Meet and Eat: Jacqueline Beach, Another Risotto Challenge Champ

"I've been a serious eater my whole life, from the days of slugging back Handi-Snacks and Klondike bars as a kid..."

20090528-meeteatjackie.jpgYesterday we told you about Noah Berland, the judge's pick for first place in last weekend's Risotto Challenge. But what do the judges really know (seriously, Zach Brooks and I were risotto dopes, though fellow judge Mark Bello, a good Italian boy, educated us). The people's choice vote went to Jacqueline Beach and her Oh So Slow Roasted Risotto. She got her exercise walking up to the stage—she also won third place from judges. The savory blend of goat cheese, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes in a stock of slow-roasted mirepoix and fennel, garnished with a parmesan chip, all started with a little help from Serious Eaters.

Name: Jacqueline Beach
Location: Hoboken, New Jersey
Occupation: Senior production editor of cookbooks, Wiley Publishing
URL: devourthis.typepad.com

How many Brooklyn cook-offs have you entered? (Which ones, and how did you place?) Only one: the Bacon Takedown, and I didn’t place. Although I was told by judges that my dish (Korean bacon lettuce wraps) was in their top five.

How much did you spend on risotto supplies? I think close to $150. (But I overbought.)

Besides the prize opportunity, why do you enter them? Cook-offs are new to me—I love the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the people. It’s a thrill when people taste your food and like it, especially enough to vote for it!

What are some tips you can give future contestants? Think through the logistics of toting your food to the venue. It's an exercise in creativity. Also, try your recipe at least a few days before the event to work out any kinks. Above all, don’t take it too seriously and just have a rockin’ time. Try everyone’s dishes.

What food would your ideal food-off involve? Empanadas or tacos.

Guilty pleasures? French fries dipped in mayo, packaged Korean ramen noodles with an egg mixed in.

Describe your perfect meal. Maryland blue crabs fresh off the boat, steamed at home in vinegar and beer, doused with Old Bay and rock salt. Piles of piping hot crabs on a newspaper-covered table, surrounded by friends and bottles upon bottles of good beer.

What food won't you eat? I like to think I’ll try anything once. Although testicles and eyeballs wouldn’t appeal on a plate.

What would you like to try but haven't yet? Dungeness crabs straight from the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Favorite food person? This is tough; there are so many. I’m a writer so I love food writers like Ruth Reichl, Calvin Trillin, MFK Fisher, Jennifer 8. Lee, etc. Also adore Julia Child’s story (can’t wait for Julie & Julia the movie!) [Editor's note: Keep your eyes peeled for the back of Ed's head in one scene] and Alice Waters. I know Alice has been getting slammed lately, but I think what she’s done for the food movement has been imperative. I also admire Nina Planck’s food tenets.

When did you first realize you were a serious eater? I've been a serious eater my whole life, from the days of slugging back Handi-Snacks and Klondike bars as a kid, alongside delicious Korean meals my mom and her friends prepared. I first started my cooking/food obsession about five years ago.

Favorite food sites or blogs (besides Serious Eats, of course)? I do love Serious Eats, even asked how to fix my risotto on the Talk page! It’s entertaining to read through the questions and responses. I’m a huge fan of food blogs; I have over 200 bookmarked—some of my favorites include Orangette, Gluten-Free Girl, Amateur Gourmet, Tea & Cookies, Matt Bites, David Lebovitz

Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? I think it’s me. Everyone calls me for recs.

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