Why do you enjoy working with Pacific Gourmet?:
In 1983, I was in new territory setting out to take up the responsibility of authoring my menu in a Berkeley restaurant and new to sourcing in the Bay Area. I found my tribe (John and Martine, among them) in this food community. Along their side, I began to cultivate my life’s work. The collaboration with Pacific Gourmet has been important in many subtle and nuanced ways. I am grateful to have found myself among the Northern California company of individuals who made up the burgeoning culture of cuisine to which we collectively continue to contribute to today. The Pacific Gourmet catalogue shows their commitment to a sophisticated global pantry, which continues to inspire and reflect the culinary scene in the Bay Area.
Do you have a recipe to share with the PG community?
6 oz Mandelin European almond paste, room temp
1 ⅓ cup sugar
10 oz butter, room temp.
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ⅛ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. Salt
– Robocoup the almond paste & sugar until a very fine texture (no almond paste chunks)
– Cream butter & almond sugar together on low- to a smooth paste (no butter chunks) but do not add any air to it (mix for less than 2 mins). Scrape bowl.
– Combine eggs with the vanilla. Add one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture. Scrape bowl well before adding last two eggs.
– Sift dry ingredients together. Fold in by hand in 3 additions. Its okay if batter looks broken.
– Bake at 315 degrees for 20 mins. Then rotate and bake for an additional 20 mins
Born in Budapest Hungary, Amaryll defected with her parents and grandmother under life and death circumstances. They left their home in the Buda Castle, in frigid January of 1956 and walked on foot, under cover of night for 6 nights, leaving all possessions and their home behind. At the border, international Red Cross aid eventually found placement for them on a freighter destined for NY harbor. This capsule in history of her refugee status, illustrates why food was so central to her childhood. Her grandmother was a renowned chef in Hungary who educated Amaryll in ethics, culinary culture and the powers of love and humanity. Her parents found work in multiple factory jobs and she seldom saw them, except on Sundays around the dinner table. She grew up speaking exclusively Hungarian at home and New York street slang outside. She was only allowed to eat the food her grandmother prepared, whether at home or at school. She always packed Amaryll’s food with strict instructions. It was exotic looking food to others, but it was her culture, and it represented her love and her expert craft. This served to tune Amaryll’s culinary senses and sensibilities. Her American orientation was an immersion in the varied cultures of those who shared their tenement stoop in Spanish Harlem. Her grandmother’s emphasis on the best quality ingredients and sourcing them, (witnessing how she cultivated purveyors in Manhattan and in turn how they held the best selection of fish or set aside the most special and moist vanilla beans) gave Amaryll an understanding of the importance of quality ingredients. Long after their port of entry experience, they moved from the tenements (along their way up the American ladder of possibility). She watched as her grandmother cultivated a garden in their first backyard in an all American neighborhood in New Jersey. This everyday focus on food quality, culture and cooking, as an act of political and cultural identity became Amaryll’s life work. Much later, she found herself studying science through grad school and paying her way with various cooking jobs. Just to add to the humor and unlikely possibility of her being a cook (remember, she was strictly forbidden to eat any food except her Hungarian grandmother’s beautiful cuisine), she still had not tasted American, or any other cuisine except for Hungarian, Austrian, Turkish meld. Yet she had all of the innate and intuitive ability to understand pretty sophisticated flavors, textures and spices. She succeed with these first restaurant jobs, in terms of cultivating a culinary interest, developing skills and going on to read, research and eventually mentoring back in Europe. All of the staging lessons corresponded in many ways with what she had experienced growing up, but now was more invested and began to look for a place of her own within the professional culinary world. Back in Europe, she was influenced by Alain Passard, Michel Brasand and others. She exposed herself to so many disciplined artists in Europe and in the US.
When she settled in CA in 1983, she worked as a Chef in many restaurants, (Omnivore, Mudds, Chez Panisse, Square One, Santa Fe Bar and Grill, Greens, Sol Y Luna, Stars and Boulettes), as well as helping friends in their restaurant kitchens.
Amaryll worked with Green Gulch, Canard, Mudds, Star Route and many backyard growers of clean ethnic produce. She helped the Berkeley Bowl Market develop an understanding and interest in purveying organic food. It was during these first years cooking in the Bay Area that she met John at Pacific Gourmet, the trusted vendor of specialty ingredients, and she has consistently worked with Pacific Gourmet since the early 1980’s.