Food memories: Q&A with Annie Lucey
At Primary Beans, we see food as a powerful source of connection, memory, and love. So we’ve invited some of our favorite creators to share their own food memories, and the recipes and people who inspired them. Food Memories is a rotating collection of stories from our favorite home cooks, chefs, and bean enthusiasts, featuring all your favorite beans and showcasing recipes, tips, and bean magic from around the world.
Meet our friend Annie Lucey, a California based chef who believes that delicious meals don’t need to be complicated. Annie’s been busy honing her love for home cooking since elementary school (we can’t get enough of her smoothie recipe below!), and much of her cooking philosophy was inspired by spending time in her dad’s garden at a young age. She currently works as a test kitchen chef and host at Brava Home by day, all while sharing her own recipes and tips (annielucey.com). We had a blast chatting with her about her Mexican and Italian roots, our shared mission to make home cooking more intuitive and fun, and of course the role of beans as a household staple.
Your site and Instagram account are filled with so many gorgeous recipes. How would you define your cooking style and philosophy?
My cooking style is inspired by the seasonal produce here in California, with an emphasis on fresh and bright recipes. But more importantly, I believe that enjoying food and cooking is all about a balance. Most weeknights, I look towards fresh produce and nutrient-dense ingredients, like beans, and use simple, everyday cooking techniques to make them taste as delicious as possible. So, lots of roasted vegetables, a quick stovetop dish of white beans and tomato sauce, soups, oven roasted proteins, salads– things that feel realistic after a workday. I also lean on pantry and kitchen staples to round out dishes. Tomatoes, anchovies, citrus, herbs, chiles, and toasted pistachios are all heavy hitters in my rotation and they add delicious layers of flavor and texture. I eat this way the majority of the time and of course allow myself to just enjoy anything in between, because what is life without pizza or pasta night?
Potatoes from Annie's dad's garden.
You talk a lot about your dad's garden on your site– he sounds like an amazing gardener! Has your upbringing influenced your path to becoming a chef?
Absolutely! Learning about gardening at a young age very much shaped my view of food as something to be enjoyed and savored. I didn’t realize at the time that I had such a creative culinary itch to scratch, but looking back it makes so much sense that I’m on the career path that I am now. In elementary school I faked sick days to stay home and watch cooking shows and read cookbooks, and I wrote down recipes to make my own little cookbooks (see my smoothie recipe– lol @ “serve in a tall glass”).
On top of that, much of my childhood was centered around big family gatherings that were all about the food. I have strong Italian and Mexican roots so there were raviolis, tortillas, tamales, pastas, tomato sauces– you name it, and the fun was always in the kitchen. All the signs were there and it makes me laugh now that it took me so long to make cooking my profession.
Tell us about your day job as a professional test kitchen chef, and long term vision for @annieluceycooks?
I head up the recipe development and culinary content in house for a culinary brand, Brava Home. Recipe development is a large part of my role, but I also style and help direct a number of our photo and video shoots for everything from recipe shoots to broadcast commercials, work as an on-camera host for video shoots, as well as pitch and write editorialized culinary content for different social channels. Long-term, I want to author my own cookbooks and teach cooking classes. I think cooking is one of the best ways to take care of yourself (plus it’s delicious and fun!), and I love that by creating and sharing recipes I get to empower people to step into the kitchen and cook at home. I want to do all of that on a much larger scale.
We both share a love for traveling. What's the most memorable food experience you had while traveling abroad?
Ah– this is such a hard question to answer since my travels are usually centered around food! I recently traveled to Oaxaca with my husband and we were lucky enough to dine at La Cocina de Humo with Chef Thalia Barrios García. The meal was honestly spiritual. Cocina de Humo is an outdoor kitchen, and when you walk in, you see a long line of coal burning fires, where Thalia and her team of chefs are cooking on clay comals over the coals.
There’s a communal table lined with burning candles, Oaxacan pottery, and you enjoy your meal while seeing how everything is cooked over smokey coals. We came here for breakfast and enjoyed Café de Olla, a traditional Oaxacan coffee drink, then mole, chorizo, fresh tortillas, a brothy and limey chicken soup, tamales, and eggs cooked on top of hoja santa leaves with fresh charred salsa. It was so delicious and magical. You typically can’t get a reservation at Cocina de Humo unless you’re booking with a larger group, but we were able to come here with someone who lives in Oaxaca, Omar Alonso– who you should also reach out to if you’re traveling to Oaxaca. He’ll take you out for a very fun day of culinary adventures.
What's one thing you wish people knew about home cooking and how has it informed your work?
That a delicious meal doesn't need to be complicated. Once you learn a few basic cooking techniques it’s so much easier to make a meal with things you already have on hand. Exhibit A: Once you learn simple ways to prepare beans it feels so much more seamless to grab them from the pantry and throw them into a pot with whatever aromatic ingredients you have on hand. The next thing you know, your kitchen smells amazing, and you’ve got a super affordable, delicious, and versatile dish that can stand on its own or be repurposed in meals throughout the week.
My hope is that cooking can become more of an enjoyable experience rather than a burden for home cooks, but I recognize that busy days happen and life gets in the way. That’s why I’m passionate about developing recipes that are easy to recreate in any home kitchen. I sneak a lot of education into my recipes because I’m on a mission to make cooking more intuitive and fun!
For more Food Memories click here.