Small Talk: Look Who’s Cooking!

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Welcome to another edition of Small Talk! We recently sat down with master chef and creator of Rockabye Baby's delicious baby food recipes, Jeff Parker, for a little tête-à-tête. We talk food, music, inspirations and even uncover what his last supper would be. When did you know you wanted to be a chef?  Always!  However, I grew up in a time before that was cool. So I often heard, "Honey, you don't want to be the help."  I watched Julia and The Galloping Gourmet pretty religiously and then would go into the kitchen and try to make something.  I wasn't discouraged from cooking - just choosing it as a career path.  My grandma taught me to bake to keep me busy, and I cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner, pretty much by myself, when I was 11 or 12. Biggest misconception about being a chef - That it is glamorous, relaxing, fun work that gets you on TV!  It can be any of those things at any given time. However, you're mostly standing in a 4-foot square kitchen that is well over 100 degrees for 8 to 10 hours a day. 5 things I can't live without - Delicious salty pork products (sorry vegetarians), sharp knives, my smartphone (unfortunately), Thai food (I studied cooking in Thailand for a month), and coffee - the elixir of life! Music I love - I am a big country music fan -- right now Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean are at the top, but I also listen to British pop, classic rock, alternative groups like Morcheeba, and the Ultra Chilled CDs when I need some down time.   I'm also a sucker for a ballad belting diva! If I were to write a book about my life what would it be called... Right now, it would be The Trouble With Garnish: Too Much Is Too Much. Who has been your favorite person to cook for and what did you cook? This past year I have had a client (my only private dining client) who throws dinner parties for the rich and famous.  On one occasion, Nancy Reagan was the guest of honor.  It was great to see her getting out, and she is still the fashion icon she was in the ‘80s - only her heels are a little lower.  What was for dinner? Leg of lamb, Potatoes Dauphinoise, roasted asparagus and chocolate layer cake for dessert. Who would you love to cook for and what would you cook?  I would love to go on tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and cook up delicious southern goodness! What inspires you?  I'm pretty simple and get inspiration from being outdoors, in the country.  I love farming areas.  It makes me want to be grounded and cook up beautifully and simply prepared foods from the source. Best advice I ever received - "No one who is great at something, was always good at doing it." Best advice I have for home cooks - I have told this to everyone that has watched me cook or that I have taught to cook -- really trust your tastes... if you really like something, most others will too.  Also, there are a lot of recipes and cookbooks out there (some quite famous) that just don't work... recipes should be a guide, not a rule. What would be your last supper (ever!) choice - I really think that this should be "What would you eat on your last day?" One meal, hmmmm....perfectly grilled Wagyu rib-eye steak seasoned only with salt and pepper, asparagus with Hollandaise, buttermilk and roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and the darkest, gooiest chocolate cake. YUM! Now I'm hungry. Final thought - I have had a wildly crazy and differing career path that led me to where I am now. But lately I have realized that, even though it may not have been the ideal path, I have a point of view that is uniquely mine and that has a lot of value.  Trust yourself. Have a question for our chef? Ask it in the comments below and we'll share his answers in a future post. Also look out for more great recipes from Chef Jeff Parker leading up to Thanksgiving, and, of course, select Rockabye Baby releases! For more great recipes from Chef Jeff, check out FoodCrew.com, JeffParkerCooks.com, and GrillingOutdoorRecipes.com.

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