Q: You went to Trident Tech's culinary school, and now you're the chef at a preschool. What is the most challenging part of preparing meals for youngsters?
A: Estimating how much to cook. It never ceases to amaze me how much a 2-year-old can eat! They love my Mexican lasagna, pinwheel sandwiches, fresh breads and muffins. It is such a misconception that children will eat only chicken tenders and french fries.
Q: Jerry Seinfeld's wife, Jessica, has a popular new cookbook, "Deceptively Delicious," in which she advocates sneaking pureed vegetables into food that kids will eat. Do you think this is a good strategy?
A: I think it's awesome! I do it all the time with my zucchini muffins, carrot raisin bread and homemade cereal bars.
Q: Your husband says you put a gourmet meal on the table almost every night of the week. What are some typical dinners? Do you cook differently for your sons?
A: I try to take simple, fresh ingredients and make them into something spectacular. Our menus tend to vary greatly around my house, as I am always trying something new. Thai food tends to be a staple.
It is extremely rare that I cook different for my sons. My youngest is not a big meat eater, so I make sure to have a variety of fresh veggies and fruit every day.
Q: What did culinary school teach you that learning on your own wouldn't have?
Q: What person or experience in your childhood most influenced your interest in food?
A: My parents and my grandmother. The ancient stool in my grandmother's kitchen was my favorite place. There is no replacing her bread-and-butter pickles, chowchow and fresh jams.
I also still have the cookbook that my first-grade teacher gave me when she realized my interest in cooking.
Q: What is your most favorite time of year for cooking? Why?
A: Other than my family, being in the kitchen is my greatest joy. Why not make roast turkey and stuffing in July? Or grill out in the winter? I try to make every day special.
A favorite recipe:
Shrimp with Basil and Feta
1 regular size foil oven bag
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided use
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup sliced green onion
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese with tomato and basil
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Coat inside of oven bag with cooking spray. Place the bag on a large shallow baking pan.
Cook the pasta as directed on package for 5 minutes; drain. Place the pasta in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and next 7 ingredients (oil through pepper). Place the orzo mixture in the prepared oven bag. Combine shrimp and basil. Arrange shrimp mixture on orzo mixture. Fold edge of bag over to seal. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes or until the shrimp are done. Cut open bag and peel back foil. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil.
Cook's note: "I can't always find the oven bags so I make my own with aluminum foil."
Residence: Mount Pleasant; originally from Roanoke, Va.
Occupation: Chef at Daniel Island Academy.
Family: Husband, Randy; two sons, Dylan, 6, and Caimen, 20 months; springer spaniel, Natty.