Christa DeMercurio Interview, Part 1
Podcasts

❤️of the Home, Part 1

How a Chef’s wife decided to pursue scary pro-level cooking

Taking on a “new years resolution” can lead you to do things you never expected, like run a commercial kitchen and to start writing a food blog.

🎙️I had the wonderful privilege of going live with Devanne White @_design_coach.

Take a peek inside our conversation where we talk about overcoming cooking intimidation and anxiety.

This is a little bit getting to know me and a little bit of what it’s been like to start mastering chef level cooking in my home kitchen.

Culinarily Yours,

👩‍🍳Christa DeMercurio (MrsChef)

Key Takeaway

In order to build kitchen confidence, it’s a recurring exercise, a muscle that needs to be worked out.

Quotes to Remember

Mis en Place is Key: “What is it that you have to have to make this happen? All your pots, all your pans, all your utensils, whether you need electricity, whether you need fire, what ingredients you need, you try and have that all lined out first before you even start cooking.”

Overcoming Cooking Anxiety: “We spend so much time planning for the inevitable that never comes. But, you know, if you’re confident, you don’t have to sit there and spend that time worrying.”

Overcoming Cooking Intimidation: “I will lay my ego aside. I will put my feminine emotions aside, and I want to learn to cook commercially like a chef.”

Watch the Interview on YouTube

SHOW NOTES

Devanne:
All right, Christa, welcome.

Christa:
Hello, Devanne. How are you?

Devanne:
I’m doing so good.

Devanne:
I’m really excited to talk about kitchens with you. I labeled our instagram live the heart of the home because kitchens truly are the heart of the home.

Christa:
Because in our house, that we bought, we are literally sitting in the center of our house. Our entire house is built around it. It is the center of our home.

Devanne:
Yeah.

Devanne:
That is so beautiful. And that’s a really unique situation. It doesn’t often happen like that, but I love how poetic it is for you and what you do, which I was just hoping you’d share with my followers what exactly you do, how you got started with it, and kind of just, you know, your hopes and dreams for your talent and your gifting and the way that you get to share with the world.

Christa:
Wonderful.

Christa:
Yeah.

Christa:
My name is Christa DeMercurio. Some people may know my last name more than they know me because my husband is chef Cal Demerchirio. In the area that you and I live, it’s been very famous, had lots of restaurants, and we are going on a new venture. We’ve had restaurants, we’ve been in corporate restaurants, we’ve been in healthcare, etcetera. But it’s time to step into the online space and start doing online cooking and teaching and community events, things like that.

Devanne:
That’s so cool.

Devanne:
Tell me how, what did you do before, and how are you you did to online?

Christa:
So for me, I have kind of a variety of a background in marketing, and my husband and I have owned restaurants. We’ve been married almost, well, let’s see, 18 years. So let’s round up to 20 years. So I do a lot of the marketing, the Facebook, the emails, the website, the decor of the restaurant, things like that. And he was always in the background or say, back of the house. Not the background. I’m more of the background designing, you know, the food that goes out, training the people that serve the people that cook. So together, we are trying to bring both our talents of communicating and teaching together.

Christa:
A quick backstory. So I’ve always been a home cook and he’s always been a chef. So back in 2018.

Christa:
Now, just before 2018 started, I think it was like December 31, I was going to do a New Year’s resolution. I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, but I wanted to take something on that I was kind of passionate about. I’ve always loved cooking, but I’ve always been intimidated by it just a little bit. Being married to a gold medal award winning chef okay. So I came up, I went up to him, and I said, she, should you choose to accept, I will lay my ego aside. I will put my feminine emotions aside, and I want to learn to cook commercially like a chef. I want to see how it’s different, because we had taken over my son’s school lunch program, and he was. I was kind of shadowing him, and he was showing me, you know, how to start the program, how to get it going, how to feed 35, 40 kids at at time.

Christa:
But I noticed he worked different, he talked different, he moved different. The way he thought about food and putting it out was so different than my mind thought as a housewife home cook. It was so different, I became fascinated by it. So that was started in September. So by December, I’m like, okay, I want to. I want to learn more. And so he said, okay, great. All right, I’ll do that.

Christa:
If you start blogging about it.

Christa:
I don’t want to blog about it.

Christa:
But I am a writer, so I’m like, okay, we had an old blog that we had had for previous restaurants that was sitting there dead. It was an old blogger account. So I dusted it off, and I started posting every day. Every time he taught me something, I would put my spin on it, my interpretation on it. How does a chef’s wife interpret this into a homestead setting? And, you know, through him teaching me. This has now been, what, about six year venture. I took over the lunch program on my own. I ran it.

