Our Test Kitchens Director and Senior Food Editor share their favorite foods, restaurants and even what makes them grimace.

August 28, 2008

Vanessa Johnson, Test Kitchens Director
Alison Ashton, Senior Food Editor
Krista Montgomery, M.S, R.D., Freelance Food Editor

Who shaped the way you think about food?
Vanessa: My grandmother and parents
Alison: Probably my dad. When I was a kid and turned up mynose at something he offered, he always said, "Well, have you evertried it?" Now, I'll try anything.
Krista: Cooking Light

With whom would you like to cook?
Vanessa: I would love to cook with my grandmother now, butshe is no longer living.
Alison: Nigella Lawson or Jacques Pepin. Nigella looks likeshe'd be fun, and I'd learn great techniques from Jacques.
Krista: Brian Glover. He is one of my favorite developers,but he's in London, so we haven't met yet. I'm sure it would begreat fun!

Whom would you like to have cook for you?
Vanessa: Scott Peacock (executive chef of Watershed inDecatur, Georgia, and Southern food expert)
Alison: Any good trattoria cook in Italy. It's not fancy, butit's always good.
Krista: My husband―his famous John's Pasta―thefirst meal he made for me.

Who was/is the most influential person in your life?
Vanessa: My parents
Alison: My dad and my mom, who always sees the sunny side oflife.
Krista: My dad and my mom.

What does your kitchen lack that you dream of having?
Vanessa: A maid, stainless appliances
Alison: More space and decent storage. Better lighting, too.
Krista: A stand mixer.

What's your most indispensable tool, cookbook, or piece ofequipment?
Vanessa: My Kitchen-aid mixer
Alison: My Wüstof chef's knife.

Krista: Nonstick skillet

What's in your fridge right now?
Vanessa: Yogurt, milk, cheese, Toll House cookie dough
Alison: Tortillas, basil, Dos Equis beer (amber, of course),chipotle salsa, and all kinds of cheese―goat's, cheddar,Parmesan, etc.
Krista: Fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, Parmesan,basil―I'm on an Italian kick.

What are your top three pantry staples?
Vanessa: Salsa, success rice, Ro-tel tomatoes
Alison: Pasta, chickpeas, and diced tomatoes. Plus spices ofall kinds.
Krista: Frozen shelled edamame, rice, and tofu.

What is your favorite dish?
Vanessa: Roast with potatoes and carrots
Alison: Puerto Nuevo-style lobster with refried beans andfresh flour tortillas.
Krista: My favorite to make is risotto.

What are your healthy eating strategies?
Vanessa: moderation
Alison: Everything in moderation, and be willing to tryeverything at least once.
Krista: There's no need to eat everything on yourplate―you can always make a recipe again sometime soon.

What's your favorite indulgence?
Vanessa: anything chocolate
Alison: Chocolate, baby!
Krista: Pete's Famous Hot Dogs.

What's your favorite restaurant?
Vanessa: Highland's Bar and Grill (Birmingham, AL)
Alison: Zenbu in La Jolla, California. It has the best sushibecause the owners catch the fish in their own boat.
Krista: The Casa Olita Deck at Cayo Espanto.

What do you want to eat when you're sick?
Vanessa: Jello, saltines, coke
Alison: Anything hot and spicy. Hot and sour soup isespecially good.
Krista: Pasta tossed with butter and salt.

Having tried it once, what will you happily never eat again?
Vanessa: Raw oysters
Alison: Stir-fried bull's penis and snake―I had both inChina. I could live without ever again eating durian fruit (inMalaysia), too; I just can't get past the stench.
Krista: Ok, I didn't actually try it, but it was a scarytuna-lemon gelatin mold. I couldn't even venture to try it.

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