By Hillary Haenes
Jan Lemucchi, director of communications and marketing at United Way of Kern County, likes trying out new recipes for family and friends. And she also likes spending quality time cooking with her husband, Jeff, news director and anchor on KERN Radio.
“We share duties,” said Jan Lemucchi, 56. “Whoever is in charge of a particular meal or whatever is being prepared, we’re there helping, prepping or making a side dish to the main dish that the other spouse is preparing.”
However, Jan explained that Jeff is the gourmet cook and loves having the food presented on each plate, whereas she likes serving food family-style in big bowls or on platters.
Jan Lemucchi shared some kitchen advice with Bakersfield Life, including what inspires her to create a new dish, and her favorite food discovery this year.
My first experience in the kitchen: While growing up, my cooking job in my family was to make the salad every night, so I’ve been contributing to a meal since I was about 10.
One ingredient that I love to use in my recipes: Garlic … I’m Italian!
Everything goes better with: Wine, preferably red.
My disastrous kitchen story: I usually try out new recipes on guests. I guess I’m a confident cook. I was going to impress my cousin and her husband with lobster thermidor, but after they arrived, I came down with the flu. I had everything prepped, only the lobster needed to be cooked and mixed in with everything. But the sight of food made things worse for me. So I had to have my cousin — who isn’t the best cook — finish the meal for me. She’d never cooked lobster before and was squeamish with the live lobster, which made more of a funny situation than disastrous. But they ended up having a great meal. I could only sit and watch them enjoy it.
I always mess up: Chopping onions the professional way.
How I find inspiration to create a new dish: Lately, Pinterest. In the past, I found inspiration from my son, who became a professional chef and then became a winemaker. What more inspiration can you get than that?
If I could spend a day with a famous chef, it would be: Julia Child — because she inspired housewives to try new things besides the everyday casserole. She taught women of the 1960s, to go for the beef bourguignon or pate de canard en croute (stuffed baked duck).
Advice I would ask her: It’s not advice I’d ask, I would just love to know how Julia went about planning her dinner parties. I love how she ended each of her TV segments with a beautifully set table displaying the prepared food and wine. I’d just love to sit and talk with her about her cuisine experiences. Maybe I’d ask her how she came about picking up all those great kitchen tools.
Tools of the trade
Favorite piece of cooking equipment: My Jura coffee maker. It’s Swiss-made, and I fell in love with this coffee maker the first time I went to Europe and used one. I had to have one. A cup of coffee is the first thing I go for in the morning.
Must-have kitchen tools: My wooden spoons and cast-iron pans.
Go-to cookbooks: “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook,” circa, old.
Ingredient that I dislike: Cucumbers.
I buy this in bulk: Sugar — only because I feed the hummingbirds in our backyard.
Cooking show: Food Network’s “Chopped.”
Dream kitchen appliance: Not just one appliance, but a new kitchen makeover.
Favorite neighborhood restaurant and my order: For Mexican food, it would have to be Ruben’s Mexican and Seafood Restaurant’s carnitas, and T.L. Maxwell’s ahi tuna — the best ever!
Best food memory: On our last night in Venice, Jeff and I found this restaurant where I ordered a whole lobster — I can’t explain how it was prepared, but I enjoyed every morsel. We had just eaten a huge seafood appetizer platter and Jeff couldn’t finish his main dinner, but watched me eat every piece of that lobster. I can put it away when I’m enjoying my food!
Favorite deli: It has to be Luigi’s.
Favorite bakery: El Sol on Baker —they have the best croissants.
Most expensive meal: Who knows? I don’t pay!
Weirdest food I like: Nothing is weird to me. I’ll try it once. I was going to try pigeon-stuffed ravioli while in Luca on that same trip to Italy, but went for something else.
A few of my favorite things
Favorite meal to make: I like cooking all meals. I do enjoy cooking holiday meals. My family has traditional antipasto dishes that we make depending on the holiday, leg of lamb, stuffed turkey, Grand Marnier carrots, green salad, a pasta dish, mashed potatoes, gravy, green vegetable, homemade pies…
Always in the fridge: Whole milk, real butter and cream.
Favorite dessert: Homemade: apricot pie. In a restaurant: creme brulee.
I’m addicted to: I’m not a sweet eater, but I am addicted to Lindt dark chocolate with chili.
Favorite Thanksgiving dish: Mashed potatoes with gravy.
Comfort food: Hamburger, crispy french fries and a chocolate-chip and banana shake.
Splurge at the grocery store: Meats and fish, or a nice bottle of wine.
Favorite food discovery of 2012: I’m falling in love with Indian foods.
This or that
Fruits or veggies: Both equally, except cucumbers.
Coffee or tea: Black coffee.
Red or white wine: Merlot.
Beef or chicken: Filet mignon, rare.
Soup or salad: Caesar salad.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner: Dinner, maybe something I’ve never tried before that is rich, flavorful or intriguing.