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Meet Impeccable Friend: Marcia Smart, an Interview Series

Updated: Jan 17


 

Have you ever wanted to sit down and learn more from fellow creatives? Join me, Natalie Ariz, as I have the honor to host a Q&A with these visionaries one month at a time.

 

Meet Marcia Smart

Renowned culinary instructor, television personality, food writer, and award-winning cookbook author behind Smart in the Kitchen and Smart in the Kitchen School.


 

Q: Tell us a little about you.

A: Through my platform, I offer culinary classes, host events, and advocate for healthy family dinners. My career includes roles at Parenting Magazine, Women.com, and 7x7 Magazine. My freelance work has appeared in various publications, earning me a spot as a contributor to Cooking Light’s Annual Recipes Cookbooks. As a cookbook author, I won the 2023 Independent Press Award for Best Cookbook. As a familiar face on TV, I engage viewers with live cooking segments on HoustonLife and I appeared on other shows. With over two decades of culinary expertise, I am not only a professional of the highest caliber but also an approachable mentor to home cooks worldwide.




Q: Where did your love of cooking begin? And how did your culinary journey evolve?

A: I loved cooking with my grandparents. They had a garden in the back of their tiny house and when they asked me to help make the salad, it meant going out back to pick lettuce, carrots and tomatoes out of the dirt. THAT will make a kid like salads!


Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Houston? And in the world?

A: That is impossible to answer! I get that question a lot, but my response is always, “what are you in the mood for?” Our restaurant scene has exploded since I moved to Houston 19 years ago. Justin Yu is such a talent, and his food is just as amazing as his restaurant spaces. The restaurant business is so tricky and difficult to succeed in, I am in awe of anyone who can do it successfully year after year! I also love Anita Jaisinghani from Pondicheri. Her food is amazing, and her desserts are not an afterthought. The way I truly know if a restaurant cares is if they put thought and effort into their dessert menu. A friend of mine from my San Francisco cooking school days, Candace Nelson, is opening Pizzana in

Houston this spring and I can’t wait As a former pastry chef, the desserts in her restaurant are always drool worthy. Restaurants are such a fun part of travel and something I tirelessly research before a trip.


Q: Is a Michelin star rating an important

factor when you select a restaurant to visit?

A: Not at all! Sometimes it will persuade me not to visit a restaurant on vacation. Michelin restaurants are sometimes stuffy and overly fancy and pretentious. But also, there’s a Michelin-starred pub that I want to visit in London and I’d love to get to Noma in Copenhagen before they close this year. Dining at a Michelin restaurant is sometimes an undertaking. I would choose a simple, rustic restaurant with seasonal ingredients that are prepared well over a coursed out tasting menu of 13 small dishes that involve smoke and mirrors.


Q: If you could cook with anyone, who would it be? And why?

A: Ina Garten. I need to pick her brain about a couple things!


Q:What are your holy grail cooking ingredients?

A: With zero substitutes allowed. Good quality extra virgin olive oil, Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, Maldon Salt, freshly ground black pepper (not pre-ground), good parm, Kerrygold unsalted butter, freshly grated nutmeg (not pre-ground), fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, anchovy paste (it’s seriously a secret weapon!).


Q: What are your favorite go-to items at Trader Joe’s? 

A: Ooooo! This could be a whole article in itself, and their items change seasonally, so it could be a series! I love their frozen dumplings (both the regular pork and chicken dumplings and the soup dumplings), my kids will make those for dinner with a side of edamame and be completely happy. I also love their cheese section, the ready-to-use lentils in the salad section (add to a salad os mix with feta

and TJ’s Bruschetta mix to make a dip). The Chili Onion Crunch sauce and Everything But the Bagel seasoning are always in my pantry. The spicy Zhoug is so good as is the vegan kale pesto!




Q: What are your essential cheeses/items for building a memorable charcuterie board?

A: I wrote about this in my cookbook, Dinner is Done! I have a whole “cheat sheet” and cheeseboard checklist there! https://www.smartinthekitchenschool.com/dinner-is-done


Q: What is your family’s favorite Smart in the Kitchen recipe/dish?

A: Recipe link(s). Too funny you asked this because I just compiled these into a freebie to email people! Here’s the link! https://www.smartinthekitchenschool.com/family-favorites-optin


Q: What is one kitchen appliance you cannot live without?

A: A high BTU gas stove! In terms of small appliances, I often reach for my InstantPot on busy weekdays!


Q: What feels like your greatest accomplishment?

A: My family! That sounds trite or expected, but without them I wouldn’t have the drive to do what I do.


Q: Your cookbook has been a great success. Any advice for someone looking to get published?

A: That was a long road for me! I networked, wrote multiple proposals, spoke to agents and publishers and put countless hours into the project. I would tell anyone interested to not give up and to be open to non-traditional publishers!


Q: Any tips for up and coming entrepreneurs?

A: Assemble a team of A+ support! And also, just read everything you can from experts in your field. You also have to LOVE your business, I am constantly listening to business podcasts, reading and seeking out experts to learn from.




Q: What are your current offerings? And what is next for Smart in the Kitchen? (Classes, subscriptions)

A: This year I have a few changes in my business that I’m getting ready to announce. My cooking school membership and online classes will be my main priority and focus and I’m moving my newsletter and meal plans over to Substack: https://substack.com/@smartinthekitchen?utm_source=profile-

page. I am looking forward to 2024! January is always a time for me to focus on my Kitchen Reboot online class and my Meal Plan Formula course! I want to help teach people HOW to keep their resolutions with meal planning and a more organized and peaceful cooking space. I’d love to offer your readers a 50% coupon for my Meal Plan course! Use this link and code PLANMEALS:

You can read more about the course and what it includes here:



 
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