Author Archive


Tuesday, March 20th, 2012


Hi Chef,

I am attending NYU and just moved into my first apartment and, I LOVE TO COOK but am just beginning in the last couple of years. I am confused by alot of spices. What spices do you recommend to have in my pantry at all times? And, what spices are the most important that they be fresh and not dried? By the way, love the Chubby Chinese Girl!

An aspiring cook,


Brooklyn, NY



Hi Lana,

Thank you so much for the love! By spices, I am assuming you are referring to herbs & spices. These days with easy access to fresh herbs, you should never use dried (unless for a dry rub or dredge.) Remember, when using fresh herbs it is best to chop fresh and use at the last possible moment, maximizing the flavor. Dill, Chives, Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Mint, Rosemary, Cilantro, and Parsley are the most common herbs used and are available in most supermarkets.
Spices are easy to store and have a great shelf life. I buy whole spices and use as needed. This brings the most flavors when cooking. For me, the most used spices in my pantry are Star Anise, Cinnamon, Fennel Seeds, Nutmeg, & Cumin.

Star Anise is very diverse. It has an almost licorice type flavor and is highly used in Asian cuisine. At Certe’, we use it in our butternut Squash soup where it aids in the sweetness of the Squash.

Cinnamon is very common and I am sure you have used it quite often already. I highly recommend grating it to order.

Fennel seeds also add a sweet Licorice flavor. I suggest toasting, which brings out the oil and aids in disbursing the flavor easier and should be done with all aromatic seeds. We use Fennel seeds in all our beef meatballs at Pizza by Certe’. It is the most common flavor related to Italian Sausage.

Nutmeg should definitely be grated to order. I use this spice a lot in the Fall/Winter. I like to use it in cream sauces and is the main component in Egg Nog.

Cumin is a bitter sweet spice and is also a seed. I use it a lot in Southwestern & Mexican cooking as well as Middle Eastern. It is an unrivaled flavor and needs to be experimented with.

If you are going to start your journey with spices, I suggest you buy a coffee grinder to be able to grind to order. There are hundreds of Spices and the best way is experimentation.

Keep It Fresh!

Chef Sylvia


Favorite Celebrity Chef

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Hi Chef Sylvia,

There are so many celebrity chefs cooking on TV and, well, some not so famous. Do you think the influx of celebrity chefs have been a good thing for the industry or negative? If you could just choose one celebrity chef to watch, who would you choose? Hope you will answer both questions!



New York City


Great question! There are 2 ways in which to answer.

The Pros: It is great that the profession is acknowledged by the masses through the medium of entertainment.
The Negatives: Gives a false sense of what the profession is really about and tends towards a glamorous feel, when it is really a lot of hard work and long hours.

I base my watching criteria on 2 things.

1)    Education – how much I actually learn from the show in terms of the origin of the food without being well-rehearsed, discusses & demonstrates techniques, innovative ideas, cool secret ingredients & creativity

2) Personality – how entertaining and captivating is the host, without distracting from the food… and if I can go the entire show without uttering a negative comment to myself

With that being said… I LOVE watching Jacques Pepin prepare food. There is little editing and the actual time to make the dish is the actual time on TV. He does all the prep work without any assistance and shows a broad range of knife skills and techniques. And, all the while, he is immensely entertaining. He’s the real deal, a superbly trained chef who can make the simplest food elegant. They don’t make people like him anymore. I could go on and on.

Keeping it Fresh!

Chef Edward Sylvia



Friday, November 25th, 2011

EVOO to Cook With?

Friday, November 25th, 2011

 I have always heard that using extra virgin olive oil to cook with is not only a waste of money but also that regular olive oil reacts better to heat. In fact I have read that an olive oil mix is actually better than olive oil itself. I have noticed that chefs on TV say to use EVOO. Is it really better to cook with?


Thank you!



New York City


Love Your Gazpacho

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Dear Chef Sylvia,

I love love love your Gazpacho, and would love to make it. How do you make it and can I make it without the heat (my husband doesn’t like spicy).




Orange, NJ

Catering Dilemma

Thursday, July 21st, 2011


I have a small catering business and handle weddings for under a hundred to intimate dinner parties for two. One of my clients that we handled his proposal dinner to his betrothed, fell in love with a recipe we did for him. It involves a desert we call cherry scrumble, and it involves a hot fresh made custard served with it. He insist we serve it as his wedding. How can I assure hot service and maintain quality for a wedding of 125 sit down reception and also not slow service to a crawl.

Your advice greatly appreciated.

Chef William Higginbotham

Personal Q&A with Chef Edward

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

“Ask the Chef” forum is a place to ask all those questions you’ve had about our food, certe’, catering, Chef Edward, or just anything and everything you ever wondered about food. Ever wonder about those food myths and if they are really true? Have a healthy cooking question? Now’s your chance to find out.



What dining trends are you tired of?

“Molecular Gastronomy. I like food in its purest form. I’m all about Grandma (or Grandpa).”

What are 3 things you can’t live without?

“Chef’s Knife (It’s the only knife I need). Digital Recorder (I have a bad memory). Hand Blender (saves an amazing amount of time and energy).”

How do you manage 2 restaurants?

“With a great team of over 80 employees behind me! My restaurants are within walking distance, so at anytime I can pop up anywhere.”

How many hours in your work week?

“80 Physical/168 Mental. I dream certe’ every night.”

Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.

“Picking Garden Peas from a family member’s farm and wondering why they even cook it.”

What’s the largest number people you ever cooked for?

“We have done breakfast for 7,000 and lunch for 5,000.”

Apron or no apron? “Always an apron.”

Who is the most famous person you’ve cooked for?

“Luciano Pavarotti. He had Quail Eggs & Watercress Ravioli, Crispy Pancetta, Brown Butter & Sage as an appetizer. I have cooked for more famous people such as Bill Clinton, but Pavarotti was my favorite.”

How hard is it, as a Chef/Owner, to maintain a healthy diet?

“It is not hard to maintain a healthy diet. It is difficult to maintain portion control. Picking and tasting all day, it is tough to keep track. When you sit and have a real meal, you forgot what you had earlier.”

In a nutshell, what is your philosophy?

“A Tomato should taste like a Tomato!”