Q&A: Food Network’s Alex Guarnaschelli Talks Pumpkin and Cooking At Home, Part 1


Even chefs like Guarnaschelli meet challenges when cooking pumpkin.

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is a busy woman. She’s the executive chef of New York City’s Butter restaurant and The Darby and is a recurring judge on the popular prime-time series Chopped. She also has her own shows, The Cooking Loft and Alex’s Day Off.

We caught up with her over the week to chat about seasonal specialties and cooking at home.

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You were just at the Food and Wine Festival in New York. How did that go?
I loved it. I’ve never eaten that many hamburgers in my entire life, but I just think it’s a great way for the fans to come see everybody they watch on TV. I think it’s a great way to celebrate New York City.

What are some seasonal specialties that you like to do?
Someone told me yesterday that pumpkin is the new bacon, which I thought was hilarious. So I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of roasted squash and pumpkin with a light cheese crust. There’s something about the combination of the squash with a little bit of sugar, and a little bit of paprika topped with the cheese. I think pumpkin might be the new potato as well as the new bacon. So that’s something I’m working on in both of my new restaurants.

Anything else?
I’m obsessed with grapes. It’s been an interesting grape year so far in the United States. We have this delicious grape cocktail. We like cooking down grapes with sugar and lemon and making a juice from that with some sparkling wine and a splash of vodka. That’s delicious as a cocktail.The other thing I’m really into is leeks. I cook them whole on the grill then I peel down the outer layers, split them, char them, and serve them with a little cherry dressing. That’s delicious.

We’ve also noticed the popularity of pumpkins. What are some other pumpkin recipes or tips?
Honestly I like it just peeled and roasted in wedges. I feel like we’re always just making it into a puree. You can actually put a salsa on top of roasted wedges and it’s delicious. You can also roast the wedges, cook the seeds, and put the salsa and the seeds on top. it’s nose-to-tail pumpkin cooking.

Pumpkin is tough to cook. Any tips to ease the process?
No, nothing to make that easier. I’m a fan of honesty and sometimes cooking is just a lot of work. I would say peel the squash or pumpkin whole and then cut it into wedges. It’s easier to peel it when it’s whole if that makes any difference.

Do you cook at home a lot?
Yeah I do. I have a daughter. I grew up in a household with a lot of cooking and I’d like her to have the same. So yeah I do. I actually love cooking. I know it sounds kind of obvious, but I genuinely still love to cook after all this time which is nice for me.