This week I had the privilege of attending an event with Best Buy featuring local Houston chef Monica Pope. Despite the fact that I learn by fire (literally, I often set things on fire), I am a total foodie and Top Chef fanatic. Monica Pope is a local celebrity in foodie circles: nominee for a James Beard Award and named Best Houston Chef, among other accolades. Oh, and she was on Top Chef Masters.
Are you getting the sense that she is a Big Deal?
Best Buy is now selling small kitchen appliances (think SodaStream, KitchenAid mixers, and the Ninja Blender) and is doing a promotion in a bunch of cities with local chefs. Chef Monica Pope is, in her own words, not very mechanically inclined. Still, she did a phenomenal job using the Ninja and the KitchenAid—no fires, no lost fingers.
Though I sadly missed the third course (which was a fancy take on a hot dog), I had two amazing recipes: the watermelon gazpacho and a kale salad that rocked my world. I’ll be recreating them here soon, but have an empty pantry at the moment.
I had a chance to do a brief interview with Chef Pope, which felt more like a conversation because she was super friendly and had a great sense of humor. She is known for all things local and visits the farmer’s market twice a week. Why local? Food in the normal store shelves has often traveled 1500 or more miles, been refrigerated and out of the ground for weeks. Pope says that buying local builds up the community and gets you fresher, more nutritional, and tastier foods.
Some time ago, she says someone asked her a question that struck her, and changed some of her habits: Does your child see you eat?
As a chef, this is a passion and work and a big portion of her life, but she realized that no—her daughter was not seeing her eat. Now her family often takes part in whole process: shopping at the farmers market, helping chop in the kitchen, and eating together. As someone who really struggles having an odd night schedule (with Rob working many nights and my derby), this really hit me. If a chef with two restaurants can strive to make family dinners holistic (from the market to the store), then I can make that effort as well. My boys are young, but already Sawyer pays attention, and our new kitchen layout means he can sit at a bar stool and help or watch as I’m cooking.
If you are in Houston, check out one of Chef Monica Pope’s two restaurants, Sparrow or Beaver’s. And if you’re looking for small kitchen appliances, remember that Best Buy now has them in stock with their great prices!