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Interview With Chef Traci Des Jardins

Traci Des Jardins on Being a More Savvy Home Cook

I had the chance to speak with one of San Francisco's most prominent female chefs, Traci Des Jardins. You may be familiar with her, thanks to an appearance on the Food Network's Next Iron Chef competition. Now Des Jardins is happy to be out of the spotlight, "I don't like being that recognizable," and back in the kitchen. Her elegant eatery, Jardiniere, recently launched a Monday night themed price-fixe dinner and she's working on a signature restaurant at Tahoe's NorthStar resort, which will be mountainesque with a casual feel (think wood tables), great service, and sophisticated food.

Des Jardins believes the key to restaurant success during a tough economy is to "control costs and be really financially savvy." We talked about how this concept can translate to the everyday kitchen. To find out what she had to say and check out her advice for being a better home cook,


According to Des Jardins, being a clever cook is not about having the latest gadgets. It's about properly stocking your kitchen with the components to make a meal. Items she recommends having on hand are salt, olive oil, capers, anchovies, and tomato sauce. Here are her tips for being a more practical home chef:

  • Go to smaller farmers markets and speak with the farmers. You don't always have to purchase organic to get fruit and vegetables that are pesticide free.
  • Go to the farmers market when it's closing down. You'll see more deals that way. None of the farmers want to carry their produce home with them, so they may be willing to bargain or cut costs.
  • Select lesser cuts of meat and consume less meat. In general, vegetarian cooking is cheaper.
  • Cook your kids' favorite foods in batches and freeze them.
  • Skip the boxed macaroni and cheese and Stove Top stuffing and stock your pantry instead, with the fixings for burritos (tortillas, canned beans, rice) and pasta.
  • Fill your freezer with ingredients that can be used to make quick meals like frozen peas and fresh bread.
  • If you are going to splurge on one cooking item, make it olive oil. Since it's the foundation of so many dishes, purchase a high-quality oil that will enhance and enrich the overall flavor of the dish.

What do you think of Des Jardins's tips?


Join The Conversation
tuscanstellina tuscanstellina 8 years
I agree with the "smaller" farmer's market comment. That has always worked out much better for me to get to know the local farmers as they will remember you and sometimes set aside a good pick of their goods for you if they see you on a regular basis. Definitely worth the effort to get to know them.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
She's so right about the olive oil. I really have to stop bargain shopping for it because it ends up tasting just like regular vegetable oil.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i never thought about that - going when the market is closing but it makes a lot of sense. :) granted you might not get the BEST produce but it's still going to be good deals!
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I love those tips! I like the tip about keeping the fixings for simple, cheap food on hand so you don't have to use processed food. I usually keep pasta and a jar of marinara sauce on hand for emergency dinners and I always keep eggs in the fridge because they're a good, cheap source of protein that we can make instead of meat.
tokissthecook tokissthecook 8 years
I'm on board with all of the above- great olive oil, end of day local market deals, freezing batches and I also sub mushrooms in for meat when I can. Cheaper and fewer calories ( I also write for the Mushroom Channel, so I might be biased there).
nancita nancita 8 years
I don't have kids, but that is a great tip. Also, great point about the olive oil! I'd say the same for vinegar.
Food Food 8 years
I love the one about going to farmers markets as they are closing down. She's right — vendors always start dropping their prices.
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