Q&A with Food Network's Claire Robinson

Claire Robinson, host of the popular Food Network show 5 Ingredient Fix, is the queen of simplification. Not only can she make just about any dish with a mere five ingredients, but she also knows how to make it delicious. Who wouldn’t love to have that skill in their cooking arsenal?

She shares her secrets on her show and in her new book, also called 5 Ingredient Fix, but I also had the chance to sit down with her and get some tips straight from the chef herself.

What inspired you to create five-ingredient recipes?
I lived in France for a time, and there are no grocery stores. If you wanted chicken, you had to go find the chicken farmer, knock on his door and ask him for the chicken. I started to really appreciate ingredients and how I could use them, and really be able to taste them. It was a wakeup call.

What made you choose five ingredients?

Five is the perfect number for me to be able to create a depth to the flavors in each dish but still keep it simple. If it’s any fewer than five, I don’t know if I could do half the recipes I do. If it was more than five, I don’t know how much I’m really simplifying it for people. I find that I’m still able to do almost anything with five ingredients.

Salt, pepper and water are the only things that I take as freebies. When I was first doing this, Food Network was trying to convince me to take oil for free. But I would never do that!

Have you always cooked this way, or was it a challenge to limit yourself to five ingredients?

When I was a child I would watch shows with James Beard, Jacques Pepin and Julia Child—and those teachers did not do few-ingredient cooking. That’s a very expensive, very labor-intensive way to learn to cook. Through that experience and that learning, I’m now able to take that knowledge and make it easier for everybody else. But I do remember wishing it were easier.

Do you think your method of simple cooking helps save money?

It’s great for the recession. Even if I tell you to buy expensive ingredients, there are only five ingredients you have to buy. You can put the money into the quality that you’re buying, rather than buying the package that might be a little cheaper—and also more hormone-filled or preservative-filled.

Tell us a little more about yourself by answering these 10 questions.

1. What food can't you live without? Salt.

2. What food do you refuse to eat? Chicken and dumplings. That ball of dough bothers me. I had a bad experience out of a can once as a kid, and I haven’t been able to eat them since.

3. What's your go-to kitchen tool? An 8-inch chef’s knife.

4. What's your favorite international cuisine? Asian.

5. What's your favorite restaurant? I love Ippudo, in New York. It’s a ramen house and it’s amazing.

6. Sweet or savory? I have a sweet tooth, but I can’t have one without the other.

7. What's your first food memory? I was watching my grandmother cook. And then my second memory would be cooking with my grandmother and my mom. We made homemade egg rolls and homemade eclairs.

8. When you want a midnight snack, what do you reach for? My crackola—pumpkin seed trail mix from my book, 5 Ingredient Fix.

9. Who's your all-time favorite chef? Julia Child was my first teacher; I look up to Bobby Flay for what he’s brought to American cuisine and television; and Thomas Keller is my inspiration.

10. What's the last thing you ate? Golden and red beet salad.

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