sweeter and more flavorful!

  16. Bec says...

    Refrigerated chocolate is the devil’s work! My lovely housemate offered me some chocolate the other night… from the freezer. Thanks but no thanks!

    • KL says...

      Bec, where do you store your chocolate during the warmer months? I’m a fridge chocolate-keeper :-X

    • Bec says...

      Hi KL! Hmmm I guess I don’t really ‘store’ chocolate as I only buy it to consume asap haha! As in, I’ll buy it that day to have while watching a movie that night. Also I live in Australia and apparently a lot of grocery store chocolate here is treated so it has a higher melting temperature (Brits always complain about how bad Cadbury tastes here! I can’t tell the difference…). But yeah, I guess I don’t buy a lot of chocolate :-)

  17. Jules says...

    Love the tips! Eggs are so good. We’ve been having a lot recently with our ramen and bibimbap. So delicious…great, now I’m hungry.

    I cannot follow that chocolate rule. I will only eat my chocolate if it’s been in the fridge or the freezer (depending on what type).

  18. Lisa says...

    My grandma was working full-time with three kids (and living on a farm, on top of that), so her mother in law did most of the cooking for the family. When she got older, she started to add an egg to every single meal, pretty much going by Sarah’s motto. My mom still hardly eats casseroles and stews that have the faintest hint of egg in them. I’m not even sure about scrambled eggs and the like. But I am really looking forward to try out that egg-fat-ratio :)

  19. Hannah says...

    Wow I did not know the chocolate tip. Where should it be stored where it won’t melt?!

    • Delphine says...

      In the summer we keep ours in our wine cooler !

    • Michelle says...

      Don’t store it eat it. Buy just enough of the best.

  20. M says...

    I am now eager to host a chocolate, cheese, and beverage tasting. Thanks for sharing!

    • Karinny says...

      Sounds perfect! I’ll come :)

  21. Alice says...

    Love these tips. Chocolate ones especially. Hubby puts chocolate in the fridge. It’s just cruel.

    I started paying attention to the fish and meat I buy lately, it was the gunk in the bottom of pre-packaged supermarket meat trays that made my husband and I switch up to cooking four or five veg meals a week. My kids are too young to notice the switch and have gone with it, seamlessly. Though I know I’m fortunate, and of course food choices (or the lack of choices), are so income and locale dependant. I used to live in a developing country where food could be very cheap, but hugely untrustworthy and possibly dangerous. The politics of food is such an important subject.
    Sorry for the tangental rant.
    Bring on Essie’s beauty uniform :)

  22. Yasmin says...

    Yes! This!!!!

  23. kristen says...

    hey! my BIL runs askinosie!

  24. Hope says...

    I turn my takeout into two meals but scrambling a couple of eggs to bolster my leftovers – I often have two or three tablespoons of dahl. masala sauce, guacamole, pad see ew, etc. that I throw right on top of my scrambles.

  25. Kristiana says...

    GREAT post.

  26. Love seeing little snippets of my current hometown of Springfield, MO! Love that Askinosie chocolate…

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      :)))))

  27. Diana says...

    I never cook. Like, never. But this was really inspiring to me and makes me want to get down in the kitchen asap!

  28. Laura H says...

    I had no idea beet sugar and cane sugar behaved differently in baked goods! I have to admit, I thought the tip was probably silly (I’m from MI, which produces a lot of beet sugar, so I think it was home state pride!) until I googled “why use cane sugar instead of beet sugar in cookies” and discovered a Food52 discussion that linked to an SFGate article with test kitchen results between the two kinds of sugar. Cane sugar was superior in baked goods texture and more consistent.

    Thank you for this awesome roundup of information. It’s made me a better baker!

  29. molly says...

    Great post! I love all the food posts – keep em’ coming :)

  30. with spring in swing and summer coming up, and CSAs starting for the season, i see in my future plenty of salads and roasted vegs (if my condo assoc allowed grills, i’d be grilling…) and having pre-made salad dressings on hand is a life saver. my go to homemade dressing is miso + tahini + maple syrup (or honey) + rice vinegar (or lemon juice) + fresh ginger and thinned out with water. if you’re feeling fancy, a splash of sesame oil.

    when making smoothies or juicing, fresh ginger always adds a zing of spice, and for me, saves weird concoctions that call for carrots.

  31. Katie says...

    So happy to see Askinosie featured here! I was a little surprised to see a local company and then remembered Stella’s from Missouri :) Glad to see some Midwest love! And more importantly, their chocolate is to die for!

  32. Did not know you’re supposed to not keep chocolate in the fridge! Time to go home and attempt to keep them in the cabinet (which will surely involve a discussion with my fiance who wants to keep everything on earth in the fridge in case it “goes bad”).

    And yes to eggs not being relegated to breakfast. After living in France I stopped seeing them as a breakfast thing, so being back here in the US we eat eggs all the time at dinner, in quiches, omelettes, as ouvo pomodoro, or just poached over a salad :)

    • JB says...

      I laughed out loud. We may have the same fiance? Throws out bread two days before it’s expiry “just in case” – whhyyyyyy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i wonder if it’s a regional thing? my grandmother in england NEVER puts cheese in the fridge. she says it’s alive and just leaves it on the counter for literally days. miraculously, in all these years, no one has gotten sick (so far).