Christa:
I did everything from the scheduling, the shopping, the cooking, the menu writing, the serving, the dishwashing, every single position you could possibly have a food service program, I took on, and he went on to a different job. And so I got my confidence doing that. And now I’m like, you know, what if I was able to learn as a housewife and a school mom, a room mom, to do this, and we were able to literally triple the program, and because the kids enjoyed it, and I enjoyed them. And so now I want to. Now that my son has gone off to high school, I stepped away from that role. I’m not in the actual commercial kitchen right now, and my husband is not right now. So we want to change and go into the online space and see how we can help others take the restaurant level knowledge and translate it into home cooking to make it easier, make it faster, make it cheaper, because going. Eating out now is just, it’s not viable.

Christa:
It’s just too much. We can’t afford to eat out. So we go to the holiday market down the street and go, okay, what’s in the bin? And what can we throw together tonight?

Devanne:
Yeah.

Devanne:
Oh, my gosh. I love that.

Devanne:
So tell me, how has learning, like, the rules of commercial cooking changed the way that you cook in your home?

Christa:
The biggest thing is confidence that I know what to do. So growing up, I could cook. I can follow any recipe to the tea. I can read. Okay, that’s not a problem. But if there was any ingredient I didn’t have on hand, if I didn’t have exact amount, I couldn’t pivot, I couldn’t adjust, I couldn’t adapt, and I would literally shut down my entire meal because of maybe even one or two ingredients. I just didn’t understand how ingredients worked with one another.

Devanne:
And now it’s like, pause what you’re doing and run to the grocery store and come back and finish.

Christa:
Yeah.

Christa:
And sometimes we still do just because it is a major, like, I can’t believe anything you’re doing. A cater out or cooking. There is usually one thing you do forget, but that’s what your first coaching is, is mise en place. What is it that you have to have to make this happen? All your pots, all your pans, all your utensils, whether you need electricity, whether you need fire, what ingredients you need, you try and have that all lined out first before you even start cooking. Because when you start cooking, start to grab for something that’s not there. Okay, now what?

Devanne:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Wow.

Devanne:
I love that so much. I love that so much. So you’re taking it online. Are you, like, individually, one on one, teaching people how to do this, or do you have group programs?

Christa:
That’s what we’re trying to develop right now. We are in those developing stages. Some of it will be one on one. Some of it will be groups. Some of it will be live. Some of it will be pre recorded. And that’s where we’re at right now, is finding out what do people want to learn?

Christa:
What do they want to know?

Christa:
We know a lot. We can probably give you any information you want, but if it’s not helpful to you, then we’re spinning our wheels. So we want to find out. We talked and had breakfast a few weeks ago. You said you couldn’t make pizza from scratch. Like, well, I can make pizza from scratch. I easily show you how to do that. So what, you know, do people want? They want, you know, fast, easy, economical, basic skills, more advanced skills.

Christa:
You know, some people probably don’t even really know how to boil water.

Christa:
Do people know that you should put lid on a pot to make it boil, because if they’re not boiling, it’s probably because the heat is escaping. There’s just. There’s little ticks.

Christa:
Trips.

Christa:
What is that? So I’m trying to say, tips and tricks.

Devanne:
Yeah.

Christa:
Make things happen quicker and more consistent.

Devanne:
Oh, man. That is so, so true. I think I loved what you said at the start that you want to help people feel more confident in the kitchen, because I I think that’s something that I guess I should speak for myself. Like, I’ve always wanted to be more confident and more competent as a cook, and I even still, when I have guests come over, I’m so nervous. Like, are they gonna like what I cooked?

Devanne:
Did I. Did I.

Devanne:
Like, if I overcooked the noodles, I’m, like, so embarrassed. I’m just apologizing. I’m so sorry the noodles are over. Like, are they gonna come back?

Devanne:
You know? Like, I think that managing, and maybe.

Devanne:
That’S unique to me, but I think that there’s some, like, management of anxiety around food.

Christa:
Yeah.

Christa:
You can even do a dinner party at your house and do a live cooking class because you’re local, so you never know.

Christa:
The sky’s the limit at this point.

Devanne:
Let’s do it. We could totally do a live cooking class in my home, because, yeah, I just think confidence is key, and I think that if you have that gift.

Devanne:
To share, like, oh, my gosh, there’s.

Devanne:
So many people who are ready to.

Devanne:
Receive that and to grow in confidence.

Christa:
And when you can get confident, you don’t sit around and worry. We spend so much time planning for the inevitable that never comes. But, you know, if you’re confident, you don’t have to sit there and spend that time worrying. So, you know, like, my first time alone in the commercial kitchen, he had to take our son off on a field trip, and I was left making a really difficult lunch. It was, you know, it was spaghetti. Hot spaghetti, hot sauce, hot garlic bread, salad from scratch. There was something else, but there was a lot of components. I was alone.

Christa:
I had no servers, no help, nothing. It was just me alone, serving about 40 kids, and they all show up at the window to get their lunch. It’s like, it’s got to be ready. And I did it. I had been training with him for a year and a half, two years. So I was kind of anxious. But when he left and I did it, I went, oh, my goodness. I just served an entire lunch to a bunch of kids jumping up and down with a lot of opinions, they are very opinionated.

