This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Chef Caroline Fey, a Westport-based kitchen coach who offers one-on-one, customized cooking lessons to clients right in their home. “The lessons can be anything from 30-minute family meals, to healthy lunches, to baking elaborate cakes. I am also offering private group classes—for example a cooking class for a group of moms who want to cook together and drink wine. Or even a kids birthday party! I’m happy to teach anyone,” says Caroline, who is also offering kitchen organization. “We will discuss what tools and appliances you have and use, what you don’t use that needs to be donated or discarded, and what we might bring into the kitchen that will help you become a better cook, like new tools, ingredients, or an appliance. The main areas that we will concentrate on are the cooking zones and pantry,” explains Caroline. Here is a bit more about this mom of two, and her business.
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I live in Westport with my husband Matt, who is an airline pilot, and my two little boys. Sebastian is 4 years old and Jackson is 2 years old. We recently moved to Westport from Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco. I’m originally from Westchester and have been working in the culinary industry since I was 16 years old. My first job was making pasta and bread for a local Italian restaurant and I loved it. After college I went to the French Culinary Institute in NYC and worked for several restaurants and catering companies in New York before moving to California to learn more about wine.
What lead you to start teaching cooking lessons?
While living in San Francisco I started a business called The City Kitchen, where I taught corporate team building cooking classes and public cooking classes, and I was a culinary consultant for some of the biggest food/tech companies in the Bay Area, like Impossible Foods.
In 2019 I started a meal delivery business called My Marin Kitchen, where we made and delivered hundreds of healthy meals each week all over Marin County. After moving to Westport, I realized that I really wanted to be able to work with people individually to help coach them to become better cooks and to give them more confidence in the kitchen. I’m also really looking forward to teaching group classes again, because cooking together can be so much fun.
What areas do you service, and how can people find out more?
I am currently working in Fairfield County, but I would be happy to travel further if a client is interested. People can find out more about my services by going to https://www.carolinefey.com/kitchen-coaching-and-organization. You can purchase cooking lessons and/or kitchen organization directly thorough my site and then reach out to me to book the dates. If you are interested in a group class please get in touch via email so that we can discuss the details.
What can a mom expect when she hires you for the first time?
Once I’ve been hired for a cooking lesson, I will set up a 15 to 30 minute phone call to talk to the client about their needs, what they are interested in learning, and how I can help them. We will also discuss which foods they like, or don’t like, plus any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Then I will compile a list of recipe ideas that I will send to them. They can choose the recipes that sound most appealing, and then we will book a date or dates for their lesson. If I’m hired to do kitchen organization I will book an initial 20-30 minute visit to see the space and what we need to work on, and then I will book a follow up visit where I will come and completely clean and reorganize their kitchen and pantry.
What are your favorite tips for moms who don’t have time to cook – or maybe don’t feel comfortable in the kitchen?
For moms who don’t have time to cook or don’t feel really comfortable int the kitchen, take any shortcuts that you can. Buy pre-chopped or frozen vegetables. Use good, pre-made sauces. Anything that will help you make a healthy meal in a short amount of time. Also, there are a few kitchen tools that will 100% make your life easier, like a slow cooker or Instapot, an immersion blender, a microplane, a good vegetable peeler, a metal fish spatula, and a few pairs of tongs.
For anyone who is trying to get out of a cooking rut, I recommend going to a book store and flipping through cookbooks or cooking magazines to find new dishes that you might want to try. You don’t have to buy any of the books, but it’s a great way to find out about new recipes. Then you can go home and research similar dishes on line. I’ve also found that going to a specialty foods store can be inspiring because I want to try new recipes with the ingredients.
Any tips for getting picky eaters to try something new?
If one of my kids doesn’t want to eat something, I try to make a game out of it to see if I can get them to try it. And I don’t push anything. It can take several tries before a kid is willing to try something. I also use bribery, to be honest! My kids love frozen blueberries, so I’ll get them to take one bite in return for a small bowl of frozen blueberries.
What are your tips for cooking with kids (and not go crazy from the mess, ha!)?
I try to be really organized before I ask them to help me, so that things don’t get too crazy. I’ll collect all of the ingredients and will measure some things out to minimize mess. And I’ll put the ingredients in a specific order so it’s really easy to go from one step to the next. At the end of the day, there is always a mess and you just have to let it go!
What is your go-to weeknight meal when you only have 30 minutes to get food on the table?
I have a few: chicken tinga tacos with easy black beans and rice, teriyaki glazed salmon with broccoli & shiitake mushrooms, smoky sheet pan chicken with sweet potatoes, cauliflower & crispy chickpeas, and more. But my favorite super quick meal is tomato & white bean soup. Sometimes I add pasta, sausage or greens like spinach or kale, but it’s great without those things too. I serve it with a good baguette, store bought pesto, chili flakes and parmesan on the side, and everyone can top it however they like. It only takes 10 minutes of prep, it’s ready in 30 minutes, and it’s made with pantry staples and simple fridge items. Also, if you serve it with pasta and you have a really picky eater (like my 4 year old), they can just eat the pasta so no need to make a different meal. See the recipe below!
Tomato & White Bean Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 carrots, cut into rounds or half moons if large 6 celery stalks, diced
1 24oz jar good marinara sauce – I like Rao’s
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 15oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
Pesto, red chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, basil leaves or microgreens
Pasta – I recommend ditalini or cavatelli
3⁄4 lb sausage – pre-cooked pork or chicken, cut into coins 5 oz container baby spinach or baby kale
- In a large soup pot, add the olive oil, diced onions and garlic and turn the heat to high.
- Begin sautéing the onions and garlic while you chop the rest of the vegetables to help the soup cook as quickly as possible. Add the cut carrots and diced celery and cook for another minute or two. Add the marinara sauce and broth and cover the pot with a lid.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer with the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the white beans, salt and pepper and cook for one minute. If using cooked sausage, spinach or kale add it now and stir until the greens are wilted and the sausage is hot, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Season the soup with more salt if needed. Serve with pesto, good olive oil, parmesan and chili flakes on the side.
*If you are planning on serving the soup with pasta, put a pot of water on and cook the pasta while you’re making the soup. It is best to keep the pasta and soup separate so that the pasta doesn’t become mushy and absorb too much of the broth. Spoon some pasta into each bowl and ladle the soup over it. Store any leftover pasta separately and rewarm together as needed.
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