Lake Isle Press

Chef Josie Gordon Knows How to Party

Josie Gordon knows how to party. She has a fun, vibrant personality which makes her great at connecting people. If Josie's at the party (and especially if she’s cooking) you want to be there!  Find out more in our interview below.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My father used to tell me that if you find something that you love to do as work, you'll never work a day in your life.  This has been true for my career as a chef.  Though the work has been hard (long hours, standing on your feet, and being mentally and physically alert for every second), it has hardly felt like "work".  I've been cooking professionally for 12 years and went to the Institute of Culinary Education about halfway into this journey.  I currently do private catering and serve individual families as a personal chef in NYC.

Food, for me, is about health, nurturing, and the social experience.  Those ideas come together well in my recently co-authored book, Party Like A Culinista.

When did you start cooking? 

I started experimenting with cooking under the guidance of my mom at around age 12.   As the oldest child, I was automatically her kitchen assistant at home.  Though we're a Jamaican family, mom was very experimental with other cuisines.  At the time, cooking was simply magic for me and I approached it with a lot of hesitation.  I read her cookbooks like they were encyclopedias.  I was always trying to find the patterns between recipes and figure out just how this stuff works.  Practice proved to be the best method of learning.  In my second year of college, I decided to get a job in a campus kitchen.  I had some awe for the Food Network (which was still pretty much a bustling newbie) and dang-it I just really wanted to learn how to cook!  That job was the first time I'd ever being paid for my cooking.  That was in 2000 and I've been cooking ever since.

What’s your favorite kitchen disaster story? 

There was a dinner party for a really important, really high profile client.  As things might go in the kitchen, I found myself running out of time.   I was roasting some fatty cut of meat (can't remember what it was) and decided to blast their professional grade home oven up to 500 degrees.   About 15 minutes later I opened the oven because I noticed a bit of smoking and "WHOOOSH!", FIRE is roaring at me.   So I just close it back and had a slight panic... saw a pitcher half filled with water (at least i hoped it was water) and threw it into the oven.  It started to smoke up but thank goodness it put the flame out.  Literally 20 seconds later, the host walked by the kitchen.  I'm pretty sure she heard the commotion or smelled more smoke than she pleased to.  I assured her everything was fine.  I still didn't know what that meat looked like.  I sighed with relief to find that it was just the fatty drippings that were flaming because the meat was perfect and succulent.   Dinner was served and I proceeded to wipe down any remnants of smoke on the walls.  Hands down, worst kitchen incident because of the potential disaster.

What is the most essential item in your kitchen?

Why make me choose?!  Of course, I have to say my knife.  I mean, you’re not a REAL chef without a good knife.  

Mason jars: so cute or no cute?

Cute is for puppies.  Mason jars are a smart design element.  I use them for flours, cereal, dried beans, dried tea leaves and flowers, juice jars and occasionally as a vase.  Yes!  I'm down.

What do you do to stay educated about new trends? 

Apart from dining out at a restaurant, I love to attend the local food fairs and events in NYC.  It's also a good idea to keep up on both professional and homemade blogs.  A really smart way to figure out what's the latest hot ingredient is by asking the farmers' market guys "What have the chefs been buying up?"  While I do read the Dining section of NY Times and other publications, I find that half of the stuff is just the old coming back as new.  You must remember that the best "trends" in food are always great tasting, and put a smile on your face.  Strive for that and you can always stay on top.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

 As a personal chef and caterer with "flexible menu options," I enjoy the individual twists on a dish that I serve my clients.  I enjoy the pace of the food world and chef culture.  While food is something that is always needed, it is up to chefs and their peers to keep this trade at the level of an art form.

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