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Web Extra: Interview with Laurel Waters

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Intrigued by writer Maxine Mayes’ August article on The Laurel Tree restaurant in Utopia, editorial intern Lauren Oakley visited with chef Laurel Waters about her departure from fashion to food, along with the restaurant’s emphasis on local ingredients.



You studied fashion at the Paris Fashion Institute. What made you return to France to focus on food?


Honestly, I just wanted to go back to Paris again and get a breath of fresh air because I liked it so much the first time around. I wanted to stay there again and I always loved food, so why not? I was there for three years my second time and I traveled all over France on the weekends between classes and work. I made so many good life-long friends, and I like to go back and visit the chefs I worked with who taught me so much.


Do you have any tips on growing fresh ingredients?


Well, I have what they call a kitchen garden. I grow squash, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, etc.  In order to have a healthy garden, you have to love what you do...cook. You can’t neglect the things in your garden… you have to treat them like they are your closest friends. I grow a lot of my ingredients in pots. I have found that they turn out better growing in a container. I grow 10 types of basil and five types of mint in my garden. I cook a lot with sweet basil, purple ruffle basil, lemon thyme, chocolate mint, orange, and pineapple mint.


Do you have a favorite recipe?


I don’t write anything down when I cook. I cook my dishes by taste and color, what goes well with what, and how I can pair ingredients differently. I like to cook quick, simple, and fresh dishes.


What were some of the challenges you ran into when opening your own restaurant?


Finding a good staff was one of my biggest fears. I have a great staff though… I always say they work with me, not for me. We are like a family and we work so well together. It’s so much fun. Another thing I was worried about was if people were actually going to travel out to a place so far away from everything just to eat. I haven’t advertised Laurel Tree at all and people are still coming like crazy. People can stay in the Hill Country all day and make an evening out of it. A lot of my guests have asked me why I don’t start up a bed and breakfast. I always tell them, “I don’t even cook breakfast for myself, why would I wake up and cook it for you?”


If you could have one last meal, what would it be?


Wow that’s tough … one last meal. There are so many things that I love and it’s hard for me to only pick one. I know that it would involve some very gooey cheese, fresh artichokes, and French mushrooms!

Read 14620 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06
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