Elettra Wiedemann dishes on her new book and favorite New York addresses

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Impatient Foodie Cover

Elettra Wiedemann, author of the Impatient Foodie Cookbook, is the founder of Impatient Foodie, a site that aims to marry Slow Food ideals with the realities of today’s fast-paced, urban life. She has also served as brand ambassador for Moet et Chandon and headed up the food and drink vertical for Refinery29 where she grew the audience ten-fold. Wiedermann’s interest in food started when she was a  model (2002-2013) and had to learn new cooking habits, creating meals that were satisfying, but also kept her fitting into sample sizes for runway shows and photoshoots. Wiedermann holds a Masters of Science (MSc) in biomedicine from the London School of Economics. Her mother is actress, author, and model Isabella Rossellini and her grandmother was the actress Ingrid Bergman.

What do you feel are the two or three most important points your book, Impatient Foodie, will get across to readers?

I think cooking has become one of two extremes: Either overly complicated or too rudimentary. It’s either a gorgeous slow-braised meal that takes hours, or a potato in a microwave with canned chili and packaged cheese on top. The Impatient Foodie Cookbook aims to provide meals that are delicious and impressive, but grounded in practicality. My goal is to re-engage a generation of people who have been largely excluded from the food conversation: Namely, those who want to figure out how to reconcile the Slow Food movement, with fast-paced urban life (and limitations thereof — kitchen space, accessibility, etc.)

Have recipes become overly complicated?

I think the problem is more that a lot of people are not taught to cook from a young age. Cooking is like learning a language – once you know the basic grammatical rules, you can form your own sentences.  With cooking, once you know a few basic things it opens up an entire world of sensibilities. I also think it’s better to learn when someone is younger because then it becomes almost second nature: The default is to cook for oneself, rather than take out, delivery, or eating out. And, in my opinion, cooking is something that needs to be taught in person, not in YouTube videos. It’s not just a visual experience, it involves all the senses — sound, taste, touch, and smell. Without having this hands-on training, whether it’s from a parent, grandparent, friend,  baby sitter or whomever, recipes will often seem overly complicated because one hasn’t developed a basic instinct and sensibility for cooking. That can make it seem overwhelming and impossible.

Do you think millennials want to learn to cook?

Yes, I absolutely do. In today’s world there is a lot of emphasis on one-of-a-kind experiences. Cooking a meal for yourself, or your friends and family, is a unique, intimate thing that cannot be replicated or faked. I think millennials are also an activist bunch and they know that food choices have larger ramifications in areas like personal health, planetary health, human rights, animal rights, etc. I think they want to be a part of that [conversation], but there are not a lot of outlets that “speak their language” or consider their limitations (budgetary, space, time, impatience). I try to do that with Impatient Foodie and in the Impatient Foodie Cookbook.

When did you learn to cook?

My mom taught me how to cook, as well as my dad and grandfather. Each person had their own little tricks, philosophies, and tastes which influenced and shaped mine.

What are your favorite dishes to make and your favorite recipes in the Impatient Foodie Cookbook?

I am a total pasta addict, so I love all the pastas in the book! The Beet Ricotta pasta is BEYOND delicious and looks so beautiful. The 5-ingredient Zucchini Sausage Orecchiette is fast and easy to make. I also love desserts like my orange blossom cashew butter cookies with star anise – they’re a creative mix of a short list of ingredients and take just 12 minutes to bake. They’re great with vanilla ice cream!

How did you devise the recipes?

I spent a lot of time thinking about them, mood boarding, and playing around the kitchen with Claudia Ficca. I also know this sounds weird, but I don’t think I could have done this cookbook without meditating every morning before getting into the kitchen.

Your mother [Isabella Rossellini] is from a famous Italian family—did you learn anything about Italian cooking from her?

Yes, my mother taught me a lot about food, particularly certain “rules” that have proven incredibly helpful. Things like, “here’s how to make a base of a tomato sauce, here’s how you know pasta is done perfectly, here are flavors that always go together no matter what, here are the things you should have in your pantry at all times,” etc…

What chefs have most inspired you?

Mario Batali has been a huge inspiration to me in his attitude toward work and life. I’d say his motto is “happy, happy, joy, joy.” He is always enthusiastic, positive, whip smart, incredibly gracious and endlessly supportive. Normally when people achieve the level of success that Mario has, they become inaccessible. Mario is the opposite and always reminds and inspires me to be be kinder, happier, more open, and grateful!

Which restaurants in New York offer the type of cooking you advocate for in the book?

I think my cooking style and dishes are pretty unique, so I’d say nowhere and buy my book!

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What are your favorite New York spots for:

Brunch: Dino’s in Brooklyn

Business lunch: Odeon in Manhattan

Favorite French restaurant: Raoul’s

Favorite Italian restaurant: Sant Ambreous

Favorite spot for cocktails (and favorite cocktail): Chez Paulette in Fort Greene. I love Negronis!

For out-of-town-guests, which hotel would you recommend?

If you can afford it and want to go for maximal luxury, I say The Carlyle. Otherwise, I would get an Air BnB. It’s fun to have an apartment in Manhattan or in Brooklyn and live the life of a New Yorker. In fact, that is my preferred way to travel when I am on vacation!

Favorite neighborhood:

Fort Greene, Brooklyn. It has it all — great restaurants, excellent grocery stores, a beautiful park, and above all the BAM.

Favorite museum?

I love The Tenement Museum! Their tours are so fascinating and touching. I’d recommend doing a tour in the apartments and not of one of the businesses.

Favorite things to do on a Saturday afternoon in New York:

I live in Brooklyn, so my Saturdays are usually a very lazy morning reading the paper, followed by a long walk in either Fort Greene or Prospect Park with my dogs, followed by the gym, followed by a bath and a nap, followed by a movie at the BAM, and dinner somewhere in the hood, or maybe cooking at home.

Favorite clothing boutiques:

I kind of hate clothes shopping, so I do most of my shopping online.

Favorite design boutiques:

ABC Carpet.  I go to dream and drool.

Favorite cookware stores:

Sur La Table is great, as well as Bowery Kitchen supplies in Chelsea Market.

Favorite “escapes” in New York:

My favorite Spa (Silk Spa) recently closed down, so now I am on the hunt for a new escape!

Favorite places to spend the summer:

Bellport, New York.

Secret to your success:

Discipline and Persistence.

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