CONTACT ME at: yourchefmargaret AT gmail DOT com 

What does Taste Your Freedom mean to you?

Recently, upon hearing the name of my blog, someone commented on how wholistic the phrase is. I had intended the dual meanings of taste: not just what happens on our palate, but the dream we all have of having that life we all want. The life I want includes cooking and nurturing good health; the life my clients want includes eating well and being healthy while not feeling enslaved by the planning, shopping and cooking. It's a win-win!

Hi, I'm Margret Hefner.

Knowing some very accomplished chefs, I squirm a little when asked if I am a chef–after all, I didn't go to culinary school.  But perhaps I deserve the distinction; I approach food like any other creative medium. Develop first an in-depth understanding of ingredients, techniques, traditions and processes, then apply creativity. This, I do–so call me a chef if you like! Ultimately, I credit my love for food and my nurturing style to my Polish father, who, rest his soul, experimented well outside the culinary traditions of his home country and spent many hours leafing through cookbooks and trying out new recipes and ingredients. WIth his discipline, passion and attention to detail he would have made a fine Master Chef.

Over the past 22-plus years I've done stints in several restaurant kitchens. My first was at Al Forno in Providence, RI. There, I had the privilege to prepare plates that were served to culinary luminati Julia Child and Anne Willan of La Varenne These gigs along with my personal culinary “travels” broadened my palette and honed my palate. My first love is the cuisine of Tuscany and the Northern regions of Italy, thanks to my introduction at Al Forno. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern stretching to Morocco, Turkey and Iran are other cuisines I have "studied" (much thanks to work of Clifford Wright) and feel very at home with. Thai snuck in there when I was a sous chef for a year, and though I've never been to India, it's a favorite to cook–I thank Madhur Jaffrey and Julie Sahni and all the great purveyors of ethnic ingredients in Toronto and my many hours in the kitchen at the Ontario Vipassana Centre.

For the last several years, I have been fortunate to be able to earn my living cooking for private clients in their homes, with a focus on dietary restrictions and health recovery. Whatever they need in order to get into healthier eating habits is what I do–generally this is a variety of meals prepared on a weekly schedule. I'll even go in and do a pantry clean-up and restocking if that helps them replace bad habits with better ones. I've done course work on diets for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention and continue taking various online courses related to nutrition and food policy.

 I  also cater multi-course luncheons and dinners for up to 24 guests, and cocktail parties for up to 150.

Before deciding I wanted to focus on cooking for a living,  I was a designer with a BFA (jewelry) from the Rhode Island School of Design. I worked for jewelry companies like Ralph Lauren and Jones NY, and for 8 years designed and oversaw the manufacture of my own line of “jewelry for the home” (cabinet knobs, table accessories and that kind of thing). Some of these designs were licensed (Umbra Inc) but the majority made up my own product line, and were sold in boutiques and galleries in Canada and US. For the final 3 years in that business, in Ontario “cottage country”,  I operated my own retail gallery/shop representing my own work and of other Canadian designers and craftspeople. When I made the decision to end that phase of my career I just stepped over from one craft to another.

As much as possible, I offer my time in volunteer service focussed on food accessibility and education. Culturally, let's revisit delicious peasant foods, simple and wholesome, rather than continue with the deceptive allure of prepackaged convenience and luxury foods.

While I'm not going to be the face of any Bravo food shows any time, here's a fun glimpse of me created by a client and fan...