Lakeside Chat with Chef Kim O’Donnel

Robbie Hudson, Program Director - 13th September 2013

Kim O’Donnel is a trained chef, nationally recognized online food personality, and longtime journalist. Formerly of The Washington Post, Kim has also written for USA Today, Real Simple, Country Gardens and Culinate.


What is your favorite kitchen tool and why?
Generally, I prefer hand-cranked tools to electric – food mill, potato masher, mortar & pestle, whisk.  I get great satisfaction witnessing the transformation of ingredients knowing that my two hands were involved.  Then again, I love  my four-slice toaster.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Probably grilled cheddar on rye, with strong mustard, a pickle tucked inside and a handful of potato chips.

What is your favorite herb or spice and why?
Smoked paprika: Smoky, yet slightly spicy, adding layers of flavor, particularly to vegetables.
Coriander, both dried and fresh: I love using whole coriander seeds in brines for pickled vegetables and grinding it for spice rubs (it lends a subtle lemon-y note) and when I’m making curries.  Fresh coriander (aka cilantro) is a go-to at my house – Lately I’ve been throwing it into the food processor and blending it with garlic, lime, fresh ginger, chile pepper and olive oil, for a green sauce that would make an old shoe taste good. 
Fresh flat-leaf parsley – I grow a pot on my balcony and snip regularly, to garnish grains, pasta, eggs, or throw into salads.

How do you relax?
A regular yoga practice, even for just a few minutes while I wait for my morning coffee to brew. 
Getting some fresh air and going for a walk as often as possible. 
Bike rides around the neighborhood.
Sunday NYT crossword puzzle with my husband – it’s our weekly ritual.
Spending the afternoon canning seasonal produce

While cooking, what musician or music do you like to listen to?
I have a playlist on my iPod called “Cook to the Music” and it includes a little bit of reggae, old-school disco,  Motown classics and hip hop.  Anything that gets me dancing while I’m chopping vegetables is fair game! 

What or who inspired you to want to cook?
I didn’t realize it then, but  the first major influence was Mrs. Karl, who lived in the house across the street from where I grew up outside Philadelphia.  She was an avid cook and would prepare dishes from Julia Child, James Beard or Meada Heatter. I’d sit and watch her, mesmerized. Opera was blaring from the radio. She wore flowy tunics and strong perfume.  I had my first bite of fresh tuna at her house.
When did you know you had a passion for cooking?
I began clipping recipes from newspapers and magazines while I was in college and bought my first cookbook – The New Basics by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso – after I graduated.  But it wasn’t until 1994, while working in a bread bakery in Washington DC (to supplement my paltry ESL teaching income) that I really got the cooking bug.  I started to think of nothing else and desperately wanted to meet the woman chef who lived in my neighborhood and walked to her restaurant everyday, wearing a little blue cap and carrying a basket.  I got my wish and apprenticed for Ann Cashion, while I applied to culinary school (and for scholarship money).   In the fall of 1996, I went to Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School on a full scholarship from the James Beard Foundation.   It was meant to be.

Web site:
Twitter: @kimodonnel