Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Free time is kind of an anomaly in my life. If I know there is a chance I might have some, I promptly fill it with music festivals, farmers’ markets, and endless cooking. I also have a bad habit of binge-watching Netflix.
What is the name of your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?
A little hole-in-the-wall place called Celito Lindo in Miami. The incredibly authentic Cuban food is simply mouthwatering. When I was a little girl, I’d beg my dad to make the trek down there just so I could stuff my face with roast pork and plantains. I was such a weird little kid.
What is your go-to recipe in the kitchen?
My one-pot pasta recipe is a weeknight standby. It’s great because you toss everything in one pot, there is hardly any prep, and it’s delicious. I’m all about using every dish in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s nice to not spend an hour cleaning up.
What is your funniest kitchen disaster or mishap?
That would be the first time I cooked dinner for my boyfriend’s parents in our new home. I decided to impress everyone with the immersion blender I just bought at KaTom before I even had a chance to try it out. Apparently you’re supposed to actually immerse the blender before you turn it on. There was red sauce everywhere – all over the kitchen, all over my silk blouse, and, worst of all, all over my boyfriend’s father. Sad.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Peanut butter straight from the jar. Utensils are entirely optional.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Stories like this: “Oh, you have to try this incredible recipe I just made last night. It’s based on this incredibly rare ingredient that you can only get by climbing this ridiculously challenging mountain in a corner of Outer Mongolia.” Really, folks?
What is the best meal you ever ate?
A Bedouin feast that was served on the ground in the middle of the desert. We sat on the ground and ate everything with our hands from a shared plate. It was an incredible experience.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when working in the kitchen?
I really admire cooks who are real about their process. People who use real ingredients and recipes that are accessible to anyone. I love it when a well-respected chef admits that things don’t always go perfectly. What truly makes a chef is the ability to adapt recipes to ingredients, situations, and tastes.
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Teleportation. So that I could travel to the ends of the earth and still be home in time for cocktail hour.