My Last Supper photographer Melanie Dunea peeks into the minds of working chefs and uncovers their most prized possessions.
Food & Wine
1 of 5
Interview and Photos by Melanie Dunea / CPi / My Last Supper
“I couldn’t narrow down my treasures. I gathered a whole bag of stuff and then I thought it was getting a little excessive. It’s like when you have a party with 500 of your best friends. I had to keep it real, so I limited it to three. The first is The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook, by Dione Lucas. This is about 50 years old. It’s my mom’s copy that she cooked from when I was a kid. The second is not from a toy collection; this is an actual pot, the smallest out of a set of copper-bottom pots and pans that my parents got when they got married. This little pot has measurements on it and that was really important for me as a kid. Lastly, I have a cast-iron skillet. It’s not something handcrafted that I bought in the foothills of Switzerland; it’s gloriously un-unique. But I like the round edges that make it really good for omelet ergonomics, as most cast-iron skillets are straight edged. I use it for omelets and chops; thick pork chops. I love watching a single pork chop seasoned with garlic and shallots cook and see the fat bubble around it.”
2 of 5
“There’s a lot of forward thinking in this book. It has that handwritten recipe look and there are entire suggested menus. My mom is a self-taught home cook, so books that offer guidelines on how to organize menus are critical to ‘cook from the book’ people like her. As a result, I love cookbooks and I love to cook from them.”
3 of 5
“I bring this book with me whenever I’m competing on a cooking show or giving a demonstration. I don’t necessarily always look at it, it’s just more like a very large paper-made talisman, and I just hold it. The feel of the book, the sensation of it, and when I open it up and stick my nose in and smell—there is something oddly calming about it. I know that some people use lavender, incense and cake as sedatives, but for me a ‘nose bath’ in an old book just does something. This book offers courage and structure more than anything else. Dione Lucas has been obscured by larger-than-life personalities like Julia Child, but she had it going on. She is like the horse that came in second place, whose name we can’t remember. It takes more than just one horse to make a race.”
4 of 5
“My mom would re-create the entire menu and it would feel like we were in a restaurant kitchen. She would be running around like crazy and we’d ask who’s coming for dinner and she’d say, ‘No one.’ How many guests are we having? ‘None.’ My mom, dad and I would sit down and eat these incredible meals on an average Tuesday. These are groundbreaking recipes. Hot Dilled Cucumbers? Brilliant.”
5 of 5
“Now that I have a daughter, I cook at home every day. Whether I can actually stay home for dinner or not, I cook for her. I make her dinner and I leave it, or I make her dinner and she sees me and she sees the food cooking. This is my own personal cooking show that never airs on TV: ‘Cooking With My Daughter!’ Chefs smell food cooking all day, every day and we become desensitized to the smell of food. I notice when I’m cooking something that smells good, my daughter wanders in. She doesn’t get out 18 tools and hand-make gnocchi, there’s no groundbreaking technical skill or Mozart-esque qualities that she exhibits as a result of the experience. It’s the sensation of cooking and watching someone eat the food and saying, Wow.”
You May Like
Sign Up for Our Newsletter
Keeping you in the know on all the latest & greatest food and travel news, and other special offers.