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Martha Stewart stirs up the town

When it comes to the domain of home, there’s nary a nook or cranny that Martha Stewart hasn’t elevated to new levels of design and creativity. Through publishing, merchandising and broadcasting, her enormous success in enriching everyday life for the consumer is unprecedented and has cemented her name as the go-to guru for stylish solutions for entertaining, gardening, cooking, decorating and even healthy living. The latest project to spring from Stewart’s endless trove of cookbook ideas is Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook, a culinary master class of 200 new recipes organized by technique and accompanied by 500 color photographs, all of which is designed to teach not simply what to cook but how to cook.

To highlight Cooking School, weekly cooking lessons are currently being featured on The Martha Stewart Show, and on Thursday, November 13, the show will highlight the art of sautéeing, showcasing a delicious chicken piccata recipe! To help celebrate the long-awaited grand opening of Macy’s Lakeside Shopping Center, in Metairie, Stewart joined a host of other stars on October 24, including Emeril Lagasse, Tommy Hilfiger and Clinton Kelly, for an exciting in-store VIP cocktail and culinary gala and fashion show that benefited the NOCCA Institute, accompanied by a lively book signing of Cooking School at Macy’s the following day. New Orleans Living got ahold of the home and garden mega-magnate before she arrived for the Macy’s celebration to see just what was cooking with her!

Hi, Martha! Your new book, Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook is gorgeous. The premise behind it is that it’s an essential book that intends to teach you how to cook, not simply what to cook.

Well, I was inspired by the many teachers I have had over the course of my education and career, and I’ve tried to include a bit of everything that I’ve learned from them, not just about food and cooking but about teaching as well. This book will help home cooks of all levels develop and hone their skills.

What is the biggest difference between this book and your others, and why is technique so important?

Unlike my other books, all of the chapters in this book start with techniques, followed by recipes that illustrate the techniques. There are also more step-by-step sequences of photos and glossaries of ingredients and tools. There’s also information on how to be a better shopper, including diagrams and information on cuts of meat and a complete vegetable buying guide. It’s not really about entertaining and menus, although there are certainly many, many recipes you can serve for a party. Technique is important because once you understand how a particular technique works, you will be able to build on it, and experiment with other ingredients and flavors.

The “how to” photographs are fabulous! Did you have fun putting this book together?

I had a wonderful time putting this book together! I feel as though I have been working on this book my whole life. I started my career as a caterer, and since then have had the opportunity to hone my skills from some of the best chefs in the world. This book is a way for me to share my years of experience with others. All home cooks can benefit from this book, whether they are searching for everyday meals or how to prepare something for a special occasion, or are just interested in reading why particular foods cook the way that they do.
In giving kitchen advice to people, do you find that cooking technique—or a lack of it—is what really makes for success or failure in the kitchen?

Technique certainly provides a strong base for success in the kitchen, and cooking technique can be taught. You just need to keep exploring new things in the kitchen and then practice and learn from your mistakes. ? ?What is a good recipe in your book that gives an example of how some recipes are misunderstood or seem deceptively challenging?

Confit can seem difficult, but it is really just simmering duck legs until tender. It’s very easy and very delicious. With soufflé, once you master meringue, which is simply watching not to overbeat, it is one of the simplest desserts to prepare.
People relish the idea of taking a cooking class to master technique. But we don’t always get around to doing everything we want to do; we are a busy society and cooking classes can cost a pretty penny.

This is the idea behind Cooking School. I wanted to provide a cooking class in a book—a class that people can take on their own time, in their own home and at their own pace. Cooking School is also great for the budget-conscious cook, as it teaches how to utilize whole ingredients—how to cut up your own chicken rather than paying more for chicken parts, for example, or making your own stock, or choosing the best vegetables.

Some of us are novices in the kitchen while some of us are pros at cooking. Cooking School has something for all levels, doesn’t it?

It certainly does! There are, of course, simple recipes and techniques, such as how to roast a chicken, but there are also many, many variations and twists on the classics.

I can’t wait to dig into your book! And besides your new book, you are now designing furniture and it’s absolutely beautiful!

I actually released a new line of furniture on October 20. It’s called the Rosebridge Collection. I wanted the line to reflect a refined simplicity, rooted in some of my favorite modern designs.

Your magazines—Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food, Martha Stewart Weddings—are all so informative and just absolutely gorgeous! One of my favorites is Body + Soul. After I read it, I feel like a truly refreshed and restored human being!

That’s what we aim to do! Body + Soul focuses on some of the core areas of natural living, so that we can bring new perspectives on health and home to our readers. We would like all our readers to enjoy the same refreshed feeling that you describe having.

I love how your designs are extremely accessible to our lives. For example, even when someone doesn’t feel like they have the time or the know-how to arrange flowers like you would, you can find some gorgeous arrangements with the new Martha Stewart for 1-800-Flowers.com. I would much rather have that Peppermint Dianthus Bouquet arranged in a pot in my home during the holidays than what I normally have, which is some poor bamboo stalks languishing in pebbles!

I make sure all my products are products that I myself would use. For example, you mentioned my holiday collection for 1-800-Flowers.com—did you know that all the vases used in that collection are inspired by my own personal vase collection? I use my own design aesthetic and surroundings as the inspiration and base for all my products.

That’s great to know! So you’ll be in New Orleans on October 24 for a fabulous VIP cocktail and culinary gala and high-energy fashion show to benefit the NOCCA Institute at the brand-new Macy’s—and you and Emeril Lagasse will cook together and demonstrate a recipe from your new book. You must be thrilled to be a co-chair for this important event.

I am honored to be acting as co-chair for this event. As a great admirer of the arts, I think NOCCA is doing an incredible job providing young people with an outlet for their creative talents. And who better than Emeril to be my co-chair! I first met Emeril more than 20 years ago, before he had opened his first restaurant. I have been an admirer ever since. He is remarkably talented in the kitchen, and his high-energy exuberance is simply contagious.

Well, Martha, the holidays are almost here! How do you love spending the holidays: being wildly hands-on in the home performing elaborate decorating and cooking, or just kicking back and flat-out relaxing with a drink in your hand and cucumber slices over your eyes?

I prefer to be busy. It’s just the way I am. Sitting around holds no interest for me.? ?It is hard to imagine you just sitting around doing nothing with those cucumber slices on, quite honestly! So as a little girl, you must have been the most busy and creative child in your entire school. Tell us what you were like as a child and how it was probably a natural that you became the super-being of the home that you are today.

I was one of six children. When I was younger, I remember we would gather around the kitchen and dining room table to do homework and art projects. We all loved to do crafts. It’s how we decorated. I also learned to embroider, garden, sew, can and pickle foods and cook. Idle hands were not part of my family.

So what’s next for you?

I’m already working on my next book. I’m putting together an encyclopedia of crafts. It will be coming out in the spring of 2009.

We’ll keep our eyes out for it! Thanks for the chat, Martha, and we can’t wait to see you at Macy’s!

I’m looking forward to it!