Our April featured title is Making It Delicious by Chef Jamie Daskalis, a cookbook with an emphasis on Southern food, but with a twist! From fun spins on the classics to indulging your sweet tooth, Chef Jamie’s recipes star simple and fresh ingredients that encourage creativity in the kitchen. We promise you’ll find a new favorite dish within these pages!
Chef Jamie Daskalis is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with a degree in baking and pastry. She has worked in the restaurant business for more than fifteen years, and was recently awarded Chef of the Year by Grand Strand Magazine and The Myrtle Beach Hospitality Association. Chef Jamie is the owner and head chef of Johnny D.’s Waffles and Benedicts, one of the hottest breakfast spots in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A working mother of a child with special needs, she understands the importance of fast, affordable, and family-friendly food, and hopes that she can help families through this cookbook.
An Interview with Chef Jamie
- When creating recipes, what is the brainstorming process like? Is there a trial and error?
When I create new dishes, sometimes it is something that I really think about, but more often than not, it is opening the refrigerator and pantry and grabbing a few things. I tend to cook every dish with the same attitude, simple. By simple, I mean, simple ingredients and simple techniques but never simple flavors. Cooking at home should not feel like a job in itself. Many of us work all day or are taking care of the kids and by the time it is time to eat, we are exhausted. That’s why when I put together the collection for Making It Delicious, I kept that in mind. I did not want my recipes to exhaust anyone. Some of the recipes are a little more time consuming and have more steps then others but sometimes you have more time and energy. I tried to give it a good balance.
When I am doing a dish for a competition or event, I do tend to brainstorm a lot, sometimes too much. If I am cooking for a special event, I always make a round of whatever I am going to serve to adjust any techniques or seasoning before getting to the main event. I need to know exactly what it is going to look and taste like before the event. I always try to make sure I have a salty, sweet, and crunchy component with all the dishes I make in competition. I find that I receive the best feedback if I can get all three on a plate. And of course, I always put together a little research and development team to give me feedback beforehand.
- Food tends to bring people together. Do you have a favorite moment of people bonding over a dish you made?
When I first moved to South Carolina, I met my friend Stephanie, who at the time was living across the street from me. The first time I invited her and her husband over for dinner, I felt the need to show off a bit. So I prepared fresh homemade fried pork dumplings for an appetizer, a stuffed flank steak with veggies, and a fresh fruit tart for dessert. The rest was history and we have been best friends ever since. I am not saying we are best friends because of the food I cook, but it definitely gives me the edge!
- Which of your recipes do you think is the easiest to make and which one is the most advanced?
I think that the breaded pork chops with the sauteed apples and risotto is the hardest. Only because the risotto needs to be watched closely and at the same time you need to prepare the pork chops and apples. Now when I say hard, I don’t really mean hard, like you need a special skill set to prepare this recipe. You just need to take a minute, read the recipe and get yourself ready to cook. I would have to say that one of the recipes I think is the easiest and is a favorite is the shrimp tacos with corn salsa. The shrimp cook up in a matter of minutes, and have great flavor because of the seasoning, and the jalapeno ranch can be prepared quick as well. The corn salsa takes a few minutes to prepare because of the chopping but it is easy and you end up with enough for 2 dishes. There are a few other recipes that use corn salsa, so you can plan a second meal, or a snack with some chips.
- Which recipe is your favorite?
My favorite recipe in Making It Delicious is the Mediterranean meatball hero. It wins big over the rest for me because it reminds me of my mother. Throughout the years, she has made us these Greek meatballs and we ate a lot of them. When I was preparing for a big event, I decided I wanted to make a “gyro.” But since it was a tasting size serving, I decided to make a deconstructed “gyro” with meatballs that mimicked my mother’s. I served it with a little dressed cucumber pico, but with Mediterranean flavors, a couple slices of pita bread, and my mother’s Tzatziki sauce. Needless to say the guests and the judges LOVED it and I took home the judges choice for my Mediterranean Meatballs. The best part of the night was that my mom was at the event to witness the win.
- Cooking can be fun and creative, as you’ve shown. What advice do you have for people who now have more time on their hands and are looking for new ways to improve their cooking skills?
I would tell them to keep it simple. You do not need to have fancy or specialty ingredients. Good quality proteins, fresh fruit and veggies, some salt and pepper, lemon and butter go a long way. You would be surprised how often I just use lemon to add a burst of acidity and freshness when finishing a dish. Cooking does not have to be complicated. If it is complicated it is not fun to me. I do not want to sit down to eat and be exhausted from cooking.
I would also suggest picking up a few fresh herb plants and keeping them by a window. And don’t forget to water them. Fresh herbs, to me, are the best way to add big flavor to any dish. If you always have them sitting on the window or in a garden you will be more inclined to use them. Purchasing them each time could be costly, and because of this you may pass on the opportunity. I always have basil, dill, rosemary, thyme, and mint growing at my house to use as I wish.Making It Delicious is a great kitchen tool to help you learn and understand that ingredients can and should be utilized in many different ways. This will help save you money and time at the grocery store. It has different recipes for sauces to keep handy, tips and tricks throughout the book, a quick red meat cooking guide, a temperature guide, tips to setting up a breading station and 98 recipes to help and teach you some new dishes. This cookbook was designed for the home cook in mind. I hope you love it!