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Behind The Feast: Hank & Frida’s Chef Jamie Lauren

Jamie Lauren’s interest in the culinary arts started at a relatively young age, when she spent evenings in the kitchen cooking with her parents–although at the time she had no intention of becoming a chef. From her humble beginnings mixing meatloaf and frying chicken cutlets in Manhattan, she rose to become one of San Francisco Chronicle’s “Rising-Star Chefs” in 2005.

As an honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Lauren has had the opportunity to work with many celebrity chefs in the past, including: Anita Lo of Annisa, New York City; Lance Dean Velasquez of Bendean in Berkeley; and Jean-Michel Bouvier from L’Essential, France. She credits all these chefs for teaching her how to meld exotic flavors and ingredients.

Growing up in New York City, Lauren’s affinity for bright and flavorful cuisine originated with family dinners at some of Manhattan’s best neighborhood restaurants.

Lauren has received both local and national praise including being named Restaurant Hospitality’s “Rising Star Chef 2008” and selected as the sole Bay Area “Cheftestant” on Season 5 of Bravo’s award-winning show Top Chef.

Lauren has since expanded into culinary production, working on such notable shows as The Taste, Masterchef, Top Chef, Top Chef Duels and Man vs. Child , and has appeared as a judge on Pressure Cooker. She’s also consulted on the opening menus of several new restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

She currently resides in Los Angeles with her partner Becky and their two dogs, Hank and Frida. (They’re the namesakes of her new pop-up, “Hank and Frida’s Burger Time”!)

Book seats to the Hank & Frida Pop-up

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1. What is food to you?
Honestly, it’s everything…I think about food all day long, usually in the form of “What am I going to eat today?!?” It’s more then just survival, food is real need for me! I love to eat. Sadly the older I get, the more that shows!

2. How and when did cooking come into your life?
I started cooking in 1997. I was working at a restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts and going to college. I hated college and long story short, I ended up going to work more then I went to school, which turned into culinary school, which turned into going to France to cook and so on and so forth…

3. Who is your food role model?
I learned a ton from a chef I worked with in San Francisco years ago named Lance Dean Velasquez. He sadly doesn’t cook anymore, but he was amazing. Everything I know about being organized and clean, I learned from Lance.

4. What do you love about hosting with Feastly?
I love the freedom Feastly provides and the fact that I don’t have to deal with the daily in’s and out’s of running a restaurant. It’s one night and over! As stressful as the set up of it is, once it’s over I can breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing I don’t have to do it again the next day.

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5. What are you cooking goals/dreams right now? And in the long run?
I am hoping to turn Hank & Frida into a brick and mortar in the new year, but for now I’m happy to keep doing pop-ups, private events and food festivals.

6. Favorite meal/feast you’re ever had?
Obviously this is so hard, there have been many. I am so not a fancy food chef. I appreciate it and the work that goes into it, but I am not running to eat at Alinea every chance I get. That being said, whenever I fly home to NYC, my favorite thing to do is go to Papaya King and get two well-done hot dogs with mustard and onions. To me, that is a perfect meal. Followed by the pizza, the bagels, and the Jamaican beef patties.

7. What’s your most memorable moment hosting strangers at a dinner party?
So far, it was when one of my guests sat down next to her culinary school instructor from years ago! Such a small world.

8. What’s the one thing you always keep in your fridge?
Hot sauce

9. What is the go-to dish you make for yourself when home alone?
Spicy korean tofu soup

10. Weapon of Choice (in the kitchen):
Vitamix blender

11. You’re stranded on a desert island. You can only have one ingredient, but unlimited amounts of it. What is it?
Cheese. All the cheese.

12. A fun food fact:
White Castle sells about 500 million burgers a year and every one of them is delicious.

13. What’s the cheesiest food pun:
The “I don’t wanna taco ’bout it” drives me particularly insane.

14. What’s a food trend that you’ve heard of lately?
That chefs are cooking with whey. I mean, sure, but why? Can’t we just use the cheese?!

Book seats to the Hank & Frida Pop-up

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