Christa:
And I did it. And, you know, the kitchen was a mess. There was pots and pans everywhere. But I got through the lunch service, and because I did that now, you know, a couple of years later, I can do 75 to 90 kids by myself.

Devanne:
Wow. Because that’s.

Christa:
I grew, and I learned, and you learn how to pinch it and grab things. And when you run out of this or this pot falls over on the floor and you got cheese sauce all over your shoes, that happened. True story. What do you do?

Devanne:
Oh, yeah.

Christa:
You know, I showed up one day, and it was hamburgers, and I totally forgot to grab the hamburgers out of the freezer from the storage, and I had to go to the store and run and buy, you know, 100 hamburgers, like, okay, get the ovens on.

Christa:
So.

Christa:
But you. You challenge yourself. It’s just like working out, because I know you work out and stuff like that. You know, you rise to the strength that you need. You know, you can’t do it at first, but you keep working out. You keep working out, you keep getting stronger, and all of a sudden, you can do that thing that you set out to do with lots of practice. And then my next big hurdle was during COVID was thanksgiving. I have never done thanksgiving alone.

Christa:
Usually it’s with family. You’re taking something to the family’s house, or if it was our house. My husband was home. He was chef, and he would take over and run everything and scurry around the kitchen, and I would just kind of do my thing. But he was working. There was no family event to go to. We just had a very small gathering in our home. And I did the turkey myself.

Christa:
I did the stuffing myself. I did the potatoes myself. I did the pie myself, because I learned how to line things out and do things ahead of time that could be done ahead of time. And I was so proud of myself because the first time, by myself, I had done something, and everybody enjoyed it. So you just. You rise up to when you challenge yourself and you get stronger, you do more.

Devanne:
I love that so much.

Devanne:
I think the gym is analogy, because.

Devanne:
One day you’re lifting 15 pounds, they feel heavy, and then the next day, go to 20 pounds, and they feel the same as the 15 pounds felt last week. And it’s just.

Devanne:
It sneaks up on you, and I.

Devanne:
Love that so much. I think that we’re all. We have more strength, and we’re capable of more than we. Than we give ourselves credit for, I think, a lot of the time.

Christa:
Absolutely. And you know, now I can, you know, he says, hey, what’s for dinner? And I went, I don’t know. Let me go open the fridge and look. Yeah, we get crazy. I’m a scout master and we’re my son’s troop and just, you know, high school and there’s different things that you’re involved in and someday. I don’t meal plan every single day. I would love to say that. I do, but there’s life.

Christa:
And, you know, even though I had a fantastic meal planned, everything just hit the fan that day. And there’s absolutely no way. I mean, I think I would rather just go to in n out burger and grab something from there. Or we just do something. We do ramen. We actually do ramen, but we do an elevated ramen. We add charts and pork to it and green onions and, you know, different, you know, lemongrass and ginger. So taking it to the next level just with stuff we have on hand, and that’s, to me, that’s fun, but it’s fast and it’s cheap.

Devanne:
Yeah. Right.

Devanne:
I know. I was going to ask you, how do you keep your grocery bill down? Because I. I do feel like the cost of groceries is so high right now that it’s a little bit more affordable to go to in n out burger than to bake. Bake something home good, you know, home cooked in your.

Christa:
You know, it’s hard. We go to Winco. I shop at Winco all the time. Yeah, we run the holiday market when we absolutely have to because they’re the closest to us that they are not inexpensive. But holiday market does have kind of a day old, two day old section like in their meets, and they’re still fantastic.

Devanne:
I didn’t know that.

Christa:
Yeah. So they’ll discount their meats because it’s past the traditional sell by date or, you know, it’s. The further it gets to that date to where they can still leave on the shelf that nobody really wants to buy it.

Christa:
We’ll buy it because we know it’s.

Christa:
Still good and we know how to season it.

Christa:
We know how to cook it. So we look for those opportunities. He’s good at grocery outlet. I’m great at Winco. Costco I stay away from because it’s really not that economical overall. If you have a bunch of extra stuff laying around that you don’t need, there are certain things that can be shelf stable, can be frozen that will, you know, bulk by, portion it out, package it, wrap it, put in freezer paper, label it. So I like, to keep those things on hand, like hamburger. Their hamburger is fantastic.

Christa:
At Costco, it is some of the best lean hamburger. And so I’ll get the seven pound pack, break it into one pound tubs, wrap it, paper label it, freeze it, because it will freeze well. And then I’ve got my sauce all made ahead of time. I’ve got it all portioned out into six different portions. So all I gotta do is grab a sauce from the freezer, grab a taco meat from the freezer, ground beef, and we can have tacos within 15 minutes.

Devanne:
Wow, that’s awesome.

Devanne:
That’s a really great hack. I love that idea.

Christa:
One of my favorites.