Like many, Rebecca Samakow, WeWork’s Director, Legal, IP – Licensing, Media, Marketing and Entertainment, sought refuge in the kitchen during the pandemic. In fact, she spent so many hours coming up with delicious creations that it led to her launching Forkable Foods, a culinary web series.
Hosted via Zoom, each week features a different theme – like New Orleans Week, which centered around Jambalaya with Sweet Cornbread and a Hurricane Cocktail, or Korean Night, which featured a Korean Beef Rice Bowl served with Sigumchi Namul (Korean Seasoned Spinach) and a Soju Martini. Recipes and shopping lists are provided in advance, so viewers can cook alongside Samakow.
We caught up with Samakow to learn more about her culinary start, how she comes up with new recipes, kitchen hacks and much more.
When did you first develop a passion for cooking?
RS: I would say I first developed a passion for cooking when I was just a tot. I loved to help out my grandmother and father in the kitchen. Being a sous chef to either of them was a much sought-after title in the family. I would start off helping stir or prep things that would be easy for a kid to do and they would teach me things such as how to properly hold a knife, what stiff peaks mean and other fundamentals and techniques that helped shape my skill sets today. My favorite thing was to help create holiday meals and everything they made was so delicious that it encouraged me to experiment in the kitchen to build my own flavors. Out of everything they taught me the most important thing was that food brings families together.
Tell us about Forkable Foods and how the project came to be?
RS: When the pandemic started last year, I created a virtual cooking class for my colleagues at work to help keep the team together even though we were apart. What started as a way for friends to virtually hang out, learn basic cooking skills and how to make simple meals, turned into a full-fledged, weekly cooking series. I had a lot of participants who either never cooked before or were just not feeling confident in the kitchen. Every class incorporates the history and facts of food, basic cooking skills, and easy to follow recipes, that everyone cooks together live. Each week focuses on bringing new and exciting flavor profiles together and encourages the common theme that food is for everyone and everyone can cook! Creating this series and having the opportunity to see people who have never cooked before gain a new skill set and passion became one of the most rewarding experiences for me. Some people in the class said I should create a food Instagram and share pictures, tips and recipes that I make from class, so I did. I’m just really excited to be able to share my passion with others in hopes of having other people enjoy cooking as much as I do!
Menus are planned around different themes – such as New Orleans Week or Korean Night. When coming up with a theme, where do you start?
RS: I always want to make sure that I’m introducing people to different flavors and cultures they may not have tried before. I think it’s important to experience this when figuring out what truly appeals to people. I love to incorporate events and holidays into my planning so there is a tie-in to the theme. I feel it’s also important to highlight seasonal ingredients so you’re getting the best flavor profile for a dish. Lastly, I ask what people are interested in learning to make. I had someone ask how do you make crispy French fries when you don’t have a deep fryer or air fryer? I used a double bake oven technique that would really have you question if they came out of the deep fryer! So it short, I love to create themes based on what people like or would love to learn how to make.
What’s your process for coming up with a new dish?
RS: My process really depends on what my end goal for the recipe is. Am I trying to pull together a quick weeknight meal? Limited ingredients? Develop cultural flavors? Regardless, I always want to make something that keeps you coming back for another bite. I get inspiration from seasonal ingredients, when I go to the farmers market or even when I see something on TV. My fiancé always says that I can see something on TV and jump up and head to the kitchen to see if I have ingredients to put my own spin on a dish I saw. My process always starts with a vision of what I want the dish to be and I keep tinkering with it until it’s just right.
Do you have a signature dish?
RS: This is probably one of the most debated topics in my house and the hardest question for me to answer. I think it’s a tie between my Mushroom Cobbler and Polenta Bolognese. My Mushroom Cobbler consists of a base of roasted white button, shiitake and portabella mushrooms with garlic, shallots and onions in a bit of an herbed cream sauce topped with a parmesan biscuit crust. I mean come on! Even saying this I’m starting to salivate. It may not be the most figure-friendly recipe but it’s definitely good for the soul! My Polenta Bolognese is a classic slow cooked meat sauce served over a plate of creamy parmesan polenta drizzled with olive oil and topped with a little fresh grated parmesan. It’s the kind of meal you unbutton your pants after but it’s well worth it!
What about when you’re out at a restaurant? What are some of your favorite dishes?
RS: I honestly love a good piece of fish cooked right. Any branzino or sole is typically my go-to. I always ask to hear the specials as well. If I’m going to a restaurant that is known for a certain specialty, I’ll always order it. I’m also very fortunate to have friends and family who love food as much as I do so we always order everything and share it so I don’t regret that I didn’t order something. My eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach when it comes to ordering but that’s what leftovers are for! Some of my favorite dishes in NYC would have to be the Tuna Tartare from Catch (I could probably eat this every day and not get sick of it), the Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Fondue from the Smith, and the Adobada Tacos from Los Tacos No. 1 and the Flautas from Baby Bos Cantina (a small spot in Murray Hill that is a weekly staple for me).
When in the Hamptons, where are some of your go-to spots to share a meal with friends?
RS: I love going to the Montauk Beach House! It is the perfect place for pool-side bites and the best cocktails with of course great music to go with it! I also love Navy Beach for dinner with friends, usually around sunset. It’s so gorgeous! And did you even take a trip out to the Hamptons if you didn’t stop at Lunch and grab a lobster roll?
Do you have general tips for someone who is just starting out in the kitchen?
RS: Don’t be scared! You don’t have to jump into difficult recipes from the get-go. Start out with something easy and try to do as much prep beforehand. You can cut, measure, and have all your equipment out prior to starting the recipe. It will help keep you organized and focused so you’re not running around trying to find things while stirring a pot.
What’s your go-to kitchen hack?
RS: I have so many great kitchen hacks and tips to share but here are two of my favorites:
How to get the most juice out of your citrus: Take your citrus and microwave it for 20 seconds on high. It should be slightly warm to the touch but not too hot to handle. Roll the citrus back and forth using the palm of your hand. cut the citrus in half and squeeze or use a juicer. No juice? No problem! Place the citrus between a pair of kitchen tongs and squeeze to exact more juice!
How to get the smell of garlic off your hands: When washing your hands touch something metal. It can be the sink faucet or any other metal object you can find. Rub your hands on it for 15 seconds while washing your hands and the smell will disappear! You can also buy products called metal soaps as well!
You can check out my Instagram @theforkable for more and I have a website that will be going live soon as well!