Hi. I’m Steph. Welcome to One Family Meal!
I’m a wife and mom of three kids. Our family lives on the coast, in Portsmouth NH, where I cook, write, patch up lots of scratches, and look forward to cooking dinner every night.
Way before the house and the dog and the kids and the husband, I graduated from Wellesley College and slogged through workaday roles in investment banking and asset management before abandoning that life to pursue my passion for food. I attended the New England Culinary Institute, became a line cook, and trained under some notable chefs along the Eastern seaboard including Frank McClelland at L’Espalier and Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery + Café in Boston, Ben and Karen Barker at Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina, and Andrew Carmellini at A Voce in New York.
The chefs and cooking styles varied. I learned about Classic French, Italian, and Southern cuisine and the art of baking bread and pastries. The rhythm, though, was the same. My shifts lasted between twelve and sixteen hours a day and the cooking was repetitive so I honed my skills. With practice I learned to cook with all of my senses, so I could smell a perfectly toasted nut, hear the distinct sizzle in a pan that’s hot enough to sear and see the deep caramel color of a perfectly pre-baked pie crust (it’s always darker than you think it should be). I loved the fast pace and physical challenge of working on the line. My only regret was not jumping in earlier.
When my eldest was born, five short years later, I couldn’t fathom leaving her for sixteen-hour stretches and, sadly, abandoned restaurant life. Instead, I brought the restaurant into our home. I cooked like crazy to keep my culinary mind and skills sharp, creating obsessively perfect and complicated meals for my husband and me between baby feedings. When that became too expensive, I challenged myself to cook creative meals using leftovers, or fewer and less obscure ingredients.
The challenges continue to evolve as our kids grow. It’s no longer about perfecting another chef’s vision or even my own vision. It’s about creating new, accessible recipes that fit our family’s lifestyle and preferences. I still use the techniques I learned in restaurants and remain wildly passionate about food, but instead of searing chicken livers, roasting beets, and julienning ten pounds of roasted peppers all at the same time, I’m more likely frying up a batch of chipotle black bean burgers while simultaneously building a Lego tower and braiding Barbie’s hair.
It’s a far cry from restaurant cooking. But, when everybody gobbles those burgers while laughing and telling stories around the dinner table, it makes it all worthwhile. Together, we’re creating tastes and memories to last a lifetime, One Family Meal at a time.
*You can see more of my work in Modern Farmer, Edible Seacoast, and Taste of the Seacoast magazines, and on NPR’s Here and Now. I have also contributed to the Food Writing Lives column on Molly O’Neill’s Cook ‘n Scribble blog and wrote the New England Family Fare guest column on The Weiser Kitchen.