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INTERVIEW: Alex Guarnaschelli On James Beard Foundation's "Chefs & Champagne," Her New Cookbook, And More

Nicole Barylski

James Beard Foundation Award Winner Alex Guarnaschelli is among Chefs & Champagne participants. (Courtesy Photo)

James Beard Foundation (JBF) Award Winner Alex Guarnaschelli is among the talented group of chefs that will showcase delicious dishes at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack on Saturday, July 29 during Chefs & Champagne, the James Beard Foundation's annual fundraiser in the Hamptons, which will fête James Beard Award-winning chef, author, philanthropist, and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson.

We recently caught up with Guarnaschelli to chat about sourcing in the Hamptons, what she'll be presenting Chefs & Champagne attendees, her new cookbook, and more.

What are some of your favorite spots to source ingredients at in the Hamptons?

AG: Mecox Bay Dairy, Pike Farms and Balsam Farms are three of my many favorites for produce, cheese and pickled vegetables. Great, tasty stuff. Wonderful people.

Since it's summer, A.K.A. BBQ season, what are some of your BBQ must-haves?

AG: I know we always talk about meat when we talk barbecue. Great classics like hot dogs, burgers, chicken and steak are some of my favorites. I also really love thinking about vegetables when we think about barbecue. Things like cooking a whole zucchini, eggplant in BBQ sauce and treat it like meat. Tomato salads. Grilled onions. Love a well-rounded BBQ menu!

You've competed in a number of Food Network challenges. Which was the most difficult and why?

AG: Iron Chef is the hardest mind game. So difficult to pick the best dishes to highlight the secret ingredient. It takes all the brain power I have to come up with the right fit!

Is there an ingredient people would be surprised to learn you're averse to using?

AG: Asparagus! It's so beautiful and healthy and grassy and seasonal. Asparagus has done nothing wrong. I just need some time away from it to fall back in love again.

What's the hardest part about judging a Chopped episode?

AG: When people work really hard on a dish and forget an ingredient. That's tough. It's also difficult when someone has a great idea in mind and it just doesn't translate in the plate. There is a 75 percent chance of getting chopped. Best to find other reasons to feel rewarded by competing!

Your new book, The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart, is coming out this fall. How did you choose which recipes to include?

AG: I have kept a running list of recipes over the years. It includes a lot of recipes that my mom cooked when I was growing up (and my dad's too... ). It's just a giant chef's diary translated into home cooked recipes and is meant for reading, enjoyment, and use!

What was the first dish you learned to make without using a recipe?

AG: It may not sound exciting to learn how to scramble eggs but there is an art to it. Just simply and well-scrambled eggs with a little Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and butter is ethereal and never gets old!

You'll be participating in this year's Chefs & Champagne. What will you be whipping up for attendees?

AG: Baby Back Ribs with Yellow Gage Plum Barbecue Sauce, and Cucumber Salsa.

Tickets to Chefs & Champagne start at $200 for JBF Members and $275 for the public.

For tickets or more information about the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne, visit www.jamesbeard.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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