Good Food Questions With Elettra Wiedemann

Julia Millay Walsh

Beauty and brains are qualities we don't often find together, but throw great cooking skills into the mix, and you have a keeper on your hands. A model for more than 10 years, Elettra Wiedemann has been photographed by legendary fashion photographers like Patrick Demarchelier and Mario Testino for the likes of Vogue (American and French), Harper's Bazaar, Ferragamo, and Lancôme. To top it off, she has an undergraduate degree in international relations from The New School and a masters degree in biomedicine from The London School of Economics.

To add to the intrigue, she's also the daughter of Italian actress and model Isabella Rossellini and the granddaughter of silver screen star Ingrid Bergman and Italian film director and screenwriter Roberto Rossellini. So there's that.

But on to the cooking . . . this girl knows her way around a kitchen. And she's not precious about it. Wiedemann has just launched a wonderful new food site, Impatient Foodie, showcasing her trials in the kitchen (her tagline is "I'm trying!"), her favourite recipes, recipes from friends (her mother's spaghetti, actor Kyle MacLachlan's cumin cauliflower), and refreshingly honest opinions on intimidating foodie topics -- and it's just what the food world needs.

We recently sat down with Wiedemann to discuss all things foodie. Read on for her favourite family recipe, her standby cooking ingredients, and more.

pic21In one or two sentences, what is Impatient Foodie all about?

Impatient Foodie is my food blog that navigates a conundrum I face on a daily basis: My desire to make good and responsible food choices, while balancing my goldfish-like attention span and a very busy, unpredictable schedule.

What sparked your interest in food and cooking?

When I was a kid, I ate everything that I wanted, when I wanted it. Once I started modelling, I had to be more careful, and over the years I have taught myself to cook dishes that are delicious, but also lighter and healthier.

What is your earliest food memory?

My earliest food memory is sitting on the rug at my dad's New York City apartment, listening to The Beatles, eagerly waiting for him to finish making my favourite tortellini with pesto and lots of parmesan.

Did you cook with your family growing up?

I cooked some when I was young and was in the kitchen a lot while other family members cooked. I didn't really start getting into cooking until I left home and had to fend for myself.

food55-820x510What tips would you give to someone who's just beginning to cook?

I'd tell them to get a good, sharp chef's knife, a Cuisinart, and a small scale. These instruments will make your cooking life much easier! I'd also say to read through a recipe at least once before diving in and have a mise-en-place ready to go. Finally, I would say that the best dishes are the ones with just a few fresh ingredients. Cooking is about love and care; If you love and you care, it will come through and taste delicious.

What fresh produce do you always have in your kitchen?

I always have herbs (basil, parsley, tarragon are my favourites), some kind of lettuce, and seasonal vegetables. Right now that means lots of tomatoes, scallions, carrots, and turnips!

What cooking skill would you most want to learn?

I'd love to learn more Thai and Japanese cooking techniques, styles, and flavour profiles. Somehow I never nail it at home, even when I am following recipes. I think there is a special "touch" that has to be learned, just like any other cuisine.

WholeFish-high-res-820x510What's your go-to weeknight meal?

In the summer, I love making pasta with pesto, or a nice piece of fish with fresh salsa, and big, chopped salads full of different vegetables and herbs. In the winter, it's a lot of roast chicken, sautéed leafy greens, lamb tagine, and soups.

What's your favourite kitchen gadget, and why?

I often kiss my Cuisinart; it's really just the best and most helpful kitchen mate ever. I would hug whoever developed it if I ever met them.

What do you serve when you really want to impress people?

My favourite dinners are the ones with lots of options and flavours. If I had a dinner party where I wanted to impress, I would probably plan many small courses with fantastic platters of cheese and charcuterie, salads, a fish, and some kind of rice with vegetables, and then a plate of great small desserts. I just learned how to make ice cream, so maybe I would make my own ice cream flavour! That would really be impressive, wouldn't it?!

food56-820x510What is your favourite family recipe?

I love the Rossellini Spaghetti recipe that I shared on Impatient Foodie. That is a dish that I really grew up with. My father is also a fantastic cook, and I am spending all of July with him, so I look forward to getting some recipes from him, too.

Who's your food-world idol, and why?

Alice Waters has been a big influence on me for her approach to cooking and food generally.

What's your guiltiest pleasure?
Tortellini al pesto or french fries with an indecent amount of mayonnaise. Photographs: Courtesy of Elettra Wiedemann

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