Interview with Chef Pia Wiesen
Recently my good friend Pia Wiesen, wrote a cookbook that long lived in her heart. You may remember my introduction of Pia to you when I launched my latest eBook. She stood in my kitchen day after day cooking the recipes I created in Superfoods so that Kelsey could photograph the delicious dishes I shared with you. I have endless fond memories and hope by now you've tried many of them yourself! Pia and I continue to have so much in common - is it a surprise we've been friends for this long? She's always supported me and now it's time to turn the spotlight on her. With the urging of friends (present self avidly included!), family and even my late husband...she finally put pen to paper and created Pia: My Three Little Lands.
I have had the pleasure of being seated at Pia’s dining table numerous times so know well what her cooking tastes like - delicious and slightly sinful. While Pia cooks with free abandon, liberally using butter and cream and I do not, we share the common belief that the freshest, most local and virtuous ingredients create the most sumptuous foods.
I share with you now, Pia’s thoughts on cooking, wine and chocolate.
TOSCA: In your book title you refer to “the three little lands.” Can you enlighten us on this reference?
PIA: The three little lands are Saarland, Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine. Saarland being a province of Germany. The cooking style is a mix of hardy German dishes and French food.
TOSCA: What was your motivation for writing this book?
PIA: My children wanted me to write all their favourite recipes down and even some of my friends asked. I stayed motivated, because I knew why I was doing it. While I owned my restaurant, the book was on the back burner, literally, because I did not want to think about food after being in a kitchen all day. One person, and I just remembered last week, who kept me motivated, even though he is gone now, was Bob Kennedy. He always said to me, while eating a cookie at my restaurant, “Do it girl! You must do it.” Here's to you Bob, I did it.
TOSCA: Tell me where you get your inspiration for cooking - in other words, why you will make a certain dish for dinner today or tomorrow?
PIA: It depends. Weather is a big thing for me. If it is summer and hot, I might opt for a light fish or salad. Right now, with snow on the ground and colder temperatures, I go for stews and soups. But sometimes, if I have no time to go grocery shopping, I open the fridge and the pantry and some amazing things come out of that.
TOSCA: What is the single most important factor in your cooking today. Ingredients? Local food? Nostalgia? Fat? Fresh? Exotic?
PIA: Fresh and local are important to me however, I love olive oil and it is difficult to get local, haha. Exotic, not so much. I like to cook with things that I easily can get my hands on…if I have to scour markets and markets for an ingredient, I lose interest very fast. The simplest of foods can taste the most delicious.
TOSCA: Tell me about your favourite recipe in the book and why. You can choose one savoury and one sweet.
PIA: My favourite recipe is the Carb bomb called Mehlspaetzle. I remember as a child coming home from school and my mom answered my daily question: "What's for dinner?" with "Mehlspaetzle", I was a happy camper. The school day could have been really miserable, but this dish cured everything. Rich, creamy, heavy…all I could do after having it, was walk my dog. Riding a horse on the other hand, not possible anymore.
Mousse au Chocolat is my favourite dessert. It is easy, rich and chocolatey and who does not like chocolate? That dish is super easy to make.
TOSCA: Many cooks today fear the kitchen. You have a natural confidence there. How can we help people overcome fear and become more comfortable in the kitchen?
PIA: A lot of people fear the kitchen because I think a lot of cookbooks are very complicated or recipes in magazines are very complicated, for that matter. I remember reading a recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine and thought to myself, “Wow! This is crazy. I can make this dish in half the time, with less ingredients and it will still be delicious.” There is no need to complicate a recipe. If you have good ingredients, you cannot screw things up. Don't worry if you do not have one or the other ingredient. If the recipe says basil and all you have is parsley, well, use parsley. If it calls for milk, but all you have is cream, use cream or vice versa….cooking is not as difficult as it seems.
TOSCA: What are your next steps after this book? Is there another in the works?
PIA: Another book is ready, it needs editing and photographing, but I first have to concentrate on getting this book out. I also want to help people to get more confident in the kitchen by giving cooking classes and maybe even speak at kitchen stores.
TOSCA: You have wine pairing as part of the book’s service to the reader. Why was this important to you and who is the Wine Fairy?
PIA: We are a family, who likes a good glass of wine with their dinner (or a beer). And I find that there are too many rules on what wine to drink with what dish. We take it easy, we drink the wine we like. But to help people with that decision, the Wine Fairy had a job and it was to write his little notes. The Wine Fairy is my husband and the name was created by one of your children, Tosca, at a dinner party we had at our house where the wine kept coming and the glasses were never empty.
TOSCA: You offer, as part of your service, food styling and photography with your partner, Kelsey-Lynn Corradetti. Tell us about your experience creating the food, photos and art as a team and why you do this?
PIA: Kelsey-Lynn and I did the photos for my cookbook and we could not believe how easy and fun it was. I cooked, put the food on a plate, we styled it together and 5 minutes later I hear Kelsey say: " I can't believe this! I am ready with this one." We truly believe, that if the food looks good on a plate, it will make a nice photo. My belief is that over styled food is intimidating for the person who bought the book and scary too, because they know, that they never will get it to look like in the book. So we have a simple but organic approach, that is inviting for the individual. We also liked that we ate all the food afterwards. Kelsey is also so incredibly talented with the camera and everything else, that goes into making a book beautiful. So we decided to turn this talent and passion into a business, because we can offer one-stop shopping. And we will be well nourished, while doing it.
TOSCA: Add any comments you feel significant.
PIA: On another note. I am a very positive person. My glass is always half full. But I never forget where I am coming from and I cherish people who are good. I do not care what walk of life they are coming from. And I never forget a friend. Like you, my sweet Tosca. Thank you, Thank you.
The book makes a great Christmas gift and is available for purchase on Pia’s website!