There is something so special about making and creating, especially when it comes to nourishing our friends and family with food. We recently sat down with private chef and cookbook author Robin Goldstein who shared her journey of all things cooking and creativity and a favorite recipe from her cookbook A Taste of Ojai II below.
Tell us a little about yourself. Have you always had a deep connection to cooking? If so where do you think it came from and what influenced you to become a private chef?
My love of cooking is deep-rooted. I was raised in a restaurant family—my grandparents on both sides owned restaurants, as did my father and we ate our way through Washington DC's most prominent restaurants. At a very young age, at my father's restaurant behind the bar, I learned how to operate the soda machine, was taught how to make a Shirley Temple, as well as the perfect omelette and how to plate food for service. Working in the kitchen was instrumental in fostering my love of food, my fascination for this profession, along with a strong work ethic.
My lifelong career as a chef has allowed and required I be both an artist and a craftsman. I believe I am the artist first, who has poured all my creative energy into my craft in the kitchen, putting in many hours of practice and repetition which is a necessary foundation for success. As part of my personal and professional journey after graduating culinary school, I focused both on my craft and my creativity, while embracing the ability to create a successful business at the same time.
Besides my family, another important influence on my culinary journey was Julia Child, who brought both technique and passion for quality ingredients into everyone's home. I welcomed Julia into mine each day while watching The French Chef, her iconic television show. Julia’s impact on food and cooking still resonates with me.
Having an artist as a grandmother, gave me a front-row seat to the life of a designer and creator. Not only was my grandma Hilda a very accomplished painter, she was also an incredibly versatile cook. She taught me at a very young age to immerse myself in the creative nature of cooking without recipes, guided by my senses. To feel and taste as I cook rather than be a slave to the words on a card.
What inspired you to make your condiment line and what is your favorite way to incorporate your condiments in cooking?
After writing my cookbooks I really wanted to produce some of my recipes for selling. I created and registered the trademark A Taste of California. Actually, I was begged to make my fig+olive tapenade by my clients so they could buy it. After several years of research and development, I finally found a co-packer to make my product exactly to my specifications to sell on a larger scale. The fig and olive tapenade started out as a dip sprinkled with feta cheese and crushed pistachio. Later developing recipes to use this product in numerous ways. Just to name a few, top flatbread pizza with the spread and use as a sandwich spread on panini's. Bake with chicken with wedges of tangerine. It also makes a very flavorful vinaigrette drizzled over caprese or greek salad just by adding some olive oil to thin it out. Grill chicken, fish, or vegetables with a spoonful on top for a truly authentic Mediterranean taste.
What recipe are you currently loving?
Yes, in my A Taste of Ojai II cookbook I have a fabulous citrus recipe that really speaks to seasonality and Southern California cooking. Click here to view video of recipe: https://youtu.be/MIuKms8VyJo
Pixie Crab Salad, 4 servings
8 oz fresh lump crab meat
2 tablespoon green onion, chopped
1 cup cucumber, peeled, diced small
2 teaspoon fresh jalapeno, minced - optional
3 pixies, peeled, segmented
garnish - sprouts or microgreens
for citrus vinaigrette
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Combine the crabmeat with onion, cucumber, jalapeno, and orange segments in a small bowl.
2. Make the vinaigrette, stir together the dressing ingredients, gradually whisking in the olive oil until blended.
3. Mix a few spoonfuls of dressing into the crab mixture and gently toss together until moistened.
4. Mold into a terrine, ring or small bowl, unmold onto serving plates and place a dollop of mayonnaise on top.
5. Garnish with microgreens, sprouts or fresh salad greens.
Is there something you are currently working on that you are excited about?
We are currently in development with a line of salad dressings, exploring eco-packaging other than glass bottles to avoid breakage and lower shipping costs.
Do you have a bookend to your day? (a morning practice or an evening practice)?
Although I am surrounded, getting into nature by taking a walk or drive in the local mountains where I live is incredibly healing and calming after a busy day behind the stove.
Robin's cookbooks include A Taste of Ojai, A Collection of Small Plates; A Taste of Ojai II, Flavors of the Valley; Simply Delicious Wine Country Recipes; and Crafting a Meal, Mediterranean Style infuse the flavors of the Mediterranean into these varied recipes.
She lives in an oak shaded neighborhood in the Ojai Valley, with her daughter and 2 cats, surrounded by nature and the scenic beauty of the local mountains that Ojai is famed for.