“I’ve always been a people person,” Justin Chapple tells me almost immediately after he calls for the scheduled interview.
Within minutes, I totally believe him. It’s like we’ve been best friends forever.
“I love to hear from people,” he says, adding that he almost always answers people who contact him via his many social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram. “I tell people if they pre-order my new book through my website, justinchapple.com, I’ll send them a note and an autographed bookplate. I spend most mornings writing notes.”
Yes, he does. Even though Chapple has the high prestige job of Culinary Director at Food & Wine magazine, was nominated for a James Beard Award for “Mad Genius,” the weekly morning show he hosts, does the magazine’s video series “Mad Genius Tips” and is the author of two cookbooks, Mad Genius Tips (Broadmoor House 2016) and the soon to be released Just Cook It! 145 Built-To-Be-Easy Recipes That Are Totally Delicious (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018; $30), he’s all about you.
“It means a lot to me to have people’s support,” says Chapple, who regularly appears on NBC’s “Today.” “And if they have a question about one of my recipes or cooking, I always try to answer it.”
He’s also all about recipes, cooking tips and making it simple. As part of his job as culinary director, he not only has developed and tested thousands of recipes but also converts esoteric recipes from famous chefs—the kind most of us would look at and shake our heads in despair—and makes them accessible for our own kitchens. Watch a few episodes from his “Mad Genius LIVE and “Mad Genius Tips” shows and you’re first thought is, I can use that followed by where does he get all those ideas.
“Sometimes they pop up in my head and I’ll say ‘omigoodness’,” says Chapple who really doesn’t sound like someone who trained at the prestigious French Culinary Institute. “Other times it’s what people ask of me—they want to know how to do something like peel a mango and I’m happy they asked and come up with ideas.”
Though his classical French cooking background is important, he says he learned much of his kitchen know-how from his grandmother.
“She had to make do with whatever she had and she always made the food taste wonderful,” he says.
Describing Just Cook It as low-concept, he says it’s about everyday simple easy recipes. For example, when you have a hankering for lasagna but there’s not enough time to pull it all together, he suggests Ravioli Lasagna with Arugula. It’s good, fast approximation for busy weeknights. Just buy some cheese ravioli, parboil it, drain, place in a casserole and then add fresh mozzarella. Open a jar of good marinara sauce, sauté it with ground beef or fresh veggies or just add it plain to the ravioli. There you have it.
Like gnocchi or other types of dumplings but don’t want to mess with rolling each one out and shaping them by hand? Never fear, there’s a secret to that as well. Using a food processor, he mixes the ingredients for his Ricotta Gnudi (gnocchi are dumplings made with potatoes and gnudi are made with ricotta cheese), but the next step is much more unusual. Taking an ice cream scoop, he spoons small balls of the dough directly from the food processor and dumps them into hot water.
“Simmer them until they pillowy and just firm,” he says. “I then sauté them until they’re browned and coated with the butter mixture.”
He sprinkles the cook gnuda with pistachio-almond dukka, an Arabic dish (you often also see a bowl of it at Indian restaurants near where you pay your bill). It’s a mixture of spices, seeds and nuts including cumin, coriander, sesame and caraway seeds, pistachios and almonds and cayenne and black peppers.
Dukka is another example of the recipes in his new cookbook. There are a plethora of global offerings such as Thai Skillet Corn, Shumai Stew with Shiitake & Mustard Greens, Rice & Pork Congee with Chiles, Crispy Garlic & Ginger, several types of curry and Catalan-Style Mussels with Green Olives & Fried Almonds. In other words, you can create international meals effortlessly and without fuss.
As for the cooking demonstration at the KitchenAid Fairway Club during the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, Chapple says he’s very excited as he’s heard southwest Michigan is beautiful.
“I’m going to demonstrate a few different very simple and fun recipes including a golden tomato gazpacho,” he says.
Though his background in French cooking would seem to call for rich creams and butter, Chapple says he ‘d rather add flavors with such ingredients as good quality olive oil that creates a “silky taste.”
“Another one of the secrets I like to share is using smoked almonds,” he says. “They’re so delicious and so easy and they impart a lot of flavor.”
Chapple talks about his “secrets” and I ask, jokingly, how they can be secrets since he tells them to everyone.
“That’s the fun of secrets,” he says. “Telling them to people.”
What: Interactive Cooking Demonstration with Justin Chapple
When: Noon CST/ 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, May 26
Where: KitchenAid Fairway Club near the main entrance, Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor, Michigan
FYI: For more information about the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, or to buy tickets, visit pga.com/events/seniorpgachampionship/2018 or call 269-487-3200.
Follow Justin on Twitter and Instagram at: @justinchapple and Facebook at facebook.com/justin.a.chapple.