Update: Kelly is now the healthy eating specialist at WFM Union Square and WFM Columbus Circle.
We recently sat down with Kelly Dupuis to chat about her role as Culinary Demo Specialist at WFM Columbus Circle. Kelly shares stories about her greatest culinary influence (mom!) and the action-packed life of her bamboo cutting board.
Q&A with Kelly Dupuis, Culinary Demo Specialist at WFM Columbus Circle
Describe your role as Culinary Demo Specialist at Whole Foods Market Columbus Circle. How do you see the Culinary Demo department connecting to the Whole Foods Market Cooking program?
As Culinary Demo Specialist, I aim to create and serve dishes to customers using products based on seasonal items and special promotions throughout the store. I also provide recipe cards for our customers so that they may recreate them at home. The world of demo connects deeply to the WFM Cooking program as I seek to connect with customers on a home cook level and help to broaden their horizons in terms of what they cook for themselves, friends, and family.
When did your love of cooking begin? Were there any particular experiences early on in your life that shaped your approach to food and cooking?
My love of cooking began in the kitchen with my mother. I remember making pounds and pounds of holiday fudge with her when I was a little girl, which my father, siblings, and I would later deliver to neighbors on our street in a little red wagon. I also remember helping her chop lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and olives for taco night. It was always, always, always a labor of love cooking with my mom. The food didn’t have to be fancy or complicated, though sometimes it was. It just had to be comforting and wholesome, which it always was.
What do you believe is the first step to cooking well?
The first step to cooking well is not being afraid! Trust that what tastes good to you tastes good to others. What’s the worst that can happen? Something doesn’t come out completely delicious? That happens to even the best of chefs. Mistakes in the kitchen lead to great revelations. I rarely make the same mistake twice, and happy accidents happen all the time. Really!
Kelly on a hayride with her mom; fresh corn salad with smoked paprika
Why do you believe cooking with whole foods is an essential part of healthy eating?
Cooking with whole foods is the best assurance that you’re eating a meal that is dense in nutrients and free of junk. A whole food is pure, basic, unprocessed, and full of the good stuff! If you want to eat healthily, you have to start by eating things that don’t have labels, like an apple, an ear of corn, or a tomato. If it does have a label, it has one or just a small handful of ingredients. Cooking with foods like these leads to better health, pure and simple!
What music (if any) do you listen to in the kitchen?
Hmm. Does it count if I’m the one singing? I have roommates now, so I have to keep that under control. There are lots of opera singers in uptown Manhattan. They generally sing at night, which is when I do a lot of my cooking. I’m not sure that’s the soundtrack I truly desire, but it’s the one I’ve got!
Have there been books, chefs, or people who have inspired your cooking?
My mom had this old school Betty Crocker cookbook. It’s wild to look back at some of the recipes. The '60s and '70s were an interesting time for American cuisine! But really, my Mom definitely started it all! Nowadays, I love Mark Bittman for his simple, generous view on food and Bobby Flay for his awesomely spiced flavor profiles! On a local note, there’s this humble little joint in Brooklyn called Bliss Café. They make this deliciously simple thing called the Bliss Bowl, which is their version of a macroplate. Since I first had that dish, I’ve been recreating versions of my own bliss bowl a few times a week. Pink beans! Tahini dressing! Yay!
Warm eggplant salad; Kelly prepares kale soup (look at her themed t-shirt!)
What is your favorite ingredient for fall?
Apples. Honeycrisp, in particular.
What cooking tool could you not live without?
My bamboo cutting board. That thing gets some serious action.
What is your favorite regional or global cuisine (anything from Cajun-Creole to Northern Vietnamese)?
Thai! Mint, lime, curry, ginger, sesame, coconut -- I can't live without those flavors.
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster (we're guessing you have a good one!)
Honestly, I'm trying to narrow it down right now. Pumpkin grits was just a bad idea, not a disaster. Oh, wait -- I got it. You know how lasagna -- made from scratch, starting with tomato sauce made from tomatoes crushed by hand -- takes forever? Well, I’d finished the thing and was about to put it in the oven. And it just...slipped...out of my hands...onto the floor. It was destroyed after a whole day of work. I didn’t tell anyone. The SHAME!
What recipe have you chosen to share and why?
Citrus Almond Noodle Salad with Crunchy Vegetables. I used to make this super rich, super salty, peanut noodle dish with sautéed chicken in college. My roommates LOVED my peanut sauce. I’ve learned to cook and eat better since then. Almond butter, low-sodium tamari, and tons of fresh citrus kick this dish up a notch. It's a comforting dish made more interesting and better for me -- and you.