Table Talk

We asked three accomplished chefs to dish about 
memorable meals and memorable mistakes

Site Staff Attractions


Kelly Childs

Gluten-free, plant-based, vegan chef and co-owner,
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe and Lettuce Love Cafe

What do you always have in your home pantry?
I consider my fridge as part of my pantry, being a plant-based chef. Fresh herbs are my magical ingredients. Herbs have so many healing qualities, and they power up flavors especially when they are not cooked.

What is the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
I was at one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, Osteria Mozza. Apparently, he was the one who made my Squash Blossom Pizza. I could only moan in ecstasy when I bit into it, bite after bite. Although it was a simple dish, it was so far beyond any pizza that I have ever had.

photo by alyssa wodabek

Avocado Toast

What was your biggest failure cooking at home?
I made seitan [a vegan protein meat] for the first time at a potluck dinner with quite a few people I didn’t know. I thought I had the recipe figured out, but when I scaled it to make 30 portions, I left something out and it was a disaster. Almost everyone at the party was a meat-eater, so they got their first taste of vegan that night, and it’s no wonder they still eat meat.

What’s your favorite recipe?
Avocado toast: Avocados are loaded with healthy fats that keep our brains sharp and our bodies lean. Think of avocado on toast as you would bruschetta for a healthy, fresh alfresco dining experience. There is something magical that happens when sea salt kisses avocado

photo courtesy of cat cora

Cat Cora


Cat Cora

New York’s Culinary Institute of America graduate,
Food Network Iron Chef, and restaurateur

What do you always have in your home pantry?
Always a bowl of great citrus on the counter, lots of hot sauces and condiments, garlic, onions, spices, and fresh herbs are a must.

What is the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
I have had hundreds … But holiday meals are my favorite with family. I would say one of my earliest was lunch at Alain Ducasse in Paris, 4 hours, lots of truffles, wine, and just the most incredible dishes.

What was your biggest failure when cooking at home?
Once when I was just starting to cook, I baked a clafoutis [a French custard tart with fruit] that was horrible, you could play Frisbee with it.

photo by chris sue-chu

Salmon Scallop Skewers with Romesco Sauce.

Salmon and Scallop Skewers with Romesco Sauce

Serves 4


8 8-inch wooden skewers, soaked in cool water for at least 1 hour
8 ounces of salmon filet (either one large piece or several smaller pieces) cut into 8 equal chunks
8 sea scallops
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks
1 red onion, cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks
1 poblano chili pepper, cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks


1 roasted red pepper, seeded, peeled, and roughly chopped
¼ cup roasted cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon roughly chopped almonds (8 or 9 whole almonds)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400°F or preheat the grill on which you’ll cook the skewers. (You can throw the skewers on the grill or use your oven, whichever you prefer.)

In a 9-inch square Pyrex dish combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Add the scallops and salmon to the dish with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate while you make the sauce.

In a blender, combine the roasted pepper, tomatoes, almonds, garlic sherry vinegar, and ¼ cup of olive oil, blending until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Remove the salmon and scallops from the marinade, and discard the liquid. With a paper towel pat dry each scallop and chunk of fish. (If you don’t dry each piece they’ll steam while cooking and have a soft exterior rather than a crisp one.)

Thread each skewer with onion chunks, one salmon chunk, red and poblano pepper chunks, and a scallop. Set the skewers either over a grill or on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet on the top rack of your oven, or under the broiler. Cook for 4 minutes and then rotate the baking sheet in the oven and give each skewer a half turn. Cook another 4 minutes or until the salmon is firm to the touch and the scallops have begun to brown on their edges.

You can arrange two criss-crossed skewers on each plate and spoon Romesco sauce over them or pile the skewers on a serving platter and serve the sauce in a bowl, allowing everyone to take as much sauce as they’d like.  

photo courtesy of gale gand

Gale Gand

Gale Gand

James Beard award–winning pastry chef and restaurateur

What do you always have in your home pantry?
Pantry musts are panko crumbs, Nutella, quick cooking brown rice, chickpeas, tomato paste, marinated artichokes, imported Italian tuna in oil, tinned paté from France (I get a bunch every trip I take), crunchy peanut butter, dried cherries, sticky rice, vanilla beans, back up olive oil, tamari, giardiniera, and (real) maple syrup.

What is the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
It was probably at Frédy Girardet in Switzerland or my most recent meal at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris last May. But when I think of my most memorable meals, they are always more simple food from people’s heart. The fried chicken at Dookey Chase’s in New Orleans is one of those meals.

What was your biggest failure when cooking at home?
I was baking chocolate cake layers in the oven and they weren’t quite done but I had to go out, so I just turned the oven off thinking it would cool down in perfect time to finish baking the cake. But it stayed hot a lot longer than I thought it would and overbaked the cake.

Who are your culinary influences?
I went to culinary school in France and lived in England for three years so both of those countries and cuisines are in my heart. But I draw inspiration from my childhood a lot too, sometimes reminiscing through penny candy or 1960s desserts, or just my mom’s and grandmother’s repertoire.

photo by ben fink

Cheese and Tomato Galette.


Cheese and Tomato Galette

Serves 6-8


2 ½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up and cold
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sour cream


3 eggs
½  cup cream
1 ½  cups milk
1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 ½ cups extra sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives or ¼ cup chopped scallions
3 gratings of nutmeg
6 shots of Tabasco or other hot sauce
2 medium tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick


In a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the cold butter and mix on low until it looks pebbly. In a small bowl, combine the yolk and crème fraiche then pour it into the mixing bowl and mix on low until it almost comes together and no flour is at the bottom of the bowl. Turn it out onto a work surface and form it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough. Line a ceramic flan pan or quiche dish with a 4-cup capacity with the dough. Chill while you make the filling.

To make the filling in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, and milk until smooth. Stir in the cheeses, bacon, herbs, nutmeg, and Tabasco. Pour this into the tart shell and then lay tomato slices on top of the filling, spreading them all around the tart.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for 50 to 60 minutes checking for doneness by sticking a knife into the custard. It should come out clean. Serve hot or at room temperature in wedges.

Meet the Chefs

Meet these chefs at next month’s Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival. Visit for ticket information.