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Deb Paquette

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Chef Deb Paquette


Interview | Featured Recipes


Q. What influenced you to pursue a career as a chef?

A. One of my friends in college had a sister that was in CIA and she had a list of jobs you could get once you graduated. I was psyched! This could be the career I had been looking for and it definitely has been. My first job was as a dishwasher, and I was hooked. Not only was it so cool to learn about food, but the people around me were just as crazy as I am - Addicted to hard work and fun.

Q. Describe your cooking style.

A. Around the globe fun! I love to create food that people cannot make at home. A lot of well balanced elements to make your tongue do the happy umami dance! Bold flavors and unexpected surprises, especially from Morocco, Spain, Turkey. And, who does not love Latin cuisine?

Q. Who taught you the most about food and cooking?

A. Books, especially by Paula Wolfert, Coleman Andrews, Majhur Jaffrey, Dianne Kennedy, and Harold McGee. Also, there are an amazing amount of younger food science geeks who just amaze me and have kept me abreast of the changing world.

Q. Describe your journey to get where you are.

A. After school in 1978, I moved to NYC to work in a macrobiotic restaurant, which was the best job ever for $7.00 an hour. No one ever said that I should stay in the city. Not a lot of conversation going on about "famous"chefs to work for. So, I went back to Florida after a year and got a degree in management from FIU. From there, I found my way to Nashville in 1982 and, here I am 32 years later. I love it. I worked really hard and soon got to be a chef with someone who had a lot of faith in me. I pursued every chance I could. I opened my own place in 1997 and completed that task in 2010. Over the next three years, I helped other restaurants and eventually, I took a job with Etch as chef and partner. It's been a dream come true!

Q. If you could choose any chef dead or alive to spend the day with cooking, who would it be and why?

A. How can I choose just one? My dreams take me to Spain and to spend weeks at Mugaritz. I love Spain, and I would love time with traditional home cooks as well as the chefs, the little tapas bars, the jamone makers, the wine makers.

Q. What is your favorite Chefwear item and why?

A. I adore the girly, short-waisted chef coats. I can finally feel feminine, especially if I forget to put earrings in.

Q. What would your last meal on Earth be and why?

A. I love huge salad with tons of arugula, raw red onion (lots), parmesan cheese, pickles, roasted beets, raw broccoli, cauliflower, grilled okra, fennel, tempura oyster mushrooms, all tossed with olive oil, sherry vinegar, and Heinz ketchup.

Q. What advice do you have for the future chefs out there?

A. Taste constantly. Learn from others. Read and travel. Leave your ego at the door. Be a patient teacher. Figure out what makes each of your employees tick. Figure out the craft of balancing flavors. Know your food. Invest in: Band-Aids, pain relivers, Sharpies, shoe insoles, a masseuse, a partner who really understands why you work 90 hours a week, and make the bartender your best friend!

Awards and accolades.

First female chef to be certified in Tennessee (years ago!!!). My past restaurant, Zola’s, won many best restaurant and best chef awards locally. Won the first Iron Fork contest in Nashville. Celebrated chef for the Pork Council. Judged national pork competitions, Participated in Cakebreads yearly harvest festival, Taste of NFL participant. Mom of two and a fabulous husband!

Featured Recipes:


Shrimp and Apricot Filo Cigars

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