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Born and raised in NYC, attending Hunter High School and NYU Stern for Undergrad, I’m a true New Yorker. I’ve been interested in food for as long as I can remember. My mom said I could use chopsticks at the age of 2 and I would never eat off the kids’ menu. Chicken feet, oysters, enoki mushrooms, and curried squid… there wasn’t much I wouldn’t eat. My mom was my first teacher and still teaches me about Chinese cooking all the time.

During college, I was a bartender at a few local clubs and restaurants, which drove my dad crazy. What was his law school bound daughter doing as a bartender? But after college, law school plans turned into a spontaneous decision to go to culinary school. At the Art Institute of NYC (formerly the New York Restaurant School), I did an externship under Chef Didier Virot and Pastry Chef Jehangir Mehta. At the same time, I was fortunate enough to live next door to James Beard and Julia Child’s award winning cookbook author, Carol Gelles. She has been my mentor ever since, teaching me all I know about recipe writing and testing.

For about 3 years, I owned a little Bubble Tea Shop called Cassava in the West Village, where I got a taste of the business side. That’s when I met Lon and we started this hobby blog. I was still busy as a staffing consultant and business consultant for restaurants and bars, while planning our wedding. At some point I decided I wanted to be a full-time food blogger and that’s where we are now. I make very little money but it’s still awesome. Thanks to all that read!!

Jessica’s Pantry

Generally, I like to have as much variety as possible: seasonal vegetables, different herbs, seafood, meats, etc. but these are the top-10 things I cannot live without in my kitchen. I put them in alphabetical order because it’s hard enough to narrow down to 10; I couldn’t possibly put them in order.

Balsamic | Tomatoes | Cheese | Cumin | Yogurt
Flour | Garlic | S&P | Loose Tea | Mustard

  • Balsamic Vinegar IconBalsamic Vinegar has a natural sweetness that most vinegar doesn’t have. Balsamic is such a versatile ingredient: great for vinaigrettes, marinating, or cooking with. It’s great on vegetables or meats. Try roasting a Cornish hen with balsamic vinegar, yum! The more expensive aged balsamic vinegars taste better than the cheap ones, but you can cook with the cheap ones.
  • Canned tomatoes IconCanned tomatoes are also super versatile. Use canned tomatoes in pizza sauce, chili, soups, salsas, and a gazillion types of pasta sauces. Plus they’re super healthy.
  • Cheese IconCheese is my major food group. Ok, so this is sort of cheating since cheese encompasses a lot but allow me just this one. Some of my favorites: English Blackstick Blue, Humboldt Fog, locally made fresh mozzarella, and I could go on and on…
  • Cumin IconCumin is my favorite spice. Cumin is used in many South American and Middle Eastern dishes and is a main component of most curries. I love it and add it to salad dressing, eggs, potato chips, french fries, and lots of sauces.
  • Fage Yogurt IconFage yogurt is real yogurt! All the other stuff (Dannon, Breyers, Yoplait, etc.) should be ashamed for trying to pass themselves off as yogurt. I eat the 2% Fage straight out of the container but I also use it to make raitas and tzatzikis.
  • Flour IconFlour is the basis of all those wonderful carbs: breads, buns, pastas/noodles, cakes, pastries, cookies, pancakes/crepes… oh my!
  • Garlic IconGarlic is probably in everyone’s pantry. You can make any simple meat or vegetable taste better with just a little garlic, or a lot of garlic. Raw minced garlic adds spiciness to dressings. Cooking garlic with anything adds a wonderful aroma. You can even roast garlic and it becomes a wonderful spread.
  • Salt & Pepper IconKosher salt and freshly ground pepper should be your standard seasoning for almost anything. If you’re using table salt, save it for baking only and get yourself some kosher salt (we use Morton’s). Get yourself a good peppermill (and peppercorns) too.
  • Loose Leaf Tea IconLoose leaf teas are way better than tea bags. I was raised by parents that have a tea thermos permanently attached to them. They seriously carry it everywhere they go and it’s embarrassing when they take it to a restaurant with them; but they don’t like tea bags either. I always keep around a variety of black (Chinese call it red) and green teas and I’m not a fan of fruit or mint flavored teas.
  • Whole Grain Mustard IconWhole grain mustard is another versatile must have. It’s the best tasting emulsifier for vinaigrettes or dressings. It can be used to bind breadcrumbs to chicken, lamb, or pork. You can just use it plain to coat roasted potatoes or fish and it forms a flavorful pseudo-crust. In any recipe that calls for mustard, I substitute with whole grain mustard. It just tastes better.



Born and raised in NY, I’ve been eating in the five boroughs and metro area my whole life… I’m also a true New Yorker. Growing up, my mother was a phenomenal, Kosher chef and we enjoyed gourmet meals just about every night and gourmet leftovers for lunch. Eating out was also a special treat on a regular occasion. I was probably the only kid in my elementary school bringing steak for lunch in a brown paper bag.

