Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wine, Cold Soup & the Amazing Chef Robin White

When my good friend Chef Robin White asked if I would sponsor a night for her upcoming virtual dinner week appropriatley named "Cold Soup Week" it didn't take long to say yes. Fresh ingredients to pair with great wine and you have a wonderful evening talking to others around the world. I asked if my audience could learn more about Chef,  she graciously agreed to an interview only if we both drank Pinot (her favorite) while I compiled the info. Again didn't take long to say yes :). Hope you enjoy!

The Iowa Wino "Growing up did you always want to be a chef"?

Chef: "Growing up Chef was the furthest thing from my mind, but maybe not really. I remember running home from school as fast as I could so I would not miss one minute of Julia Child and right after that Streets of San Francisco. Not because I like the show so much, I had to see the city scenes and the Golden Gate Bridge. I love that bridge and to this day I refer to it as "My Bridge"  I remember very early on saying to myself and close friends that I would one day live in San Francisco."

The Iowa Wino: "Give us a little background on the life of Chef Robin"

Chef: "I was really great at and and fascinated with science. I also loved fashion, still do, but science won. Over my first summer out of high school I worked  in the lab at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, MA. I was a Phlebotomist, (a person who draws blood from you ) I learned the craft very well from a woman who gave me great confidence that I could do it and be great at it. Gloria Cartwright was her name and she to this day was and is a inspiration in my life. When I went to school that Fall I landed a job at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, now Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center. I worked in the lab and in the Pathology lab, doing some small testing and assisting in autopsy's. I was completely fascinated every time . That was going to be my path. I was going to be a Forensic Pathologist. As time went on I was on my path, with many bumps in the road. I had no money to keep going all the way to Med School, but I was really good at Phlebotomy and I continued working in labs and teaching phlebotomy. I even worked on the study that found the gene that causes Colon Cancer. Was a big day for sure.

I eventually made my way out to San Francisco FINALLY my dream come true. I still get goose bumps when I think about my first drive over "My Bridge." I was surely where I wanted to be. I went to Stanford for more classes off and on. I got more and more into wine and food and cooking and experimenting. All that science paid off for sure. this was about 1980 I was working in SF at a lab and becoming more and more bored as the days went on, but its what I knew and thats what we do. zoom ahead to back on east coast 1985. My Dad got sick, I came home to help Mom. I couldn't take the lab stuff anymore, my friend had started a cleaning business. We grew the cleaning business into  a huge business after only 2 years. One day I was at a clients home checking on the team and the homeowner was crying at the kitchen table. I thought one of the girls had broken something of value. So I asked her what was wrong, she looked at me and she said , " My daughter's engagement party is Saturday night, My caterers father just dies and he cannot do the party. I've called the other 3 caterers in the area they are all booked. She was crying again, I said " people tell me I'm a really good cook, I'll do it for you."  the party was for 50 people, Hors d'oeurvres  and cocktails. I opened Martha Stewart's entertaining books and got cracking on making every single thing that resembles a Hor  d'oeurve in the books. With a few twists of course. The food was great, I was a hit. People asked me for my card over and over and of course I had none. The party cost me $2000 dollars to do after I was paid, it was my cooking school in one night fee. The people at that party were high up in politics, all the way to the Governor of MA at the time. Needless to say I was busy and in a new career from that night out to this present day. I figured out how to make money doing it and my level of food and wine knowledge went to a whole new level and fast. There have been 2 bakeries, a Gourmet Cheese and Fish Market, 3 catering businesses, 2 coffee shops, a Saloon and 6 restaurants since that faithful night. My expertise now is on Fresh and Local, Slow Foods and anything New England and California Cuisines, and Jamaican. I am self taught and proud of it. I have worked with some of the best in the business and not for them, with them. I guess it was in the plan all along. Some chef go to Cordon Blue, I did it the hard way, Ivy League to Chef."

Iowa Wino: "You currently are known as Sonoma's "Virtual Dinner Queen" pairing great dishes with great wines. Where does your inspiration come from?"

Chef: "I hope it's not just Sonoma. I hope I am the worlds virtual dinner Queen,  I've always wanted to be Queen of something, My friends will agree with me there.
My inspiration usually comes with the seasons as far as the food goes.  The wineries started getting involved from day one with my events. I love introducing people to new wines they cannot get in their area. But they can order them to be shipped over a month before the event and try something new. I have also been trying to find a way to get families back to the table. In this economy we need something to look forward to, a party, a event. This is a great affordable way for people to get involved with HUGE events and learn more recipes and more about different wines they can get their hands on and still have it not be a event that will cost $250-300 a person plus the outfit.  LOL!  It's a stay home event that you attend with hundreds of thousands and the family can be involved. This event does not run out of food and wine half way through the night."

Iowa Wino: "August 21-27 is Cold Soup Week which is 7 nights of fresh soup and wine. How did you pick those and the wines to pair with them?"

