Hey there, grownups and kids: have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a chef? We are starting a series of interviewing chefs with questions gathered from curious kids.

Today, we are getting to know Chef Skylar Bush. Skylar is a chef and writer who hails from Alabama. His love of culture and flavor has led him to travel as often as possible, searching for new ideas. Skylar is currently the chef at the Heimerdinger Foundation (aka Meals 4 Health and Healing) and for the local food publication, Edible Nashville. You can find him in his free time playing guitar, fishing, or taking long naps on the beach. 

Chef Skylar also helped us out with our New Orleans cooking class last February, sharing with us his spectacular recipe for Creole Gumbo! Read through his interview and then try your hand at some seriously good gumbo over rice. The recipe is a little involved, but we added lots of notes for where kids can practice skills and help out. And it is TOTALLY worth it–on a personal note, this gumbo is so good it made my New Orleans Dad, who is very particular about authenticity, practically wiggle with delight!

Thanks to all the kids who sent in questions! If you have questions for a chef, send them in!

  1. What type of food do you enjoy making ?
    I love cooking Indian food. There is so much flavor and every dish has its own technique. This cuisine makes me a better chef. 
  2. What knife do you use the most?
    Just a standard 9-inch chefs knife. I prefer German steel and design. 
  3.  What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?
    Herbs!! And garlic. Anything fragrant that makes the whole house smell amazing.
  4. Why did you choose to be a chef?
    I decided in high school that chefs were pretty darned cool and after college decided to get into the field. I have been a chef for about 10 years.
  5. What is your best dish and why?
    Beef bulgogi. I had an old Korean man show me how to do it the right way once. Now all my Korean friends say it’s better than their mom’s! 
  6. Why did you decide to be a chef?
    To educate the community and to promote eating local. I also love the creativity it requires. Every dish is a blank canvas.
  7. Was there a specific person or people who inspired you to cook?
    My aunt April and my grandmother. I hate to criticize my mom, but she is not a great cook. Her sister and mother were all-stars so I wanted to be in the kitchen as much as possible with them to make our dinners at home better!
  8. Did you go to culinary school? Why or why not?
    I did not. I went to school for music. My first real kitchen job was with a phenomenal chef named Tres Jackson. Working for him was very much like culinary school… rigorous, tiring and rewarding. 

Creole Gumbo (Chicken, Sausage, and Seafood) 

Ingredients

For the Roux:

1 ¼ cup     all-purpose flour
2/3 cup     oil (vegetable or canola oil)

For the Gumbo:

1 bunch    celery, diced, leaves and all
1 large     green bell pepper, diced 
1 large     red bell pepper, diced  
1 large     yellow onion, diced
1 bunch     green onion, finely chopped
1 bunch     fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
4-6 cloves     garlic, minced (kids in the cooking class loved to mash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife to get the peels off)
2 Tbsp     Cajun seasoning *(Any will do, I like to make my own)
1 Tbsp     File (ground sassafras leaf) 
7 cups      broth (Chicken or Shrimp)
1 pound     Andouille sausage, sliced into ¼ inch thick coins
Meat from     Rotisserie Chicken pulled from the bone and shredded (Save bones for stock) (Picking a chicken is a messy and fun job for kids!)
2 ½ cups    Shrimp, peeled and deveined (teaching kids to peel shrimp is messy and fun. Make it a game! How many shrimp can you peel in a minute?)
3 dashes     Tabasco 
To Taste     Salt and Pepper

cooked white rice, hot sauce, andgreen onion for serving

Process: 

For the Roux: Combine flour and oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.  While cooking on medium-low heat, stir constantly for 30 minutes. (Make it a game! Every time the music stops, a new stirrer tags in!) We are looking for dark peanut butter or caramel color, with the consistency of playdough. Be careful not to burn, and be patient! This process is slow but rewarding.  

Cook the shrimp and sausage. Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until golden brown (2 minutes or so) then flip sausage pieces and brown the other side. Remove from pan to let dry on a paper towel. Add ½ cup of broth and the shrimp and deglaze the pan while cooking the shrimp. Remove shrimp and set aside with the sausage. 

Assemble the gumbo.  Add the drippings and remaining broth to the large pot with the roux. Add the remaining 6 1/2 cups of chicken broth. Add veggies, herbs, and spices to the pot and stir to incorporate. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 6 or 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender. (Skim off any foam that may rise to the top of the pot.) Add chicken, sausage, shrimp, and Tabasco and continue simmering for 15-20 minutes or until desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Serve over white rice, with green onions, parsley, and Tabasco for garnish. (Always better the next day!)

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