When I moved out, I started cooking on a daily basis, and gave up Kosher. There was a whole new world of cuisine to attempt. Living in Astoria, an area filled with Greek, Italian, and Latino cultures, I had my pick of new things to try: whole raw goat, dried cod at every bodega, plantains, pork shoulder and more. I cooked daily learning from anyone and every source I could and over a few years (or a decade) became quite good.

Today, I’m busy as the VP of Technology at Warby Parker, one of the most successful privately-held consumer e-commerce companies in the US. I have less time to write on FoodMayhem but still do most of the site design and programming.

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Lon’s Pantry

Jessica had a wonderful idea to list the top ten ingredients we stock, this was much harder than it sounded. So I’m going to cheat and say, I love having everything Jessica mentioned, plus these ten items!

Onions | Olive Oil | Pasta | Eggs | Butter
Vinegar | Red Pepper | Honey | Seafood | Mayo

  • Onions IconLarge, yellow onions Just about every recipe starts with garlic and onions and there’s a reason why. Onions are one of the critical aromatics, offering scent, flavor, texture, sweetness, and sharpness. Depending on how you cook them they can range dramatically in what they add to a dish.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil IconExtra Virgin Olive Oil It is critical to have at least two brands of extra virgin olive oil in the pantry, one enormous jug of Berio and a bottle of any very high-quality extra virgin olive oil with a strong, fruity, robust flavor. Berio is relatively inexpensive and offers the best taste for the price I’ve found, I usually pick it up at Costco, then transfer it to an easier to pour, smaller bottle. Use the higher-quality for uncooked recipes such as dressings or for dipping. Note that this is the only case I can think of where I differentiate use of quality, otherwise I always want the best quality. The reason is that high quality extra virgin olive oil has particulate in it which will burn quickly when cooking.
  • Dry Pasta IconDry Pasta I keep a ridiculous amount of dry pasta on hand at any time. I love variety of shapes, but at least require thin spaghetti and elbow macaroni. It can be used for Italian, Chinese, or even Latin cooking. It’s inexpensive and fast. Barilla is my favorite brand and Cellentani is my favorite shape.
  • Eggs IconEggs When we go to Costco I buy 48 large eggs at a time, and could probably buy 96 without a problem. I cruise through them! For me baking comes on spontaneously, and I never want to be short of ingredients.
  • Butter IconButter Again, I buy 4-5 pounds at a time of butter and usually have a total of 9-10 pounds on hand at a time. I use butter in many recipes, not just baking, plus I love spreading it on warm bread with herbs or otherwise. Sautéing in extra virgin olive oil with some butter in it gets even better. I only buy unsalted. Butter trick number one: I hate waiting for butter to soften, so I usually preheat the oven, then microwave the butter in its wrapper for 7-8 seconds, then let it sit, unwrapped, on a plate on the heating oven for ten minutes, it works quite well, but watch out for over-microwaving.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar IconApple Cider Vinegar Most people are surprised when I tell them that this vinegar is one of the first things I buy to stock a kitchen. Whenever a recipe calls for a vinegar type that I’m out of (except for Balsamic) I substitute apple cider vinegar. When I create new recipes that use vinegar, I typically start with apple cider. People can never figure out what flavor it is and they love it, it’s bitter with a subtle sweetness that can be controlled by cooking time. Plus it’s sold in nice big bottles, so it stays a while.
  • Red Pepper Flakes IconRed Pepper Flakes Again, this is a great substitution ingredient, but it covers the spice area. If you need to bring some heat to a recipe, and are out of fresh chilies (which are always better), pimiento is your savior. The way to get the most out of dried flakes is to sauté them in oil for a minute or two before introducing other ingredients, particularly proteins. Be careful, because these dry flakes actually burn rather quickly.
  • Honey IconHoney As you can tell by now, I think about ingredients by what flavor they bring to a recipe. When I think about sweeteners, I first think of honey. It is more robust than white cane sugar and available in many subtle flavors (based on the honey source). I usually pick up some simple, blended flavors and some heartier, monofloral flavors depending on use.
  • Canned Seafood IconCanned Seafood Before you say “ew”, consider that tuna counts. But I say “seafood” because I don’t just buy tuna, I also like to buy boneless salmon, crab, and clams. These are staples to keep in the pantry as they last a long time and can rapidly take a dish up a notch. While for tuna, crab, and clams brand doesn’t matter much to me, for salmon, I only buy Kirkland brand from Costco
  • Mayonnaise IconMayonnaise! My friends and family call me Mr. Mayo and it ain’t no lie. Hellman’s mayo, the best brand, belongs in everything. I put it on bagels, sandwiches, and eggs; and I use it in dressings, spreads, and stuffings. It has its own rich flavor but also carries other flavors and promotes them. It’s basically solidified egg and oil, yum. I also make it from time to time, but prefer buying it.