Chef: "#coldsoupweek actually came from a demand of what happened after #soupweek last November . My twitter audience didn't want to wait a year before it happened again. The recipes take the longest time to invent and test and narrow down. Once that is done I begin the process of choosing the right varietal of wine to pair, not so much a specific winery. This #coldsoupweek my original posting was soup and a suggested varietal. It still is the wineries and sponsors hoped in and there we have a event.
I really want people to understand and not be afraid of wine. I hope I am making it easier to pair and drink for any occaision. Wine doesn't have to be $100 a bottle to be considered good anymore. There are some lovely wines out there now for $15-$40 that are delicious and taste a lot more expensive than they are. I am hoping to expand the number of people who drink wine but understanding the food tastes so much better with a nice glass of wine, a table full of friends and it doesn't have to cost more than $10 a person, wine included."

Iowa Wino: "We both love Pinot Noir but what fascinates you about the grape/wine? Do you have a few favorite recipes to pair with Pinot?"

Chef: "Pinot, Ah my favorite word these days. Pinot to me is a challenge, a grape who needs tender, loving care but it cannot know your giving it to them. It is the grape most affected by anything that can go wrong with Mother Nature. and thats just while it's hanging on the vine. After it's picked the real work begins. You cannot mess with it to much, but it needs to be messed with.  It's a varietal of your damned if you do and your damned if you don't. I have a bunch of really great friends who make pinot. Their personalities range from Crazy Ass Winemaker to quiet more subtle type, but passionate to the bone about Pinot.  I have tasted Pinot made by these different winemakers side by side. Same vintage, same vineyard, picked same day, released about the same time. The differences blow my  mind every time. One is big and bold and HUGE flavor, the other is soft and supple and balanced and you want to "jump off a bridge cause there is nothing left to live for" flavor you don't want the bottle to ever end pinot.  Thats what gets me.  Yes Cab, big bold fruity sometimes, but a cab you know is going to taste like a cab every time. Whatever, I like cabs, don't get me wrong. But if 2 people make a cab the way I described before they will come very close to tasting very close to each other. Pinot is a wild child, a good child, a crazy fun loving child and a bad child all in one.  You can lead and teach the child right? there are still plenty of ways that child can go wrong. Thats how I feel about Pinot. Maybe I like a challenge, I think I do. When I open a bottle of Pinot I anticipate every single time, my mouth waters I get all excited wondering what it will taste like. It's the ever changing bottle of wine to me.  I like the ever changing things very much.  Pinot is not at all like food, usually 99% of the time if something cooking smells good it ends up tasting great on the plate. With Pinot it can be a crap shoot right up to the end. You can open a bottle of pinot, Put it in the right glass, swirl it, sniff it, taste it, all the right things to do with wine. But pinot can have a nose that will know you into next week. Dirty socks, my favorite, little fruit, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla, has it all going on. Then you can taste it and on the front end it's nice , its got structure or so you think, the back end it just falls off. My world explodes, the disappointment and the oh crap that usually comes out of my mouth. You shake it off and you hope for the best as the nose changes to nothing and the wines fades into nothing. You open another bottle and it starts all over again. And the weird thing is with Pinot, you can open a bottle from the same case and that one will be AMAZING!!!  I think it's the challenge, the thrill of the end product, the nerves, the excitement. I love all wines but none other since I have discovered Pinot I get that feeling every time. It's my drug, my high. Knowing what it takes to get it to be great is the story to me.  I Love Pinot!!!!!!
This year I am branching out in my life and making my first Pinot Noir ever. Along with my dear friend and winemaker Cynthia Costco, @passaggio and my other friend who is a GREAT Pinot maker, Peggy Ryan, @Noir1, who will be consulting on our little project.  Your hopes and prayers that the 1st try at this little project is a great success would be greatly appreciated. 

Iowa Wino: "What upcoming projects involving wine and/or food will we see from Chef Robin?"

Chef: "OOh great question. I see more virtual dinners in the future with more video. I have several projects in the pipeline that will take up a major amount of my time next year, but i'm not a liberty to talk about them yet.  When I can you will all know. It's going to be SUPER when it all comes together. My book is completed and sitting on my desk. I have editing and few more recipes to test. Who knows this is going to be a big year ahead I think."

Iowa Wino: "What words of advice can you give us all as we try to pair fresh ingredient dishes with wine?"

Chef: "When pairing food with wine the age old advice still works. White wines with white and light and reds with heavier dishes. Of course I have a lot of science in my background and I like to think out of the box a lot. Wine is great, it good for your health heart and soul.  I say drink what you like, the pairing doesn't always have to be perfection. What I love about wine is you open a bottle you pour a couple of glasses with friends and spontaneously a party happens. you end up in the kitchen putting a cheese plate together, some crackers, bread, nuts. You talk, you laugh and you live all because you popped a cork. Cheers!!!!!!!!"

Well I hoped you enjoyed reading about "My Favorite Chef" and learned something along the way. Please follow along this week on twitter as we celebrate #ColdSoupWeek. Check out all the recipes by clicking the link to her website Chef Robin White and have a great time creating these dishes. Robin my dear friend thank you for taking time out of your busy social schedule to give us this interview. By the way the Pinot bottle is empty LOL!


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