Chef Trading Cards: Donna Desfor

Donna Desfor is on her own culinary path as a consultant, recipe tester and teacher. She spent ten years meeting chefs, studying food and working in restaurants on the side … so when her dayjob went south …

“I was laid off and I did the drama for 2 weeks … ‘oh my God, what am I going to do?’ I was going through a divorce, I just bought my home … the thought of finding another job practicing law, it had lost its joy for me.

“After about two weeks, I knew I really wanted to do the cooking thing. I made a pact with God, I said ‘Let’s take this out for a spin, see what I can do.’” What she could do turned out to be There’s A Chef in My Kitchen, a culinary teaching and consulting business. She also became the Associate Recipe Tester Coordinator for Leite’s Culinaria, which just won its second James Beard Award for best food/wine website.

“I knew I didn’t want to be in a restaurant. that’s where I did my training. As wonderful as it was, I enjoy being with the people. In a restaurant, all you see is the food going out and the plates coming back.”

I met her while researching a feature story on chutneys, salsas and tapenade, and she focused intensely on tasting. That started during her training in contemporary French cuisine with Executive Chef Frank Zlomke of Bosman’s Restaurant in South Africa’s Paarl Valley.

“The first day I was in the restaurant I was doing whatever I was assigned to do, and the chef came over to me and he said, ‘How do you know what it tastes like? You’re not tasting it.’ I thought ‘uhhhh … okay. I’m just doing what you told me to do.

“But he was absolutely right. It was about understanding that you have to taste what you’re making the whole way through. Every time you add something, the flavor changes. Everytime you add process, the flavor changes or the texture changes, and it’s a matter of constantly adjusting the flavor and finding that balance.”

Her bible on the subject: “The Elements of Taste” by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky.

As we wrapped up the sauces, I asked her the Last Meal question.



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