Student Spotlight: Linda Mills
With a strong passion for the culinary and pastry arts since childhood, it was no surprise that Linda Mills’ strong love would continue into her adult years. So many times in life, it is people who come into our lives who influence our passions and the paths they take. For Linda, it was her mother-in-law and the smell of fresh, homemade tortillas wafting through the air of the house. It was her ability to create delicious meals out of small amounts of food and feed all 12 of her children with it, something that to the untrained eye would seem like an impossible feat. It’s with that inspiration and her confident nature that has led Linda down a fulfilling gastronomic path. To her, the culinary and pastry arts are more of a personal passion, but they’re ones that constantly fill her life with diversity, adventure and serenity. Enrolled in both the culinary and pastry arts programs, Linda is using Escoffier for all it can offer and takes any chance she can to rave about her respect for the Chef Mentors she so admires.
Escoffier got a chance to speak with Linda on her typical recipe sources, her absolutely favorite spice in her kitchen and her biggest cooking disaster.
Escoffier: Who is your favorite food Idol?
Mills: Anyone else would probably pick someone from a cooking show—not me. It would have to be my mother in law, Narissa Laque. When I think of her I remember the aroma of fresh homemade flour tortillas and beans & rice. Aromas like that are never forgotten. I have much adoration for her because she had a large family to feed (12) and was very creative in her menu planning. [She] could make 1 ½ lbs of hamburger meat or pork stretch to feed her entire family. I call that talent.
Escoffier: What is your ultimate comfort food?
Mills: Depending on the day, it could be a bacon cheese burger from Red Robin or pizza with everything on it except anchovies
Escoffier: Do you follow food blogs? If so, what are your favorite ones & why?
Mills: Yes, I like reading the Escoffier Foodie Blog. It has become one of my favorites because of all the interesting topics on how to integrate different items to come up with something unique and the Escoffier chef’s visual presentations on different recipes.
Escoffier: We have at least one. What was your biggest cooking disaster?
Mills: I had made Parmesan Oven Fried Chicken which actually came out really good. I used a glass dish to bake it in [and] what I didn’t realize is when I took it out and set it on the stove top, one of the electric burners was still on. About 15 minutes later the glass pan shattered and there were shards of glass all over the kitchen.
Escoffier: When making meals, where do draw your inspiration from?
Mills: I would have to say my inner self. When you are cooking, you can’t second guess yourself & you have to trust your instinct that whatever you are preparing is going to be awesome once you are done.
Escoffier: If you could have only one spice in your kitchen what would it be?
Mills: I would have to say fresh ground black pepper—the taste is so unique it could be used on just about everything.
Escoffier: Do you gravitate towards certain types of foods or do you mix it up?
Mills: I would have to say mix it up. I like trying different things so gravitating towards certain food types is not my style. I think [not mixing it up] would be boring—it would be like eating a ham sandwich every day for an entire week.
Escoffier: Where do you like to find new recipes?
Mills: The first place I look is on the Escoffier webcast archives—you can find some really good recipes there with a visual presentation. Also, the internet is like a bottomless digest of any recipe you are looking for–from the easiest to the most complicated.
Escoffier: What is your absolute favorite thing about cooking/baking?
Mills: My most favorite thing about cooking is learning how to prepare and create different items I never even thought of attempting before I enrolled at Escoffier Online Culinary Academy Institute. I’m enrolled in both the culinary & pastry arts programs and I have two awesome mentors—Chef Cesar and Chef Thomas. Any questions I have I can either call them or e-mail them. My favorite thing about baking is being creative & using my imagination when baking cookies, pies, cakes, bread loafs. I find it very relaxing, like being in another dimension. In the fall I will be taking the pastry course with [mentor] Chef Susie. I am so looking forward to learning all I can from her.