Chef Mara Levi brings Cajun and Creole flavors to New York City. This is the place to go for flavorful comfort food that is sure to excite the palate. Her restaurant, Mara’s Homemade is known for its delicious oysters, Jambalaya and Crawfish Etouffe and stands out amongst her peers on India Row. We chatted with Mara to find out what it is exactly that makes her food taste so good.
FriendsEAT: Mara, did you grow up cooking?
Mara Levi: Yes as a child and then as a teenager, I cooked since my Mother didn’t. So I thank her, as well!
FE: Hmmm…most people say it was their mom, well then, who in your life has influenced your cooking the most?
ML: My Grandmother, Aunt and Mother-in-law
FE: What made you decide to go into the culinary profession?
ML: I love people enjoying the food I create and I felt my food was as good as any I’ve had in other restaurants.
FE: What is the biggest misconception that people have when coming into the business?
ML: That it’s an easy life. I wake up working and never stop. But I LOVE what I do.
ML: Keep cooking, experimenting, trying new things.
FE: What are your three favorite cooking tools?
ML: Kitchen Aid mixer, Cuisinart, gas stove
FE: And the funniest thing to happen in your kitchen?
ML: The first time I ever made spaghetti as a newlywed, I did not know it needed to be stirred. So as it boiled, it stuck to the bottom and burned! It never happened again.
FE: What is your favorite food to cook with?
ML: Garlic and onion.
FE: And what are your favorite things to eat when you are relaxing at home?
ML: Cheerios, Skim Milk and Banana
FE: What do you consider to be an essential cookbook?
ML: A Cook’s Tour of Shalom. From Temple Shalom in Dallas. I helped work on it and know everyone who’s recipes are enclosed. I think of the people and occasions whenever I use it.
FE: Is there a specific practice in your kitchen that you are specially proud of?
ML: respect for one another, no matter what is happening. But it better be RIGHT! (lol)
FE: Can you share a recipe with us?
ML: Artichoke Dip is a family favorite in which I have reduced the mayonnaise considerably which enhances the cheesy artichoke flavor. I recommend serving it with table water crackers.
Hungry yet? Check out Chef Mara’s dishes at Mara’s Homemade located at 342 East 6th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues) in NY, NY 10003 (212) 598.1110