“The locavore movement has always made perfect sense to me,” says Abigail Hitchcock, chef at Camaje in Greenwich Village and the newer Abigail in Prospect Heights. We’re sitting on a slouchy couch overlooking the foot traffic on MacDougal Street, sipping wine, as conversation turns to the science of cooking, Hitchcock’s ever-popular cooking classes, and more.
Q: Tell me about one of your favorite dishes on the Camaje menu at the moment.
A: In the winter, soups are so comforting… We have a market seafood soup that I love. We use a fragrant saffron broth and gently poach whatever fish we have in the kitchen that day. It’s sort of a mock bouillabaisse and so delicious.
Q: How did your cooking classes at Camaje get started? What are people interested in learning?
A: I was teaching at Williams-Sonoma and during that time, people kept requesting hands-on classes instead of demonstration-only classes. About three years into Camaje we launched the cooking classes. The weeknight dinner class is always a hit. People want healthy, quick, go-to dishes where they can easily interchange ingredients. We also teach people how to get started cooking with unfamiliar ingredients. We introduce them to cooking with items like fish sauce, and then the intimidation of using these ingredients at home is gone.
Q: I read that you’re interested in the science of cooking. Can you share something unusual you’ve learned?
A: I believe that if people understand how something works in the kitchen, they can use it better. This makes the science of cooking really interesting. One question I often get is how to remove the lingering smell of garlic from your hands. Some people think lemon will take care of it, but science has a different answer. Rub your fingers on a stainless steel utensil, like a spoon, and that garlic smell will be gone.
Q: There’s the antiquated saying, “never trust a skinny chef.” How do you stay trim? Any advice to share with health-conscious food lovers?
A: I’m a grazer. First, I always start the day with a good breakfast, but after that I graze. I don’t like feeling very full, it just makes me tired. Portion sizes have gotten out of control, contributing to an unhealthy lifestyle. I enjoy small samples of different things throughout my day. I never really sit down starving and eat a big entrée.
Q: What was your vision when opening Abigail in Prospect Heights?
A: I wanted a cozy neighborhood spot where you could enjoy a glass of wine. Abigail is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner… whenever people feel like stopping in for a bite. We started out with a smaller menu but have expanded the offerings a bit recently. We serve small plates, bar snacks, and of course main courses too. It’s a comfortable place with comedy nights, jazz brunches, and more.
To learn with Abby in the kitchen, check out the schedule of upcoming cooking classes at Camaje (including a Vietnamese cooking class coming up on Saturday March 17th from 10 am to 2 pm).
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