Life at My Family Table
Being part of a mixed family while growing up, the food at the dinner table had an eclectic look. My stepdad is from Poland. I’ve known him since I was about three. He is half-Polish, half-German, so it was common to see borscht, schnitzel, pierogi, and sausages on the dinner table. My mom added in the American fare my siblings and I liked; macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, meatloaf, salmon patties. My mom didn’t particularly care for red meat, so we ate a lot of chicken and seafood growing up. Seeing such an array of foods while growing up is what sparked my interest in the food industry. Witnessing my stepdad’s hands dyed red for two days because he was chopping up boiled beets for a Russian-style soup was cool! I was curious and wanted to know more. My philosophy on cooking comes in the form of a question: “Why?” Why use butter instead of shortening? Why whole milk? Why add salt? For me, becoming a food professional is about understanding “why?” and “why not?”
I always wanted to be a professional athlete. Soccer and track and field were the sports I excelled in most. In high school, my guidance counselor asked me if I had a plan B, just in case. I said “no,” and she directed me to attend a presentation by a representative of the county vocational school program. Culinary arts was one of the programs that stuck out for me, as I enjoyed cooking at home with my parents and was curious to know more. I enrolled in the program the following year, and it only took one year for me to fall in love. During my senior year, I applied to every top culinary school I could, and the rest is history!
My Favorite Cookbook: Johnny Iuzzini’s Dessert FourPlay
Dessert FourPlay was the first book I bought that was specific to plated desserts. All my other books were either about baking, savory cooking, or chocolate. This book was the first of its kind in the modern pastry era. I heard about Chef Johnny Iuzzini in some online pastry forums while I was in culinary school. He was a game-changer for plated desserts and dessert presentations as the executive pastry chef at Jean-Georges in NYC.
This book gave me the spark to engage more of my creativity and start thinking outside the box when it came to flavor combinations and dessert architecture. It’s been over 10 years since I first read this book, and I still refer to it for inspiration. As I have progressed in my career, so have my desserts. They’ve evolved into more sensual pieces of edible art. Who knew desserts could have such sex appeal?!
3 MUST-TRY RECIPES FROM THIS COOKBOOK
Strawberry-Rhubarb Consommé – page 34. I made this as one of the dessert components for an event at Johnson & Wales University that the university president attended. After the event, he came up to me and shook my hand and said the dessert course was delicious.
Sweet Corn Panna Cotta – page 83. This was the first time I had ever used a savory ingredient in a classically sweet application. INCREDIBLE flavor.
White Chocolate Vanilla Cake – page 140. A light and airy, custardy-style cake that will blow your socks off when eaten warm. A must-try.
5 FUN FACTS ABOUT ME THAT OTHER PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW
1. I am obsessed with time! I have a collection of 49 wristwatches and 13 wall clocks
2. I am a sartorialist. I love classy and sophisticated men’s fashion and have plans to start modeling and creating a clothing line and men’s fashion blog.
3. I was very much into dancing and performing arts when I was younger: ballet, tap, modern, African dance, tv commercial, acting. I was in the Nutcracker and photographed for a textbook. I still dance. I’m learning the bachata, the merengue, and the salsa.
4. I cut and style my own hair. I haven’t been to a barbershop in almost four years. I decided to cut my own hair to save some money once and did such a good job I just kept doing it myself!
5. I LOVE making people laugh, however, I probably laugh at myself more than anything, but you know what? That just means I’m extra funny. It’s very rare I’m not smiling or laughing, especially when around people.
Support Our YouTube Channel!
If you enjoy watching Chef Jesse cooking at Cooking Beautifullee, become our Patrons and earn access to exclusive bloopers and early access to our YouTube cooking videos!
Donate at Patreon