As tempting as it would be to begin this month’s interview with something like “Helena Spensatelli is one saucy girl,” I shall resist the urge to do so. If you’re reading this, then you’ll find out soon enough that this is true without needing me to tell you, as her food blog, Saucy Girl’s Kitchen speaks for her and itself on that score. She’s a talented food writer. She’s a personal chef. She’s a constant developer of recipes for some of the most delightfully photogenic dishes you’ll ever see, and she recently took some time to talk with us about the many challenges and satisfactions that come with being that awesome, as well as what’s in her fridge and what cuisines are nearest to her heart.
Flavorful World:Writer John Gunther said, “All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” Tell us the best breakfast you’ve ever had outside the U.S., in what city/geographic locale you enjoyed it, and what made it the best you’ve ever tasted.
Helena Spensatelli: I love having a nice leisurely breakfast on the weekends because during the week it’s more hectic and breakfast is quick. I do remember breakfast that my husband and I had in Maui, Hawaii. I realize Hawaii is a state, but it is outside the continental US. It wasn’t just about the food it was about the location and the fact that we were on a well-deserved vacation. We had a beautiful condo right on the beach. On this particular morning we sat on our patio and feasted on Eggs Benedict (my fav) that I prepared with King Crab instead of ham. As we looked out across the ocean we could actually see the sea turtles swimming in the water, it was so clear. We then had some fresh guava and papaya. So delicious.
FW: What would you say is your greatest achievement thus far as a food blogger? What is your greatest food blogging aspiration yet to be achieved?
HS: I would have to say it is seeing the traffic grow on my site. Having over 2,000 visitors to my site in one day. That’s not much to some bloggers, but my blog is fairly young and it was so gratifying to see that people are interested in what I have to say and cook. As far as what I would like to achieve, 10,000+ visitors in one day. Yes, that would be nice!
FW: Tell us a personal or unique spin you intend to put on a traditional holiday food this season.
HS: My Italian grandfather used to make this sweet potato/banana dish that I am going to be making this year. The flavor of the sweet potato and banana go so well together. It’s a simple recipe but it looks really elegant, too. You take a thin slice of sweet potato, top it with a thin slice of banana, top that with a thin slice of sweet potato, another thin slice of banana and put a cherry on top. Secure it with potato skewer or toothpick. Then I will drizzle some maple syrup on top with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Pop them in the oven, covered with foil. In about 20-25 minutes you have deliciousness!!
FW: What three pieces of advice that weren’t given to you when you were starting out, would you give to a person interested in a career as a personal chef?
HS: That you need to love what you do and be passionate about it. It’s a lot of hard work and you must be patient. It takes time. And lastly, that you can’t please everyone.
FW: What has been your biggest challenge and what has been the most satisfying aspect of starting Saucy Girls Kitchen?
HS: The biggest challenge was actually creating my website/blog. I did everything myself from the ground up. I am not a technical person, I cook. So it was tedious, but it is now like my baby. I love my blog and have made some great foodie friends via the internet.
I would say that my picture taking has been the most satisfying. I really enjoy taking close up pictures of the food, so that you can actually see the textures. I constantly receive compliments and praise regarding my pictures. It makes me proud. I have definitely improved from day one.
FW: What leftovers in your refrigerator right now are you most looking forward to finishing, and what about the dish makes you look forward to it the most?
HS: Oh, there are so many leftovers in the fridge right now. There are sweet corn tamales, beef brisket with veggies, linguine with white clam sauce, and pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream. I’d have to go for the Linguine. It was so delicious the first time, but I always love leftover pasta. I plan on adding a little butter into the pan and then heating it up and grilling some Ciabatta bread for dipping into the garlic white wine sauce. Yum! Then I’ll have a piece of pumpkin pie! 😉
FW: What cuisine(s) do you most enjoy working with, and which do you most enjoy eating? What attracts you to these?
HS: I love all cuisines. My go to comfort food is Indian. The flavors are incredible. However, being Italian I definitely enjoy making Italian food the best. My grandfather was an incredible chef from Italy. He worked at the Sheraton Belvedere in Maryland when I was a child and I fondly remember going into the large commercial kitchen with him when I was very small. My love for cooking definitely started at a very early age. So nothing makes me happier (food-wise) than to have a big pot of red sauce bubbling on the stove, filling the house with it’s savory aroma. It makes me feel close to my grandfather, my heritage and takes me back to my youth.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
HS: Around The World In Your Own Kitchen… a culinary adventure!
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
HS: I love spending time with my husband, who is my official “taste-tester” and sous chef when needed. I love sharing recipes long-distance with my daughter, who still lives in Los Angeles, and is a total foodie.
We have two French Bulldogs that we spoil… they are “Gourmutts.” I also both love to garden. Recently, we moved from Los Angeles to Tennessee and now have much more land than before. Looking forward to spring when we will plant a huge garden. We’re also going to have chickens. Yay! Fresh eggs. I also enjoy reading (yes, cookbooks and cooking mags) and of course, I love blogging!
*Note to Readers: There’s always something tasty happening in Saucy Girl’s Kitchen. Show your face on her Facebook page. Follow her trail of bread crumbs (or maybe sauce droplets?) on Twitter. StumbleUpon her delicious creations every chance you get. Link…um…get linked in with… (heck, I can’t think of a clever way to work the site name into a sentence, so I’ll just share that she’s also on Linked In and her credentials are impressive to say the least). Bottom line: here’s a food pro you should get to know.