The couple behind Just Married & Cooking had quite the meet-cute. They first met at age 10, during a church camp in Alabama. Fifteen years later, sitting at Highlands Bar & Grill back in their home state, Brooke Parkhurst recognized the chef’s name on the menu: James Briscione, her fourth-grade boyfriend. Recognizing her, Briscione came out with a plate of fried oysters and foie gras. They started dating the very next day.
After getting hitched, Briscione & Parkhurst wrote a cookbook and started a blog together called Just Married & Cooking in hopes of helping other young couples learn their way around the kitchen. We’re excited to be bringing you a week full of their recipes during May 2013! Read on for our exclusive interview with this sweet couple:
Q: What do you like most about working together?
Brooke: I just like being in the kitchen with him. So the fact that cooking with him is my job, well, that’s pretty fantastic! It’s also great being a home cook and being able to bounce ideas off of a classically-trained restaurant chef and lead culinary instructor.
James: What’s not to like? I get to do what I love with the person I love. ‘Chef hours’ are notoriously difficult on relationships so being able to share some of that long kitchen time with Brooke is a real treat.
Q: What strengths do each of you bring to the table for the blog?
B: As a writer, I love telling stories through food. There’s always a narrative that belongs to each recipe – why we include an ingredient, why we’re serving it at a particular time of year, who it’s being prepared for… All of that is interesting and exciting to me.
J: My creativity and years of experience in professional kitchens make it easy for me to come up with new and interesting things to cook. I love to examine classic dishes and then rebuild them in a way that suits us and our style and where we are in our lives right now.
Q: What made you want to become a chef?
B: I grew up in a family of amazing, lady Southern cooks. My mother and aunts always had something delicious in the oven and on the stove. I watched, learned and always wanted to cook for my family and friends like my mother did. So, while I’m not a chef, I’m a darn good home cook thanks to my upbringing.
J: For me it was the exact opposite. My mom made us dinner every night but she was no great cook. She wasn’t terrible, just nothing inspiring. So for me, I didn’t find any excitement in cooking until I got my first job as a dishwasher at the age of 16. Before long I was promoted to prep cook and never looked back.
Q: Which recipe in this week’s box is most personal for you? What inspired it?
B: The Pork Chops with Bourbon & Dried Plums really reflect our identities as Southern cooks. The dish is simple, hearty and gives you a feel for just how much James loves bourbon. It’s not enough to drink; he wants to eat it too!
Q: Is there a chef that you really admire or look up to?
B: Martha (Stewart)! She is a hard-nosed kitchen goddess and I love her for it.
J: Frank Stitt is the person who taught me the true art of cooking and I admire him greatly. His food is grounded in simplicity; he is a person who taught me to always seek out the greatest of ingredients and don’t mess with them too much. He was all about the freshly dug carrot bursting with flavor presented perfectly on the plate.
At the same time, I am in awe of the innovation of the great chefs of Spain, beginning with El Bulli and continuing through Mugaritz, Celler de Can Roca and Arzak. While the dishes at these restaurants are highly stylized, the soul of the food is the same. Ferran Adria always began by asking ‘what makes up the carrot?’ ‘How do we takes those pieces of the carrot and make it more carrot-y?’ But then the food was always presented in a way that makes the dinner say ‘Whoa! That was a carrot?!’
So in a way I look up to both of them – I love the sensibility and the whimsy; but in the end it’s all about delicious food that gets people excited.
Chef Challenge: Branch out and try new things. Go buy a new cookbook (we recommend Just Married and Cooking!) and try one new recipe out of it each week. It will keep on a path of constant discovery in the kitchen.
– Pareesha Narang