I have worked with Chef Jennifer Schaertl for several years here in Dallas where she was a Sous Chef at Suze and now is Executive Chef at the North Central Surgery Center in Dallas. Many of you have probably seen her at public events at the Texas State Fair and North Park's SouperBowl Challenge. Below is an excerpt from a recent interview with the creative mind behind Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens.
How long have you been a chef and what was your first job in the culinary field?
I've been working in kitchens for about 6 years, but did things like manage a coffee shop and picked eggs in a chicken house before that. Totally counts.
What inspires you when creating menus?
Trying new techniques and flavor combinations definitely drives my thought processes, but I have to say it is collaborating with other chefs that drives me. The very first restaurant where I was a sous chef, we would have menu meetings once a month, where we would stay up all night and completely change the menu. That process, as overkill as it seems now, really shaped me as a chef. And being up until 2am throwing ideas back and forth, going to grab a burger, and then doing it some more, still really sounds like a good time to me!
Home cooks are already starting to work on this year's Thanksgiving menus. Can you share a holiday recipe with our readers?
1 lb zucchini, ½ inch pieces cut into quarters
1 lb summer squash, ½ inch pieces cut into quarters
4 Roma tomatoes, medium dice
2 t garlic powder
2 t sea salt
1 t black pepper
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
¼ cup bread crumbs, plus extra for the top
2 T butter
- Preheat your oven to 350°. Toss all of these ingredients (except the butter) together in your 9 x 13 inch baking dish. An aluminum disposable baking dish will work beautifully if you’d rather recycle dishes than wash. After the squash and tomato are evenly coated, spread them throughout the dish.
- Sprinkle a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs and drop tiny pieces of butter over the top of the squash to create a top crust.
- Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow it to rest about 20 minutes before serving warm directly out of the dish.
When you don't feel like cooking dinner, what is your favorite DFW restaurant?
Well my favorite restaurant with very good reasons is York Street
. The chef is a wonderful person as well as spectacular chef. I have taken friends and family there, but it is more of a special occasion restaurant for me. On a regular day, I love G&G Cafe
on Greenville for all those reasons as well, but it is more in line with my bank statement!
What other projects are keeping you busy these days?
My cookbook. It comes out this March, and I really thought once I wrote it, I'd be done. Turns out I'm heavily needed during the edit and design process. "Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens" has been an 8 year labor of love, but I'll be so relieved to be done with it, so I can start the next!
For those of you who don't yet have the huge kitchens of your dreams, she has tips that maximize the space you do have to prepare delicious meals! For more information about Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens and to sign up for the newsletter, visit Jennifer's web site