    • Lisa says...

      My husband is French and also doesn’t view eggs as a breakfast food (after. Early a decade, he’s finally convinced that they can be a brunch food, but that’s as early as it gets). He also puts EVERYTHING in the fridge (I’ve seen him try to put bananas in) and is super strict about expiry dates

    • Kerry says...

      Joanna, my own English grammy never refrigerated eggs. We all lived.

    • Maggie says...

      American eggs have homongized shells which need refrigeration. They dont do this in the UK and thus they can live on the counter for 2 weeks. Cheese is also treated differently in production abroad and is able to live outside the fridge for a time. Go figure.

    • Sarah says...

      American eggs are washed, so they lose a protective layer that keeps bacteria from entering thru the shell. Ask at your local farmers market if they have been washed or not; if not washed you can leave them out.

  33. Andrea says...

    I like food, but the qualifications put on the olive oil, fish and meat are too high. Those descriptions make the perfect the enemy of the good for most shoppers.

    • I was thinking that too, Andrea. A very narrow class of people can afford to be that picky about their olive oil and their fish.

    • Laura says...

      I agree that it’s not affordable for many, including myself. But knowledge is power, so no harm in knowing the best options even if I can’t afford them now. Filing it away for future, when someday maybe I can afford to be picky.

    • Angela says...

      The Aldi near me sells large containers of that California Olive Oil. If you have an Aldi near you, you might check it out, but on the whole, I agree with you. I don’t have the financial luxury of being that picky.

    • Jill Palumbo says...

      Did something get deleted in the post? I don’t read anything in it except some recommendations on freshness, nothing about only buying expensive fish and olive oil. Maybe I read it wrong?

    • Traci Barr Segal says...

      Fresh cod, sole, and talipia is very inexpensive. Also, good olive oils can be purchased at TG’s and we have Grocery Outlet in California. It’s hit or miss in the natural food isle at GO, but I often find quality coconut and olive oils there. Also, natural cleaning products, lotions, and shampoo.

    • Sarah King says...

      i agree, jill. i read the post when it was first published (from my feed) and am confused by this thread. they are recommending a budget olive oil, and the fish and meat tips are down to earth too.

    • Emily says...

      I buy the exact Olive Oil recommended at Target! Not expensive at all.

  34. erin says...

    digging essie’s chic collar!

  35. Paige says...

    I actually LOVE my chocolate in the freezer. I eat it frozen, and it makes it crunchy. I’m breaking the rules, but I like what I like!

  36. Essie says...

    Loved this food expert series! Also love seeing another Essie! Its a less common name so it makes me smile when I see cool ladies named Essie :)

  37. Sasha says...

    Put an egg on it!! Yep, pizza, pasta, rice and beans, enchiladas, anything Indian. Never get tired of it.

  38. Cynthia says...

    Courtney Cowan is right. You need real vanilla extract for baking, and I also say real butter. Baked goods do not taste the same with imitation vanilla and margarine.

    • Sasha says...

      Agreed!

  39. Laura says...

    “Put an egg on it.” Yes! For example, we put fried eggs on our enchiladas.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Yum!!

  40. Miriam says...

    great post – but also wanted to say that i’ve been noticing how much attention you are paying to diversity in the lead pictures and it is so so appreciated. such a small thing that makes a huge difference! thank you! xo

    • Cat says...

      yes!

    • Lena says...

      Agreed!

  41. Julia says...

    All wonderful tips, but um, could we have a beauty uniform from Essie? Dang, girl!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great idea!!

    • Lena says...

      Seconded!

    • Nahal says...

      I would a beauty uniform on Essie too! She’s gorgeous, that smile!

    • Elizabeth says...

      I second this idea! I just checked out her shop and Instagram, and Essie has such great style!

    • Sarah says...

      Yeah, can we get the deets on the cute collar she is wearing? Is it handmade? Oh my!

  42. Oh my, such good advice. Dark Chocolate and scotch, yes please! Milk chocolate ( which generally is not in my wheelhouse, but…. paired with Brie, yup must try that one too. I live in Northern California and am quite loyal to California Olive Ranch! Just feels good to buy something that is produced with care

    Essie Spices’, coco-for-garlic and grains of salim, sound very exotic and delicious! Sending a link to their site to a good friend who will def want to check them out!
    Thanks for providing us with such delightful and helpful information.
    If I may I would like to also suggest this product: Ostara Cocotella.. http://www.ostarafoods.com/our-product
    I discovered it at Whole Foods about a month ago and am smitten :)

  43. Colleen S. says...

    Question: How would one store chocolate when it melts, if not in the fridge? Even when the A/C is on in the summers, chocolate melts in the pantry.

    • Louise says...

      Eat it faster ;)
      I’m from the south and have a habit of eating one (maaaybe two) of the breakaway squares from a chocolate bar at a time. I’ll probably still put it in a fridge if it starts to melt.

    • Mary says...

      I work as a pastry cook at a chocolate shop and we store nearly all of our chocolate in both the fridge and freezer–the trick is to wrap it up really well with saran wrap to keep the moisture out and leave the saran wrap on until it comes to room temperature when you want to eat it.

  44. loving all these tips – and what a pretty egg picture!

    California Olive Ranch hosted a dinner in Boston a few years back and they have been my go-to ever since.