Jane Muscroft of Queen's Cuisine, Part 2
Did your family cook when you were a child? Oh yes. My mum cooked dinner every night: an entrée and a hot dessert like pie, a sponge or English custard. My dad still has an allotment, so we always had our own fresh produce as well.
How old were you when you started cooking? Quite young. We were allowed to make Yorkshire pudding of a Sunday as soon as we were old enough to stir. Tea as well, once we were old enough.
First cooking job? I worked as a hotel chef while still in catering school. It started as a work-study, and I just continued on. My first-ever job at fourteen was as a server at a small, family-owned café. I was allowed to ice the baked goods if I was very, very careful.
Did you attend culinary school or college? I went to catering college. I studied Home Ec in school; it was required for boys and girls, so there was no getting out of it. I loved it and considered being a Home Ec teacher. But as a teenager, I was painfully shy, and the thought of getting up in front of a room full of people....
What do you eat? Whatever I'm baking, which is why I put on half a stone each market season.
What do you cook at home? Mostly English-style, but it's gotten more Americanized. I still don't make burgers very often, but I don't make fish and chips very often either. Last night I made chili, which in England we would call chili con carne. I put cheese on top because that's what you do in America, but we ate it over rice, which is how we eat it in England. On Sundays we still have roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
The local chef who most impresses you? I don't really move in those circles. Does that sound awful?
Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? Wherever I'm taken next Sunday. I'll be in England and it's my birthday. We're going out for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, so I'd better like it.
Your favorite food city? London, without a question. It's the one I've eaten in the most. You can get anything you want there. My sister lives there and she never cooks. So when I visit, we eat out every day.
Favorite recent food find? Locally grown pumpkin. Up until the fall, I had never made a pumpkin pie from scratch. It's not nearly as scary as you think it's going to be. The hardest part is cutting it in half.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Butter. Butter is not a dirty word. I go through about five pounds each baking day. That sounds a lot, but I always seem to be buying that much.
Favorite local food find -- and where do you get it? Tea, from Traveling Tea. I grew up drinking tea -- basic black tea out of a tea bag -- so I was skeptical. But Kateri [Meyer, the owner] has been teaching me the finer points of white and green teas.
Five words to describe your food. Fine English refreshments from scratch.
Bakewell tarts (pastry case, raspberry preserve with almond 'cake' filling and topped with icing) named after a town in Derbyshire, England
One food you dislike. Chestnuts. I tried them in France from a street vendor, and they made me gag. It surprised me, because I love nuts, and I've never had that experience with anything else. There isn't much I don't like.
Deborah Hyland Bakewell tarts (raspberry preserve with almond 'cake' filling, topped with icing) named after a town in Derbyshire, England.
A food you can't live without. I have an Englishman's cappuccino for breakfast every morning -- that's milk warmed in the microwave with Nescafe added.
An ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Crisco. Oh, and that awful non-dairy whipped cream that's never been near a cow and has coconuts in it.
Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more... I think St. Louis is doing a good job already. There are lots of small-owned places as well as great magazines and newspapers. I think it's ahead of the curve.
Best tip for home cooks. Don't be afraid or intimidated.
Favorite after-work hangout. I have a junior and a senior [in high school] at home. Once they go off to college, it may be different, but I go straight home and start that job.
Favorite kitchen tool. A microplane. Using a cheese grater just pales in comparison.