Food and Beverage Magazine is proud to present Lauren Katz, 3rd place winner of the Chef’s Roll & Avocados from Mexico #GuacnRoll Super Bowl Recipe Contest!(Her guacamole recipe is below, don’t worry!)
“My signature style includes putting my own spin on the classics and combining indulgent favorites in unexpected ways. A background in Fine Art always influences my presentation. I have chosen to mainly focus on competitive cooking, baking, and blogging my culinary adventures.”
My obsession with food began as a child. My family traveled often, and food was always a focus of our trips. My parents, who were not cooks (but are avid diners), were able to instill in me an appreciation for food from all around the world. They introduced me to regional specialties across the U.S. as well. As I got older, the desire to authentically recreate these flavors grew. I like a good challenge, and taught myself to cook using more complicated techniques. I scoured cookbooks, watched cooking shows religiously, and practiced as much as possible.
In college, where I studied Painting and Printmaking, I honed my cooking skills on the side. I soon realized that I preferred creating with ingredients, rather than paint on canvas. The desire to cook and feed people has always been strong for me, even if I was not doing it professionally.
Now that I have a family, cooking contests have become my favorite way to express creativity within the spare time that I have. I also am known amongst my friends for baking and decorating special cakes for birthdays, weddings and other events. This is purely to build my skills, for now. I also have a “pet” sourdough starter that I truly love.
I have been chosen as a Finalist in the Pillsbury Bake Off the last two consecutive years, as well as Maple Leaf Farms “Strut Your Duck” contest, Avocados From Mexico “Gauc N Roll” contest, Grandma’s Molasses cookie contest, and placed in contests from Premio, Truvia, Colavita, True Lemon, Women’s Day magazine, Cooking Light Magazine, Manischewitz, Our State Blueberries, Extended Stay America, and more. I have recently started a blog, and am trying to update it as much as possible.
What does your typical day look like?I typically wake up early, drink a ton of coffee, get my kids settled in at school, hit the gym, go to the market to shop for the night’s dinner and any contesting ingredients I need, feed my sourdough, bake, cook, feed the family, blog or brainstorm recipe ideas, read, then early to bed.What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
I am a big list writer. I keep lists of everything from flavor combinations for testing to contest dates and ideas. I also have a pretty good routine that keeps me focused on what I should be doing at certain times.
Was there a person in your career who really made a difference?
My husband has really encouraged me to continue cooking competitively, even though it makes for some pretty unusual meals sometimes. He knows how much happier I am when I have a creative outlet, which cooking/baking is for me.
Where do you think the most significant growth will occur in the Food & Beverage Industry in the next few years?
I am starting to see a return to the “handcrafted,” artisanal, personal labor of love type of cooking and baking that really speaks to me. At least I hope so!
What’s your first memory of your love for cooking?
I remember baking a lemon meringue pie from scratch as a young child. I think it was the first thing I ever baked by myself, and I was hooked.
When did you know you wanted to be a Chef?
Since I am not a professional chef, that is something I still aspire to become. I knew I needed to work with food when I was in college for painting, and all I wanted to do was go home and cook. Talk about choosing the wrong medium!
Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?
I trained myself, over 20 years at home, taking local informal classes, and avidly reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows. It wasn’t too bad 😉What do you love most about your job?I love my self-imposed “job” as a competitive cook/baker because I get to express my creativity without constraints or penalty if something does not go according to plan. When a recipe I have created “hits”- It is the best feeling in the world to know that you have made something totally new, and it is delicious.
Describe your style in three words.
Decadent, artistic, comfortingWhat’s your favorite dish to create?I love baking, so probably my favorite is creating a special occasion cake with delicious flavors and a gorgeous design using my fine art skills.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
I generally draw from what I would want to eat in my wildest dreams.
What four ingredients are necessary in your kitchen?
Beef short ribs, vanilla beans, artisanal vinegars, and olive oil. Not to be all used together of course.
If you could prepare a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you make?
I would love to cook for Ina Garten, because I think we would be friends. I would make her wine-braised short ribs, latkes, green beans and homemade applesauce with buttermilk pie for dessert. Something homey and comforting for her!
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am proud of competing in the Pillsbury Bake Off twice in a row.Who is your biggest supporter?
My parents. They are so proud every time I win or am a finalist, or even when I just cook them dinner!What would you want to have as your last meal?
Possibly a sourdough bread bowl full of Clam Chowder straight from the wharf in San Fransisco. Or a warm buttered Lobster roll from a place on Cape Cod we went to a few years ago.Are there any foods you just don’t like?
I don’t care for cantaloupe, which is kind of odd. I am allergic to blue cheese, which is unfortunate.What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?
I am sometimes challenged by white chocolate, depending on the application.Do you do the cooking at home?
Yes, all of it.Funniest kitchen incident?
Spilling a whole jar of sprinkles all over the kitchen. Such a mess.Favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
I love a microplane and an immersion blender.Tell me 3 things that you consider to be your cooking strengths.
My creativity, my multitasking skills, and my sense of humor if things go wrong.If you had just one wish, what would it be?
To have gone to culinary school rather than art school.Are you working on any big projects now?
I am hoping to qualify for the WFC in desserts this year.If you were to give someone just one piece of advice, what would it be?Allow your dreams to change, if you have outgrown them. Continuing on a path that you set for yourself a long time ago and doesn’t make sense anymore, isn’t really doing your dreams justice.
Band Name: The Bangles
Guac Name: “Guac Like An Egyptian”
2 large ripe avocados from Mexico, diced
1 Persian cucumber, finely diced
2 scallions, finely sliced
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
1 tablespoon Harissa (from jar)
1/2 teaspoon Za’atar spice blend or Dukkah spice blend
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Lavash or pita bread
Mash approximately half the avocado. Place mashed avocado with remaining ingredients in mixing bowl, folding gently until thoroughly combined. Chill or serve immediately with toasted lavash or pita bread, as desired.