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Women in the Know

A chef instructor and a food consultant bring their day jobs home to create their own efficient, well-stocked kitchens

Pat Huller

Over the course of her career, Pat Huller has trained and inspired thousands of eager individuals who share a common dream. As chef instructor for the Midwest Culinary Institute (MCI) at Cincinnati State, one of Huller’s favorite job perks is sharing the passion students bring to the prep table. She enjoys the scientific aspect of the nutritional and healthy cooking course she teaches, and yes, she also loves the fact that unlike most of those she is teaching, she doesn’t need to worry about working weekends, nights or holidays.

“Usually, it’s a hard knock life for the first ten years in this business,” Huller says. “I’m lucky to have time off to spend with my family.”

Huller has been teaching others how to cook and handle food since she graduated with a degree in Home Economics from the University of Kentucky in 1973. For the past 21 years, she’s been on staff at MCI and has enjoyed watching that culinary program grow by leaps and bounds from about 100 students enrolled when she began to over 600 today.

“It used to be we all had to teach everything,” Huller says. “Now we all have been able to specialize. My colleagues are a diverse group. I enjoy all the positive interaction we have.”

Huller lives with her husband Tom in a striking Villa Hills hillside home that offers a sweeping Ohio River view from every room in the house. We asked her to share some of the wisdom she has collected during her years of working in the kitchen and teaching others about food.

What do you love about your own kitchen?

Tom and I lived in a house for 18 years without an available gas line. I was thrilled when we bought this house and gas was an option. When we remodeled the kitchen in 2003, I installed a 5-burner gas stovetop.

Also, the double oven is handy when cooking for a crowd. When I’m putting on a party—we have 60 for Christmas Eve—it’s great to have the two temperature options and the warmer drawer below.

What’s your favorite tool?

I love my Cuisinart mini chopper. I use it to make spice blends, vinaigrettes, cold sauces, and grind up Wasabi beans to a flour to coat fish. (See recipe at housetrends.com.)

What would you change if you could in your kitchen?

It was a trade-off having the cooktop on the island, it would have been nice to have all that prep space. But I don’t like having my back to the room when I cook.

It would be nice if it were a bit larger. We considered expanding the room during the remodel, but didn’t want to destroy the turret ceiling and built-ins in the adjacent breakfast area. But it works—everything is so easy to reach. When I work in there I can do things efficiently and easily, but it’s not a kitchen where you can have five people working.

What do you cook for last-minute company?

I usually pull together some sort of stir fry. I look around and see what I have before I decide whether it will be a fish base, chicken base or vegetarian.

What do you cook for family?

Tom always cooks goetta, even in the summer. It’s something the grandkids will always eat. He uses his grandmother’s recipe. I usually throw together some pasta with homemade sauces. Every Sunday we host dinner for my son, two daughters and their spouses, my five grandkids who range from six months to five years, and Tom’s mother.

What ingredients are always on hand in your pantry?

• I have all kinds of canned tomatoes.
• Everything from the garlic/shallot/onions family.
• Good chicken or vegetable stock. I really like Trader Joe’s low sodium version.
• A good assortment of grains. Couscous. Whole grain pasta—penne, angel hair. Basmati and jasmine rice.
• I always buy whatever vegetables are in season.
• Year round, if I can, I buy fresh berries. I make smoothies a lot.

What items justify splurging?

I like to serve Chilean sea bass, but it’s pricey at $22-$23 per pound.

What’s a common misconception regarding food preparation?

Sometimes television programs make people think it’s a quick learning process. Learning to cook well and properly takes a lot of time and effort.

Click here for Pat's recipe for Wasabi Encrusted Sea Bass

Editor’s note: 
For more information on the Midwest Culinary Institute, visit midwestculinaryinstitute.net.


Marilyn Harris

Should you find yourself at any event focused on food in Greater Cincinnati, you won’t get far without meeting a friend, colleague or fan of Marilyn Harris. She is, without a doubt, one of the more visible—and audible—foodies in our area.

