Chef Allen's creator, chef Allen Susser, and author and radio host Linda Gassenheimer were on hand for the opening celebration of Books & Books' newest café, at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science. The Books & Books café features sandwiches and salads created by Allen, as well as a variety of coffee drinks. Allen and Linda Gassenheimer participated in a lively conversation, answering a variety of questions, ranging from favorite restaurants to cooking tips.
Allen Susser: The key to cooking is mise en place, which literally means "having everything in place." Organize your cooking. When you see cooks on a show make a dish in 30 minutes, it's because their vegetables are chopped and everything is organized. Once you have your mise en place in place, any recipe is easier.
Linda Gassenheimer: How do I test a recipe? I cook it. The big test is my family. If I test a recipe and my husband doesn't like it, he walks out the door.
Favorite Places to Eat in the Keys
Linda Gassenheimer: What's your mood? In Key West, I like Blue Heaven. The restaurant used to be a bordello. It's the perfect place for brunch, filled with roosters roaming around. I also like restaurants off the beaten path, like Azure. They make a Key lime French toast. In the lower Keys, I like the Square Grouper. A "square grouper" was the name for bales of marijuana that were ditched in the water by smugglers. The cracked conch with wasabi dressing is terrific. I also like Bob's Buns in Islamorada for their blue crab eggs Benedict and their potato chip cookies.
Suggestions for Young Chefs Starting Out
Allen Susser: Education is important, but I suggest you work in the industry before you go to school. And enjoy working nights, weekends, and holidays.
Linda Gassenheimer: Develop your palate. Go to Europe and eat.
Allen Susser: The simpler the better. I love cracking open stone crabs and eating the sweet lucious meat.
Linda Gassenheimer: I love food, and I love sweets. I want nice, fresh tastes. Just good, simple food.
Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB