Q & A With Cooking Instructor Ana
What was your first food memory?
I have completely opposite memories, both so important in building my love for cooking: on one side, my grandma and my aunt’s love for cooking in the most intuitive and passionate way. On the other, my mom’s total despise for cooking, since she had to do it for my father whether she wanted or not, along with the efficiency of the people that worked at our house and would pretend to cook like my mom to trick my dad. All of them, such artists!!!!
How did you learn to cook?
Honestly? Hiding from my mom and being nosy! She would not accept the idea of her daughter ”wasting her life in a kitchen”. So, when she’d go to work, I’d cook for the neighbors, either following recipes from borrowed magazines or remembering my grandma and aunt in the kitchen. Then, I’d “hide” all evidences by giving the food away, throughout the apartment complex. That is probably why cooking for people is so important to me.
Do you prefer cooking or baking? Tell us why?
Cooking!!! Baking is an art, a real series of chemical reactions that need to be respected and followed to a T. But, I have to admit, I am kind of free spirited and have the hardest time following recipes – including my own. So, I decided to stick to cooking, where I can play, tweak, adjust, experiment and create in a more forgiving way.
What are three ingredients that you ALWAYS have in your kitchen?
Eggs! I grew up knowing that a house with no eggs is in deep trouble. Now, the ingredients I don’t cook without are garlic, onions and lots and lots of spices and condiments. I know, more than 3. But, oh well, did I say I am not good following directions?
What are the three cooking items/gadgets that you could not live without?
My very good knives, my cutting board and one versatile pan. I know, it sounds Spartan, but from there I can go places. I used to be one of those who would buy whatever gadget I put my eyes on – and believe me, working at Whisk still is a very enthralling experience. But I learned to reign in the impulse and be more contained. Yeah, I know… ME, contained, right? Ha!
Where do you find your best cooking inspiration?
From all over. It can be from traveling, people, scents, colors, a single ingredient or, a dream. Seriously, very often I dream of a dish and wake up to write it down. Funny thing is that it usually works! Now, since I don’t have a formal training, I also do a lot of research, reading and learning from whatever medium I can access.
What is it that you love most about cooking?
Cooking is magical, in the most true and cheesy way! Food brings people together, tells stories about cultures, shares feelings and adventures. Cooking for those you know and love is comforting. Cooking for those you don’t know is a fast way to make new friends.
What do you make for your family on a lazy Sunday?
If Octavio doesn’t make us one of his most incredible omelets (the only time he’s allowed around eggs), it will either be a “let’s clean the fridge” kind of meal or a production and experimentation. It can also be the day we feed the homeless downtown Raleigh. Then we eat whatever I cook for those 200 people that have a piece of my heart.
What is your favorite dish to make? What about your favorite to eat?
I “don’t cupcake”. Once we make that clear, anything ethnic will have me. I can’t limit this choice. If I can plan a menu around my guests and students’ preferences, I will be the happiest of cooks. Other than that, let me do anything in a kitchen – preferably involving a lot of dicing, chopping and prepping – and I am a very happy camper. As for favorite to eat, good bread!!! Any kinds, shape, form or origin. “Them” carbs are my downfall….
What do you love most about being a Whisk instructor?
Everything. Whisk is what it is because of the people who make it and we have the best people! The creative freedom, the common passion for food, cooking and kitchen, the love that drives us all make working there the most incredible experience. It’s been 2 years since they were crazy enough to invite me to teach and I can’t see myself doing it anywhere else while living here. Wait, I can’t forget the assistants!!!! The people who volunteer in the kitchen with us are out of this world (that is why I call them my Kitchen Elves). And, thanks to Whisk, many have become very good friends. See? I told you, I love everything!
If you won $1000 shopping spree from Whisk, how would you spend it?
Oh boy… you know our kitchen is in the back of the store, right? Which means I have to CROSS the store to get there!!! So, how to resist the constant temptation? My tactic: avoid eye contact!!!!!!! But if, all of a sudden, I get a thousand bucks to spend guilt-free, I’d use the money towards pots and pans. My eyes get all shiny when I see them. I want one of each… there is a huge Lodge skillet at the bottom of the shelf on the left that gets my longing eyes every time I am there. Ah, I’d get several extra garlic twists too, so I have plenty of replacement when my friends steal mine because “I can get more where that one came from”.
What is your favorite locally made food item?
Fresh corn tortillas from La Superior in North Durham. They come hot out of the oven and are the softest, most delicate tortillas! The Moroccan bread and the falafels from the Mediterranean Grill in Parkwood. And NC Sweet Potatoes!