Whether you are a reader from across the street, or across the continent, or a student in one of my Metro NYC area classes, I hope you’ll have an experience that will bring the magic of cooking into your life. My hope is that you will eat better, cook better and live better by knowing me, and have a blast doing it. Why FoodFix Kitchen? Because I think that there isn’t much in life that good food can’t fix! My writing and teaching style is all about laughter and creativity and being at ease in the kitchen. I love cooking because you have to focus on the here and now—after all, knives and fire are involved! Whether peeling vegetables or stirring a pot or salting to taste you must tune into your instincts and senses pushing everything else you have to worry to the back burner. Pun intended!
I live in a semi-rural, beautiful corner of central New Jersey, about an hour from both New York City and Philadelphia (yes, there are beautiful parts of NJ, and no we don’t all live at The Shore and have spray tans, or have big hair, inflated lips and boobs, or routinely get into cat fights with stilletto-heeled housewives.) My kitchen is not fancy or huge, but it’s functional and the sunlight is abundant, which cheers me and allows me to take pretty pictures of my food without having to figure out anything too complicated about lighting.
Like a great meal, my food journey has had many courses. My earliest memories were laced with the fear that my fragile mother might die, due to the long-term effects of starvation from three years spent in Nazi concentration camps, and another two in hiding, before the war ended. It forced me to become aware, from a very young age, how the foods we eat, or the lack of good nutrition, can devastate the body. It set me on a path of eating well and living well at an early age. After the war, my mother found work as a restaurant cook, and later, in America, she was a private chef for over 30 years. She spent her life celebrating food and nurturing her clients, family and friends with wonderful, abundant meals. My mom showed me that while food nurtures the body—it’s cooking that nurtures the soul. Food was her artistry, her meditation, her gift to the world around her.
Becoming a chef may have been my destiny, but I didn’t know it. As a former actor, model, stand-up comic, graphic artist, writer and teacher—it seemed like all the diverse paths I took in life always led me back to cooking. Wherever I went to pursue other careers—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta—I ended up in kitchens, flying by the seat of my pants and making people happy with my food. It’s where I felt most at home. I worked in restaurants through my teens and college years, doing practically every job there was in the front of house and back, I had my own private catering business in my 20s, cooking for celebrities in Hollywood, and cooked for family and friends for over 30 years, before deciding to turn my passion in the kitchen into a career.
It’s no coincidence that I met and married a man with a food-centric mission, Dr. Doug Willen, whose waiting-list wellness and nutrition practice, makes him the go-to nutritional guru to long list of New York’s ballet, stage and screen elite, as well as people from all walks of city life.
Dr. Doug provides natural solutions to health through diet, lifestyle, and nutritional supplement programs, along with chiropractic care. He’ll refer many of his patients to me who want to take their nutritional makeover to the next level and start cooking for themselves. And he is a beast when it comes to doing dishes.
Lily, is a high school honor student, whose recent epiphany about cooking while sampling my braised short ribs, went something like this: “Wait. This is delicious. I’m totally spoiled because I’ve eaten food like this all my life. I better learn how to make stuff.” She now pays attention when I’m cooking, in-between texts.
Our son, Max Robbins, 25, followed early in his mother’s and grandmother’s “foodsteps” knowing he wanted to be a chef by the 8th grade. It’s his journey toward his goals that set me on the path to mine, because I dissolved into tears on every culinary school tour I went on with him. Seeing all those sparkling kitchens and just thinking about the idea of standing in one of them wearing my own white chef coat, made me go weak in the knees. I knew what I had to do. After I packed Max off to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, I enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in NYC (currently The International Culinary Center) and completed the professional culinary arts program. And the rest is history, all documented here on FoodFix Kitchen. You can even read posts from a blog I kept while in school, Mrs. Fabulous Goes To Culinary School here. Since graduating from CIA, Max has worked at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin and Danny Meyer’s Modern. He worked for two and a half years at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City, and is currently working at Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville, CA.