Chef Alex Guarnaschelli: ‘Cook It Up: Bold Moves For Family Foods’

Hamptons resident and Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli has a new cookbook coming out, “Cook It Up: Bold Moves for Family Foods: A Cookbook,” with her daughter Ava on September 5. Guarnaschelli is also involved in Flavors of the Open at the US Open tennis tournament on August 24. We caught up with Alex to learn more.

Tell us a little about your background as a chef and how you got started.

I am a native New Yorker who grew up with two parents who were great cooks. I started working in France for a number of years and then returned to New York restaurants to work for Daniel Boulud. The rest is history.

Alex & Ava. Courtesy photo

Your latest cookbook “Cook it Up: Bold Moves for Family Foods” was written with your daughter Ava Clark. Tell us about this experience.

It’s so interesting working with a 16-year-old. Ava is unencumbered by decades of restaurant work and approaches food with a fresh palate and keen eye for great ingredients. She gathers information from so many different sources: videos, social media snippets, and even magazines. I stand there with my old cookbooks and the two of us somehow meet in the middle with all our different ideas!

Has Ava has been at your side in the kitchen since a young age?

It actually hasn’t been like that. Ava has watched me cook; there have been nights when we’ve eaten a slice of pizza standing over the sink. Her interest in cooking has evolved naturally and gradually without pressure. It’s really hard for a kid not to focus on whatever their parent does for a living. She cooks by my side now when she feels like it. Sometimes she doesn’t. It’s an ebb and flow.

As a teenager now, how has TikTok inspired Ava’s cooking?

Ava gets a lot of clever, short recipes from TikTok for sure. She also finds people whose cooking she admires and makes recipes from their repertoire. Right now, she is exploring Korean cooking mostly through Chef Hooni Kim. She loves fermented foods. Spices. She also loves Marcella Hazan’s Italian recipes.

There is a big focus on the importance of family in this book. You also include family favorites like your mom’s blueberry pie. Can you talk a little about how she inspired your love of food?

Because my mother was a cookbook editor, she decided the best way to edit the books was to cook her way through them? The net result was that my childhood became a case study in a particular cuisine for a moment in time. My mom was almost like a method actor when it came to cookbooks. She had to experience the whole thing for herself. As a result, so did I!

Your dog Leon even inspired a recipe? Tell us more about this.

While we were testing all of the recipes for the book, our sweet dog, Leon, was in the kitchen watching. Ultimately, we felt like he needed a treat for just him. The food stylist for the photographer started working on a peanut butter biscuit and after numerous tests and an empty plate of biscuits, we knew it had to be included in the book!

Photo by Squire Fox

Can you tell us a little about the upcoming Flavors of the Open at the US Open?

It’s a great way to get exposed to all the different food venues at The Open. The tennis is obviously at the heart of the event but the food completes the picture. I’m excited to share the food from my restaurant FARE and stand with many other fantastic chefs at this event. Join us!

What are your go-to recipes for entertaining on the East End?

I’m always a big fan of the classics. Shrimp scampi with a simple rice pilaf. Roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots. Ribs with corn on the cob. I also often do a completely vegetarian meal. I always stick to Americana for the best results.

Jessica Mackin-Cipro

Co-Publisher/Editor

Jessica Mackin-Cipro is an editor and lifestyle writer from the East End of Long Island. She has won NYPA and PCLI awards for journalism and social media. She was previously the Executive Editor of The Independent Newspaper.

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