@John: Good Morning Foodies & Friends!
Q – #1 So welcome @ChefJML. To start, where did you grow up, go to school, and what did you want to be when you grew up?
John: I grew up in Grand Forks, ND, got my Masters in English at University of North Dakota, and I wanted to win an Oscar when I grew up
Q – #2 Really?? An Oscar for which category? By taking English, what was your plan for using that skill in the job world?
John: It didn’t matter. I just wanted an Oscar (song, writing, acting). I started in Business and moved to English.
I loved creating new ways to dream through the written word. Many write about their past but I like to think of new ways to dream
Q – #3 Interesting! So take us then on your journey from college to becoming the “Pie Man”. What led you to food & the industry?
John: I have a motto, “When you least expect it, expect it.” That’s been my life. Pie Man was all by accident but a happy accident
I graduated, found a position in management with Ecolab Pest Elimination in Grand Forks. I continued to cook up a storm but worked.
I lost everything during the 1997 Red River Valley Flood. Afterward Grand Forks looked like a war zone. I moved to the Twin Cities.
Worked at Ecolab World Headquarters,St. Paul. Eventually moved to Comcast in management and then in 2003 found I had throat cancer.
After surgery, I spent too much time in bed recovering. I started to write about gatherings I had at my home.
I keep steno notebooks–stacks of them. I take notes on gatherings, menus, who attended, funny stories and so on
Wrote my first cookbook, it was published, and asked to teach, appear on radio, etc. The big break was winning a contest at the fair.
I won a Ghiradelli Chocolate recipe contest. Later asked to compete at the National Pie Championship in Florida.
I made my Vidalia Onion Pie, Willard Scott was there with Today Show, talked to me and Food Network noticed.
Food Network was also there and started to film me baking, registering my pies, decorating and flew up to St. Paul.
Then Food Network contacted me once a year for a special or Challenge. I won a pie challenge three years ago
Q – #4 What a break for you! Was the writing that you did at home during your recovery, theraeputic for you?
John: Extremely therapeutic. I couldn’t watch anymore TV. I think it helped the healing process.
I have to add that winning the Food Network Challenge for pie was like winning an Oscar for cooking.
Q – #5 I bet. You have some amazing pies that you’ve come up with. What are some of the unique ingredients that you’ve used?
John: Coke Cola, Watermelon, Parsnips, Green tea
But Vidalia Onion Pie is my claim to fame.
Q – #6 Wow! So do you kind of have a formula in your head for coming up with them? What gives you inspiration?
John: I become inspired by the foods I enjoy. My formula is that I can actually taste combinations of food in my mouth.
Like a vocalist is told to hear the note before singing it, I can taste the completed product when I designed it.
That’s what happened when I created my Crock Pot Apple Pie for Twin Cities Live (one of John Hanson’s favorites).
I write what looks like a computer flow chart putting together ingredients–if this does this or tastes like this, then….
Q – #7 I think @jbibl is actually following us now from @TwinCities_Live. :) Can you share the story of how you developed that pie?
John: I wrote my “flow chart”, got up at 5am to put it together, unplugged the crock pot at 1pm and drove to the Twin Cities Live studio.
I hadn’t even tested it. John Hanson was the first to try it. Not the best thing to do on live TV. LOL
I just prepared another Crock Pot Apple Pie for his birthday that was earlier this month.
Q – #8 Cool! More about you. FAVORITE(S): Restaurant(s), store, comfort food, fruit, spice or seasoning, city to visit.
John: Restaurant: Il Gatto and Tom Pham’s Wonderous Azia Kitchen west of the river. East of the river The Nook and Salut.
Comfort Food: Hot dogs and Mac & Cheese and a piece of pie. I love the Soup & Pie lunch special at Peter’s Grill.
I love all fruit but especially Rambutans on Hawaii. Spices: Anything from Penzey’s and Golden Fig Fine Foods.
Favorite city is Venice, Italy. I can’t get enough of it. I would love to live there & write, play piano, read for hours, and dream.
Venice will show up in my next cookbook and is heavily featured in my new novel.
Q – #9 Are there a few local and national cooks/chefs that you admire and who would you love to meet?
John: Gosh I wish I could have met Julia Childs. I’ve met Paula Deen, Giada De Laurentiis, Marjorie Johnson. :)
I am in awe of Master Chef Danny Klekco and he’s a good friend but a mentor too, Chef Andrew (he’s a sweetie), and …
Laurie Crowell of Golden Fig Fine Foods. She’s amazing & one of the most generous loving people I know. Lucky to call her friend.
The Twin Cities is full of talented people that can cook and create. It’s a wondrous place.
Q – #10 To close, can you share what your new cookbook is going to be about and what your Culinary Travel Trips are?
John: My next cookbook is called Garden County Italian. My travels eating my way through Italy and the things I’ve learned
Each year I host and escort culinary vacations to Tuscany. If you’ve seen the movie Under the Tuscan Sun that’s where we are.
For one week we live and eat like Italians…and drink like them too. LOL
@JoelECarlson: Is there a way people can sign-up for your culinary trip? Thanks John for your time and comments today. Keep cooking!
John: Please visit my website http://www.GardenCountyCooking.com and check out our Culinary Vacations page.
Thank you Joel and your followers and mine too. This was a lot of fun! Big hugs and cook it forward!