We're thrilled to share the story of our incredible chef, Amy, with our clients this morning! Since Laura and Amy first started working together, magic has been made in the Dinner Belle kitchen. Amy is a calm and reassuring presence in an otherwise busy kitchen environment, and her ideas and taste are continually inventive. We're so lucky to have her! Read on to learn more about Chef Amy.
Tell us a little bit about your background in cooking. Have you always had a love for it? Did anyone influence your decision to start cooking?
Amy Smith: My mom was an adventurous cook on a very small budget. Her experiments often took the form of odd casseroles which are still much reminisced over at family gatherings (fondly and not so fondly). I think this was a creative outlet for her, who had a suspicion of anything provincial. Even when she had very little to work with, she came up with something different. Until I was old enough to eat at friends houses, I had never tried bottled salad dressing, poptarts, jarred pasta sauce or canned vegetables. She had my sister and I take a day a week to cook for the family when we were still in grade school, feeling that this was a basic skill necessary for every day survival. I took her example, and always enjoyed being in the kitchen, long before I did it professionally. After many years as a social worker, I left my graduate program to go to culinary school, realizing the kitchen was my favorite place to be.
What do you enjoy most about cooking in general and for Dinner Belle?
AS: What I love most about Dinner Belle is that it focuses most on the things I most enjoy about the kitchen, in general. I love the vibrancy of fresh produce and working with high quality hand crafted ingredients. I love the smell of fresh herbs. I love to chop vegetables. I also value the creative process involved in creating the right menu for a specific situation. The meals we create at Dinner Belle focus on care, for our ingredients and our customers. This is the reason, ultimately, that we bother to cook at all.
How did you get started with Dinner Belle?
AS: Laura and I met when we were both doing work at a residential and vocational rehab program for mentally ill adults. She and I struck up a friendship and discovered we had very similar feelings and philosophies about nutrition and that we shared a love for cooking and food. When I left the agency to stay at home with my youngest son, Laura invited me to work part time with her fledgling business...wonderful timing!
What's one of your favorite Dinner Belle recipes, and why?
AS: I love comfort food, and also vegetables as main dishes. I am a great fan of the herbed spaghetti squash with feta and walnuts and also the socca pizzas. These recipes have inspired lots of spin-offs with dinner at my house.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
AS: I actually really dislike repeating meals, even things I love. Thinking of eating one thing the rest of my life is actually making me miserable.
Do you have any favorite chefs and/or restaurants in Nashville?
AS: I have not actually lived in Nashville for many years, my husband and I moved to a small town in Dickson County shortly after the birth of our first son. There are mainly chain restaurants here. These days I mostly cook at home. When I find myself in Nashville for the day, I love to treat myself to the Sunflower café or breakfast at Noshville.
What's your favorite kitchen utensil, and why? Least favorite or most unnecessary?
AS: I love my Chef's knife and my cleaver.. I sound violent. I am something of a minimalist and dislike a kitchen cluttered with gadgets meant to accomplish a single task that could be accomplished with a knife and a cutting board, like a mango pitter or a garlic press or a strawberry huller.
What are some of your favorite activities/hobbies outside of cooking?
AS: I love to hike and hang out with my husband and my boys. I really like to read but I spend a lot of my reading time reading cookbooks. I also do a lot of watching food television. My current favorite is the Great British Bake-Off.
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