With culinary roots sprouting from Mississippi, Harris has travelled the world, studying in France and Italy and earning a Certificate from Le Cordon Bleu in London before settling in Cincinnati and beginning her career here as a cooking teacher and later as a food consultant.

This local icon is now in her 23rd year hosting her radio program “Cooking with Marilyn” which airs Saturday afternoons on 55KRC. She writes a biweekly column for The Cincinnati Enquirer and is the author of four cookbooks including “Live! From Marilyn’s Kitchen,” and “Cooking with Marilyn” which are available at local bookstores. Harris also gets face to face with her students when teaching classes at Cooks’Wares in Harper’s Point.

No matter the arena—radio, print, in person or during a phone conversation with a journalist—Harris easily conveys her passion for her industry and is always quick to offer a practical tip.

“Do you have an immersion blender?” she asks. “You need to get one. I use mine to make soups and sauces. Just this weekend I used it to make fresh cream of tomato soup. You don’t have to make a mess and pour everything out of the pan to blend it. Everybody should have one of those.”

Harris shares her soup and home with her husband E.P. in a charming older home in the gaslight district of Clifton. From their kitchen she shares her philosophy on good food and its importance in our lives.

What do you love about your kitchen?

Even though we remodeled it 15 years ago, it’s basically timeless. It’s the ultimate compliment to our architect Don Beck who designed the kitchen and our second story addition. He did such a good job—that’s the advantage of an architect who knows good basic design and stays away from anything trendy.

What’s your favorite tool?

My small ceramic chef’s knife (made by Kyocera). Look at how thin it slices this apple. (See Marilyn’s Apple Strudel recipe at housetrends.com)

I couldn’t live without my Cuisinart food processor. It’s a big Cuisinart—super-sized.

I love my commercial Thermador stove. It has a radiant ceramic broiler which produces a high BTU for searing steaks and such. It is almost a waste of time to try to sear something with a conventional broiler—it doesn’t get hot enough.

Outside, I love my Thermador grill. I use it all summer when it’s too hot to turn on the stove.

What would you change if you could in your kitchen?

If I had room for it, I’d have a second dishwasher. If I ever remodeled my kitchen, I would make room for it. I would also love to have a steam oven. It’s a wonderful new appliance, similar to what professional chefs use.

What do you cook for last-minute company?

Steak or chicken on the grill with a whole array of grilled vegetables.

What ingredients are always on hand in your pantry?

• Assorted vinegars. I use them for marinades and salad dressings. My favorite right now is a white balsamic vinaigrette served with great fresh tomatoes from our garden.
• Always, always extra virgin olive oil.
• Kosher salt.

What items justify splurging?

Again, really good olive oil and vinegar. I always buy olive oil from Italy and always extra virgin. It assures you that you are getting the best of the cold pressed oils.

Actually, any money I spend on top quality food, I don’t consider splurging. Good food is an essential quality of living a good life. Save on something else—never on food. When I’m at the store, I may buy the cheapest wax paper, but I always go with quality versus price when it comes to food.

And, it’s impossible to spend too much on chocolate. There’s nothing like it.

What’s growing in your herb garden?

Basil, three kinds of sage, two kinds of thyme, oregano, tarragon, marjoram, usually cilantro and dill, but the heat took them out this year.

What’s your most memorable flop?

The first pie I every made for my husband was a pecan pie. I’d never made one before. I had made lemon meringue types of pies where I would cut holes in the crust and pre-bake them. So when I made my pecan pie, I cut holes in the crust. When it baked, all of the filling leaked through to the bottom. When it was finished it was a layer of filling on the bottom, the crust in the middle and the pecans on top. E.P. said it certainly was “an unusual looking pie,” but it tasted just fine. That was early in our marriage and before I went to culinary school.

Click here for Marilyn's recipe for Apple Strudel

Editor’s note: 
For more information on Marilyn's radio show, visit 55krc.com.

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