Whether you are a reader from across the street, or across the continent, or a student in one of my Metro NYC area classes, I hope you’ll have an experience that will bring the magic of cooking into your life. My goal is that you will eat better, cook better and live better by knowing me, and have a blast doing it. Why Food Fix Kitchen? Because I think that there isn’t much in life that good food can’t fix! My writing and teaching style is all about honesty, laughter, spontaneity and being at ease in the kitchen. I love cooking because you have to focus on the here and now—after all, knives and fire are involved! Whether peeling vegetables or stirring a pot or salting to taste you must tune into your instincts and senses pushing everything else you have to worry to the back burner. Pun intended!
I live in a semi-rural, beautiful corner of central New Jersey, about an hour from both New York City and Philadelphia (yes, there are beautiful parts of NJ, and no we don’t all live at The Shore and have spray tans, or have big hair, inflated lips and boobs, or routinely get into cat fights with stilletto-heeled housewives.) My kitchen is not fancy or huge, but it’s functional and the sunlight is abundant, which cheers me and allows me to take pretty pictures of my food without having to figure out anything too complicated about lighting. I’ve turned my two-car garage into a teaching kitchen (it is sooooo cool!) and I teach regular group classes in there for adults and kids.
Like a great meal, my food journey has had many courses. My earliest memories were laced with the fear that my fragile mother, Trudy Reuben, might die, due to the long-term effects of starvation from three years spent in Nazi concentration camps, and another two in hiding, before the war ended. It forced me to become aware, from a very young age, how the foods we eat, or the lack of good nutrition, can devastate the body. It set me on a path of eating well and living well at an early age. After the war, my mother found work as a restaurant cook, and later, in America, she was a private chef for over 30 years. Trudy spent her life celebrating food and nurturing her clients, family and friends with wonderful, abundant meals. My mom showed me that while food nurtures the body—it’s cooking that nurtures the soul. Food was her artistry, her meditation, her gift to the world around her.
Becoming a chef may have been my destiny, but I didn’t know it. As a former actor, model, stand-up comic, graphic artist, writer and teacher—it seemed like all the diverse paths I took in life always led me back to cooking. Wherever I went to pursue other careers—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta—I ended up in kitchens, flying by the seat of my pantry and making people happy with my food. It’s where I felt most at home. I worked in restaurants through my teens and college years, doing practically every job there was in the front of house and back, I had my own private catering business in my 20s, cooking for celebrities in Hollywood, and cooked for family and friends for over 30 years, before deciding to turn my passion in the kitchen into a career.
The Chef Formerly Known as….
I used to be Rachel Willen. I was on Chopped and won as Rachel Willen. I’ve been on Good Morning America twice as Rachel Willen. I was Rachel Willen for 20 years. So what’s up with the new name, Rachel Reuben? Part of what is exciting and satisfying for me in writing a blog (and in living my life) is the opportunity to be REAL here. To share my sweet and not-so-sweet slip-slide through life, in and out of the kitchen—like the day my dog Ruby died I posted a meaty recipe for homemade dog biscuits I wished I’d made for her. When my marriage fell apart, I seized upon the irony of my first Valentine Day in 21 years in which I was NOT getting or giving a Valentine card. I posted that news along with a comforting recipe for soup. I’ve changed my name, letting go of one I took on in marriage, taking on one that will allow me to forge my own, singular identity, while paying homage my hero, the mother who helped make me the resilient, strong woman I am today. The blog helps me do “mise en place” on my life, organizing my thoughts and feelings, putting the ingredients for my “recipe for reinvention” all in place on a regular basis.
My daughter Lily, is a high school senior, an honor student, whose recent epiphany about cooking while sampling my braised short ribs, went something like this: “Wait. This is delicious. I’m totally spoiled because I’ve eaten food like this all my life. I better learn how to make stuff.” She now pays attention when I’m cooking, in-between texts and snapping selfies.
My son, Max Robbins, 25, followed early in his mother’s and grandmother’s “foodsteps” knowing he wanted to be a chef by the 8th grade. It’s his journey toward his goals that set me on the path to mine, because I dissolved into tears on every culinary school tour I went on with him. Seeing all those sparkling kitchens and just thinking about the idea of standing in one of them wearing my own white chef coat, made me go weak in the knees. I knew what I had to do. After I packed Max off to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, I enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in NYC (currently The International Culinary Center) and completed the professional culinary arts program. And the rest is history, all documented here on FoodFix Kitchen. You can even read posts from a blog I kept while in school, Mrs. Fabulous Goes To Culinary School here. Since graduating from CIA, Max has worked at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin and Danny Meyer’s Modern. He worked for two and a half years at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City, and is currently working as a Chef de Partie at Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville, CA. I’m a proud mama!