United States Chef
Debby Stock Kiefer Profile
Always playing with my food
I really started cooking in high school when my mother went to work and it was up to me to get dinner on the table. I fixed what she told me to or put her casserole in the oven, and I haven't touched a tuna casserole since. As a poor college student I ate way too many fried bologna sandwiches, so it was when I moved away for a job that I slowly began to find out what foods I loved and which cuisines (all) intrigued me. Now, 500-plus cookbooks later, I still love finding, reading, testing or making up new recipes. As a journalist, I wrote a reader recipe column for the last three years I worked in Akron. Now I write a food blog called Reckless Tarragon. Like Alton Brown, I love to play with my food.
My mom didn't like cooking. The first time I had spaghetti with real sauce was as a teen at an Italian friend's house. Before that I'd only eaten it topped with ketchup! But my father cooked occasionally, and that's when we'd try new things: oyster stew, chocolate-covered ants (think Nestle Crunch), winter squash.
But it was the pros who've really influenced me: Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins and their Silver Palate books, Sarah Leah Chase's Nantucket Open House and Cold-Weather Cooking, James McNair, Marion Cunningham, Maida Heatter.
I also have to give a shout out to the restaurants that fed me dishes that made me sigh with pleasure. Not just the upscale places; in Akron it was Diamond Deli and its carrot cake, Bangkok Gourmet's emerald curry, the morning glory muffins at Jack Horner's, the Pita Pan or Leaning Tower of Pita at Sandwich Board, all the food at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church's annual festival. All the dishes that made me think, "I wanna go home and try to make that."
- The New Basics (Lukins and Ross)
- Nantucket Open House (Sarah Leah Chase)
- Cold Weather Cooking (Sarah Leah Chase)
- All his cookbooks (James McNair)
- Mostly Muffins (Albright and Weiner)
Restaurants I Recommend
- Tommy's (Cleveland Heights)
- Try a spinach pie (I love the M.R.)
- Lynn's Paradise Cafe (Louisville)
- Creative twists on classics. Best. Breakfasts. Ever.
- Jeni's Ice Cream (Columbus)
- Amazing ice cream and sorbets with unique flavors and local sourcing.
- Barrios Tapas (Columbus)
- Gotta get the dates with bacon, goat cheese and balsamic reduction.