chef-val-104Hi everyone, I’m Valerie!

Welcome to The Salty Peach. I’m so excited about this site and very happy to share it with you! I hope that you’ll spend time with me here and get to know who I am, what I love to cook (and eat!) and come away feeling inspired and happy.

I grew up in Marietta, GA and I’m a true Southern girl at heart. At the wise age of 19, I moved to the Big Apple, after boldly telling my parents that “college isn’t for me”, and it’s been the journey of a lifetime. I began my culinary career as a private chef here in the city while simultaneously staging under Chef Marco Canora at his celebrated restaurant, Hearth.  In 2012, I followed my heart and left my job to attend culinary school through the International Culinary Center, formerly the French Culinary Institute. I enrolled in their Italian program, under the renowned Chef Cesare Casella, and went to live and work in Italy for five months. During that time, I studied at ALMA – the same prestigious school that Massimo Bottura attended, I’ll have you know! – and went on to work in Tuscany. Based within the walls of Lucca, I worked under Chef Maurizio Marsili at the spectacular Caffe delle Mura where he showed me what it means to have true passion and love for food, its preparation and its meaning.  chef-val-139Upon graduation from culinary school, I moved to Denver and went straight to work at the acclaimed Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, owned by former Chef de Partie of The French Laundry, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, and Master Sommelier, Bobby Stuckey. Unfortunately after a while, I began to realize that my heart wasn’t genuinely in the restaurant any longer. I love the industry and have worked in it since I was 16, but something shifted in me regarding being in a restaurant kitchen. The natural joy I feel while cooking wasn’t organically there for me so I had to do some soul searching. Ultimately, I made the tough decision to leave the restaurant. From there, I needed to figure out how to get the feelings back that I had in Italy in regard to cooking.

After throwing a few fun dinner parties and challenging myself in my own home kitchen, I realized that creating a food site was exactly what I wanted to do. In an incredibly random turn of events, my former boss in Manhattan asked me to return and work for her again so I had yet another very tough decision to make; the decision to leave Denver. I chose to do so and here I am, back in the Big Apple, as of April 2014.chef-val-074In an age where food blogs are saturating the internet, I felt very overwhelmed and scared to even attempt one of my own. I talked myself out of it at times and gave into the fear that “I’ll never make it.” Honestly, what does that even mean?! I kept thinking that I could never fit in to this cyberspace where the most beautiful blogs showcase incredible photography, rare ingredients and gorgeous “sets”. I mean, who can compete with foraging for wild herbs in the woods of Ireland?! I felt inadequate because I’m not a photographer and I’m not a food stylist. I’m a trained chef who simply loves food more than you can imagine. It was then that I asked myself what am I really trying to accomplish here? and I realized that I just want to cook. For me and for you.chef-val-040What’s special about my site is that my love of food is rivaled by my love of music and I combine the two here. I’m never without my headphones in, exploring new and old music, and it’s truly the companion to cooking in my life. Thank the good lord for Spotify which is where I listen to most everything (and where I conveniently share the link to albums in each post for you to click on!).chef-val-138The idea of pairing music with food came to me far before I went to culinary school. I told my sister that one day I wanted to write a cookbook with music pairings instead of wine. I thought it was an awesome idea then and I do now. I think music is as essential to happiness in life as great food and my goal is to show you how much more amazing a cooking experience can be enhanced by music. Some days, I’m feeling energized and alive in the kitchen and I’ll belt out some Black Keys. Other days, I’m more melancholy and in the mood for Alexi Murdoch. I cook by feel and music allows me to have a greater experience doing so. It lets me put my full heart into everything I make and I think that’s so special. I certainly don’t expect everyone to love my music selections or to agree with me, I simply want to share the things I’m listening to and that mean something to me as much as the things I’m cooking. Let’s just make a deal that you’ll give it a shot and if anything, you’ll play something you love if you don’t like what I’m listening to. This way, music will always fill your kitchen and that will make me happy.chef-val-069Why The Salty Peach, you may ask? Well, I truly am a combination of sweet Georgia peach and salty, sassy New Yorker. Peaches also happen to be my favorite fruit (helloooo, peach pie!) and salt is the most essential ingredient in cooking. I’m very much a sweet and savory gal and I wanted to name this site after who I really am as a person and a chef. Thank you to my amazing sister who will never hesitate to day drink brainstorm with me.chef-val-052All of this said, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for visiting my little space here. Thank you for spending some time with me and for giving me a shot amongst the countless other food sites at your disposal. I promise to always be just who I am and to never pretend otherwise. I hope for that reason you’ll enjoy The Salty Peach and that we’ll become friends. Happy cooking to you!chef-val-114Photos by the lovely Colleen Putman Photography.

Incomparable tattoo artistry by Christel Perkins.

A huge, heartfelt thanks to Patrick Roskam who has endless patience for all of my tech and website related questions. I owe you a beer or ten.