Our chefs are some real characters, and as professional as they come. Their passion for creating great food shines through. Here’s an interview with Francesco Avella, who has created some of our most enduring dishes, like the Portabella/Shiitake Mushroom Ravioli and Shrimp Fettucini Alfredo.
Here’s a little something for fun! (It doesn’t look anything like Francesco, though!!)
Francesco has been cooking all his life. He grew up in Naples, Italy surrounded by the bounties of the garden and the sea. For the last 23 years, however, he has been an Executive Chef running a commercial kitchen in the greater San Francisco area. In this interview, he talks about his culinary inspirations, and his passion for creating foods that fit the needs of the MagicKitchen.com customer.
What started your love for cooking?
I have been around food all my life. As a young man I was in love with my father’s home cooking. After school, I was right there in the kitchen with him trying to help, but the most he let me do was peel potatoes or slice carrots or onions. My reward at the end, though, was to taste the finished meal. I still believe that home cooking is the best.
Why do you enjoy working with MagicKitchen.com?
I love being part of a great company, seeing it grow and feeling proud of being part of it. I believe in using the best ingredients and putting them together and creating great dishes under no pressure is a great accomplishment.
People are becoming more familiar with how restaurant chefs lives their daily lives, but probably don’t know as much about a commercial chef. What are some of the differences?
There’s a big difference between a restaurant chef and a commercial chef. Restaurant chefs cook and serve the food right away while it is still hot. My job is to create and prepare dishes that have to be reheated in the microwave or the oven and while still preserving the freshness and the flavor. My MagicKitchen.com dishes require a lot of preparation and tasting in order to come up with the right texture and freshness. It takes a lot of patience!
What ingredients do you love to work with?
The ingredients that I like to work with are mainly vegetables and seafood; obviously, because it reminds me of home.
What are some of the dishes you’ve created that are the most popular, or that you’re the most proud of?
I feel proud of my Eggplant Parmigiana, because it’s a recipe from home and we do it a little differently than most cooks. Also it is one of MagicKitchen.com’s top selling products. Typically when you cut basil, it turns black pretty quickly. So instead we create a basil pesto that we stir into the tomato sauce. You get a great basil flavor, and a good color. Also, we don’t bread the eggplant – just use egg and flour, fry it lightly in canola oil, and drain it well so it’s not oily at all. It’s time consuming and more costly this way, but we really want to create a flavor that lets the customer knows that a lot of time and care went into preparing the dish – even though it takes only a few minutes to heat it up!
Any memorable mistakes in the kitchen? Or a dish that didn’t quite work out?
Yes! I’ve made many mistakes in my cooking; sometimes to the point where I feel like giving it up all together. But my love for cooking always returns and there are always new challenges to come up with the best products.
In this business, you have to think about not only how you’re going to cook the ingredients, but how they’ll reheat as well. Water is the enemy of freezing and reheating food! For example, with vegetables that contain a lot of water like mushrooms and zucchini, we bake them with a little olive oil and garlic to get out the water. We also use a lot of crunchier vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots because they don’t have as much water. The same goes with sauces – we test our sauces many times so that they’ll reheat at the right consistency.
Thanks, Francesco, we love your passion and applaud your fresh-tasting flavorful dishes!
Melody, MagicKitchen.com Blogger