Lela grew up in her parents’ bagel deli in south Florida 🍊
Get to know Lela in this Q&A and get her meals in Andersonville this Wednesday-Sunday (3/27-3/31)!
Q: What’s your cooking background?
Lela: My parents owned a bagel deli (the best one in south Florida 😉) for the first 10 years of my life, so I grew up around two amazing and creative chefs—cooking is in my blood! My mom likes to tell stories of how I learned to read: she and I would make the letters of the alphabet out of fresh baked bagel dough, and write words in the cornmeal on the counter tops.
I’ve always felt at home in the kitchen, and as an artist baking and cooking are such a great outlet for me, and a way to share a part of myself with the people I care about.
Q: What can you tell us about the dishes you’re making and what inspired them?
Lela: I just came back from a trip to LA for work and I spent a lot of time eating amazing food while I was there. I’ve been so inspired lately by some of the great food I tried and the spices and fruits I brought back with me like Mexican chilies, Japanese yuzu, Korean gochujang, and some of the best sourdough bread I’ve ever had!
I’ve been working on some really creative ways to mix these foods and flavors into foods I already love to make. I’m making some amazing Korean barbecue meatballs with homemade kimchi, a spicy and sweet vegan Thai green curry with tofu made from scratch, and some miso braised pork belly hash with a southern inspired tomato bourbon jam.
Q: What do you think about when you’re in the kitchen?
Lela: I try to bring my own flavors and creativity into every dish I make. It’s a way for me to share something special with people, and the flavors I’m using and the spices I’m cooking with have been inspiring me in a big way. These dishes really bring me back to the warm weather on the beach in LA!
Q: Where did you grow up and what kind of food did you grow up with?
Lela: I grew up in south Florida, and I ate a lot of traditional “Jewish deli” foods growing up, but both of my parents are so creative and would use a lot of the Cuban and French spices and freshly caught seafood that was so synonymous with living in the tropics. I spent a lot of time in North Carolina as well, so I’ve been drawn to the southern charm and those flavors are reflected in my cooking as well. Each dish tells a story, and I’m always finding new and innovative ways to tell mine! 😊
Q: What’s your favorite food memory?
Lela: My favorite food memory is cracking eggs with my mom and baking bagels with my dad in their restaurant. It’s such a simple moment, but when I do these things now it really connects me with them and I remember why I love sharing my food and cooking with others.
Q: Anything else we should know about you and your cooking?
Lela: I was vegan for 14 years, so I feel just as at home making lentil burgers and tofu from scratch as I do making pulled pork and meatballs! Also, I’m definitely not shy when it comes to spice and heat! I know not everyone is a fan of spicy food, though, so I’m happy to tone it down for someone who prefers things a bit more on the mild side. 😉
The Shmeal Team. 🐖💻