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The Story Behind Kitchen 511

Kitchen 511 is not some 24/7 hotline for cooking calamities. It's a compendium of the hundreds of dishes I've been making for and with my family over the past 20 years. While it all started in the spacious kitchen of our West End Avenue apartment in New York City (shown above), the meals my children savor most have been prepared in our more modest kitchen in Nyack, NY. 511 is the number assigned to our 100-year old carriage house on the Hudson--hence the name I've assigned to my food blog.

The idea for Kitchen 511 struck me back in 2012 when my then 17-year old (the little guy carefully pouring the Arborio rice into the pot above) suddenly left home and moved across the country to take a job at a tech startup in San Francisco. (Long story, but he graduated a year early from high school and skipped over college, so he was about 5 years ahead of schedule.) After moving into his new apartment complete with a well-appointed kitchen, he and his roommates cooked regularly. And every week or so I'd get a text from Christian requesting a recipe. He wanted to make the spicy skirt steak and the chimichurri sauce that he loved so much. As well as the sautéed fennel and red onion topping for the thin-crust pizza. And the butternut squash soup with cilantro, coconut and jalapeño chutney. I loved that he was now cooking many of the meals he grew up eating. But each time he requested a recipe, I'd go through this mad scurry-search-and-scan routine before sending it off to him; and that's when it hit me--I needed all of my regularly used recipes in one well-organized, easy-to-access place.

Initially, I had envisioned Kitchen 511 as nothing more than a gift of meals and memories from me to my four children--a digital archive, which they could quickly comb through if and when they wanted to recreate the favorite foods they had eaten at home over the years. It would also serve as a gift of sorts for me, as I'd no longer have to rifle through piles of tattered, food-stained pages I'd scribbled on or torn out of magazines and newspapers or copied from friends' favorite cookbooks, or flip through my own twenty or thirty go-to books, or search through computer food files to find a cherished recipe. I could simply go to Kitchen 511, search for the sumptuous short-rib taco recipe, and, voila, have it appear on screen within a nanosecond. But as word spread that I was compiling all of the recipes we'd been serving up over the years and sharing them via a blog, friends and family members also wanted in. It's not that I'm some creative genius in the culinary department. Far from it. I've never taken a cooking class (although it is on my must-do list), my knives are never sharp enough, and I have a penchant for very simple food--no four-star soufflés here, in other words. But I love to cook (for six or sixty), and most of my guests--kids and adults alike--seem to enjoy what I make. And considering my husband's career--he's held key positions at many of Manhattan's top-tier catering companies, including Glorious Food, Hudson Yards and Tentation and has served fine fare to royalty and presidents, talk-show hosts and rock stars--I guess you could call me a foodie-by-marriage. He whips up inventive, yummy recipes--like his grilled vegetable pasta or shrimp and lemony risotto--and I copy them. I do the same with Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka, Alice Waters' Mushroom Ragu, Madhur Jaffrey's Easy Chicken Kebabs, Tamar Adler's Minestrone, my friend Gwen's endive salad with pear, dried fruit, walnuts and Stilton, and so on and so forth. 

So what started as a cookbook for my kids is now available to extended family, friends, and anyone else who's interested. (Food aficionados be forewarned: the content included herein could leave you feeling less than inspired!) While I have no idea with what regularity I will post new dishes, I will attempt to add at least one per week. That way, I figure by the time Catherine (my youngest) has graduated college and is cooking in her own kitchen, I will have uploaded all the family favorites to Kitchen 511 and won't need to scurry, search and scan when she texts me for her great grandmother's whipped cream icing recipe, which she expects atop her birthday cake each year! 

By Melissa Fedor-Baroni

Melissa spent close to twenty years as an editor at publications including Women's Wear Daily, W, Glamour, InStyle and Real Simple. She left full-time work to spend more time at home raising her four children, which is when things started to heat up in her kitchen. An entrepreneur at heart, she recently launched Borderline Jewelry. While Melissa loves going out to enjoy a great meal (particularly at O lar in Piermont, NY), she enjoys cooking and entertaining friends and family at home even more.