Table Talk with Cooking Light

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

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 my nose at something he offered, he always said, "Well, have you ever tried 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, but she is no longer living.
Alison: Nigella Lawson or Jacques Pepin. Nigella looks like she'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 be great fun!

Whom would you like to have cook for you?
Vanessa: Scott Peacock (executive chef of Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and Southern food expert)
Alison: Any good trattoria cook in Italy. It's not fancy, but it's always good.
Krista: My husband―his famous John's Pasta―the first 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 of life.
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 of equipment?
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 of all 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 and fresh 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 try everything at least once.
Krista: There's no need to eat everything on your plate―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 sushi because 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 is especially 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 in China. I could live without ever again eating durian fruit (in Malaysia), too; I just can't get past the stench.
Krista: Ok, I didn't actually try it, but it was a scary tuna-lemon gelatin mold. I couldn't even venture to try it.