Meet Elana Karp, the Chef Behind Your Plated Favorites
If you’ve enjoyed Plated dinners, you have Elana Karp and her culinary team to thank. Find out more about about her background, inspiration and more.
Skillshare knife skills class, find out more about how she wound up at culinary school, what inspires her, and what she’s excited for in 2016.
Plated: What sparked your culinary interest?
Elana Karp: Food has always been important in my family. Whether it’s a special event, celebration or holiday, we gather around the table together. In college I’d have fun hosting dinners for my friends, but I never considered it as a career.
Plated: What inspired you to take it a step further?
EK: During my time at Teach for America, I saw firsthand how little students knew about food and health. Seven-year-olds would bring a footlong hero filled with mayo and a huge, sugary iced tea to a field trip, finish them both in seconds, and then feel horrible and unable to stay awake. In response, I created a mini-nutrition program in the classroom. After realizing the power of creating awareness around food, I knew I wanted to make a career out of it.
Plated: Did anything intimidate you about cooking prior to culinary school?
EK: I was actually afraid of knives since I didn’t know how to properly use them and was nervous about cutting myself. Knife skills happened to be the first lesson in culinary school—you had to make a soup out different vegetables which needed to be cut into all different shapes.
Plated: Any surprising experiences during your training?
EK: I thought I knew how to season properly, but during my first assignment—the knife skills soup class—I seasoned as I thought I should, but the judge chef disagreed. He kept coughing, saying that I ruined his palate for the whole day. I thought it was a bit dramatic, but that moment taught me to exercise much more restraint.
Plated: What’s one lesson from culinary school that you feel everybody should know?
EK: Knife skills make everything easier and quicker, and proper seasoning makes things taste the way that they should.
Plated: How did you choose to work at Plated?
EK: Plated is the perfect opportunity to marry my different interests and experiences. It’s a way to not only teach people about how to cook—but how to be healthier, and share how food affects your health and wellbeing. It’s also a fun and creative way to draw inspiration from a trip, or turn a favorite restaurant dish into something a home cook in Ohio can make.
Plated: Though we’re betting that picking a favorite recipe would be like choosing a favorite child…do you have any?
EK: Three come to mind. One is the Thai Peanut Chicken Curry with Sticky Rice because that has been my favorite takeout food since I was in middle school and I never thought to recreate it. Then we had been making curries here, I decided to try and figure it out, and it came out better than the takeout. Since it’s a more unique and personal dish, it was an exciting one to share with people.
The second is the Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Parsnips and Carrots because it served as inspiration for the cookbook. It is such a simple dish that you can personalize, and change in a million ways and it’s always good. It’s very representative of what Plated is about, which makes me really love it.
Finally, the Warm Spinach Salad with Mushrooms, Delicata Squash, and Goat Cheese because it’s insanely easy but seems so impressive. I’ve made it for so many different dinner parties since we originally wrote the recipe and it never fails to impress.
Plated: What’s one piece of advice you would like to offer home cooks?
EK: Focus on one thing at a time. If you want to make a great dinner, concentrate on the chicken, or on the grain etc. Put your effort there, and make the rest easy and effortless so you’re not trying to juggle a million different things. If you’re making a big dinner, buy cheese and olives to take the pressure off. Start small and don’t take on too much—build on your foundation so it becomes easier to take things on.
Plated: Lastly, any big developments you’re particularly excited for in 2016?
EK: We’re launching a cookbook in May! I’m excited for people to get the opportunity to cook with us on other nights than the ones they’ve set aside for Plated meals. It was truly written with our customers in mind so it should appeal to people at all different times of day, week and year. And it was really fun for us to write because we could step outside of 30 minute dinner, and offer some other ideas for cooking well.