Chef of the Week: Passion is the secret ingredient for this cook
Michael “Huddle” Huddleston has spent his life in the kitchen, enjoying cooking shows from childhood and into a 30-year career as a cook. Since moving to Lake Charles in 2008 he has spent much of his time working at Southern Spice but Southern cooking is not where he got his start.
Growing up in the Bay Area of San Francisco, Huddleston said he’s been influenced heavily by California’s eclectic tastes and cultures.
“I had an aunt who was always watching “Yan Can Cook” or she’d be watching Julia Child. She loved cooking and I just always gravitated towards the kitchen.”
Whether the Italian style of Child or the Asian influence of Yan, Huddleston described himself as always “adventurous” in the kitchen. “It’s just natural fo me. Kind of like, put this together, put that together. I’ve just always been really interested in the spices and the cooking of different flavors and tastes.”
His affinity for taste adventures isn’t only limited to his cooking but also in his personal diet. “Even things like soda or cookies, really anything. I’m like, ‘Oh, let me try something new.’ Some of it has to do with growing up poor and having to just figure out how to put this and that together.”
Huddleston did not undergo training at a culinary institute. Rather, he took advantage of day classes at a California college. “You would just take a class on bread making, Indian food, Chinese food. You just paid the amount of money for that single day.”
On the job training also helped develop his skills along with simple watching and learning from other cooks, he said.
A successful culinary career doesn’t need a lot of elite training, he said, rather passion is the secret ingredient. “You just have to love it. In the restaurant business a lot of people come and go because they just need the money. But others have a passion and put care in their work…You’re going to be there like eight to 10 hours a day. It’s non-stop, so you have to enjoy what you do.”
For those interested in getting in the business, he encouraged taking advantage of things like leisure learning courses at a university or even the internet. “Of course, formal training is great. But if you don’t have the money, at least get some training. Nowadays with the internet and online classes, if it’s in your heart to do it, you can.”
Huddle’s Spinach Pie
“This is an easy, easy dish. Literally, anyone can do it… But it’s not a quiche. Quiche has more eggs,” said Huddleston
1 pie crust
4 packs of frozen, chopped spinach
1 pound of bacon
1 bag of mild cheddar cheese
Directions: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pie crust for 15 minutes until bottom is no longer soggy. Empty spinach into an colander and drain excess juice. Chop and sauté 1 onion. Chop and sauté bacon. Crack eggs and combine with spinach, bacon, onion and a pinch of spices. Pour mixture into the pie crust. Cover with mild cheddar cheese. Bake for 45 minutes on 350 degree. Enjoy