Chef Elizabeth Schuster reflects that every major event in her life has been centered around food.
"My family has always celebrated life, mourned loss, shared stories and found each other - through food. To my family, food was not just about sustenance, it was our way of communicating with each other", says the Executive Chef and owner of Tenacious Eats.
Growing up amidst German-influenced cooks and a family-owned bakery, some of her fondest childhood memories are of learning to cook from her grandparents.
"I can remember making Concord grape jelly with my grandmother in her Benton Park kitchen. Picking grapes from her age-old Concord grape vine. Squeezing and smashing the grapes. The beautiful scent of grape and sugar bubbling on her kitchen stove. Those smells evoke powerful memories of love, shared heritage, and the seeds of future generations."
Although her culinary career has carried her in many different directions, her latest endeavor - Tenacious Eats - is a lifelong culmination of the two loves that have inspired her artistically - great films and being a professional chef. Tenacious Eats is part performance art, part film showing, and always great food and tremendous fun with like-minded souls who become immediate friends!
What is your favorite 'signature' dish?
"Cigar Smoked Pork Cheek."
I created this dish for a scotch pairing dinner at Vom Fass. The pork cheeks, were cured, coated with a coco nib rub, cold smoked with a Padron cigar, wrapped them in fresh tobacco leaves and slowly braised them in a fortified pork stock. The dish consisted of the pork cheek, spicy sweet potato hash and fava sprouts. I paired the cheeks with a 12-year Glengoyne. When asked how I was inspired to come up with such a dish, I responded "Who wouldn’t like a beautiful scotch and a cigar."
What is one hidden secret about your profession that you could share?
None. That's why they are hidden secrets. That's what's so great about our profession. Who do you think I am, Bourdain? Love the man, but is there really anything left to the imagination after "Kitchen Confidential"? And, if I told you, I'd have to kill you and then of course make stock. I have limited cooler space right now, so no.
Who is your favorite superhero?
Catwoman. Sometimes she's an anti-hero and sometimes she's a villain. She's never purrrfect. Catwoman is morally ambiguous. You're rooting for her even when she's not exactly in the right corner. Her motivations are never to kill or dominate. She's not evil, just not capable of change and refuses to be "reformed". She's self motivated but also has a certain moral code she upholds. What's not to love in a sexy carnivore?
What is the one food you could never live without?
Oh, easy. I can't live without Greek yogurt with Udi's vanilla granola and topped with Jim Robbins' Black Locust Honey. Sweet, rich and a bit crunchy like me!
If you could cook for one celebrity, who would it be and what would you prepare?
Wes Anderson! Every single of his films are so exquisite in narrative and character development and yet so odd and quirky at the same time. I'd love to make doughnuts stuffed with foie gras and serve them with a hard apple cider reduction. (As in "The Fantastic Mr. Fox).
What's your idea of 'comfort' food?
Almond butter and strawberry jelly on toast. Mmmmmmm.