Q & A With Chef Molly McCook
As part of our annual POM Chefs Series, we are chatting with cooks about what makes fall so special to them, and how they use pomegranates in their everyday cooking.
This week Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods is sharing her thoughts on her penchant for pumpkins and her love of a great pomegranate pilaf.
POM WONDERFUL: How would you describe your cooking style?
Molly McCook: My cooking style would be best described as seasonal, farm to table. We are continually changing the menu at Ellerbe Fine Foods depending on the time of year and what our farmers have to offer.
What do you love about cooking during the fall?
I love the flavors and colors of fall. The flavors and smells are comforting and snuggly with beautiful jewel tones of orange and ruby.
What are some of your favorite fall fruits and veggies to work with?
I really enjoy working with gourds such as butternut squash and fairytale pumpkins. Also I love incorporating pomegranates into our fall dishes. The crisp bright flavor of the arils gives great contrast as well as adding the juice to sauces for a surprising sweet element.
Other than your own restaurant, where do you like to dine?
We are always looking for the small authentic mom and pop restaurant. I like all types of ethnic cuisine as it is always a real learning experience!
What chefs do you admire and why?
I admire any successful chef. In this industry, it takes much more than knowing how to just sauté to make an impact. Their ways might not be mine, but there is always something to be learned from your fellow colleagues.
How do you work with pomegranates, either in the restaurant or at home?
Pomegranates are such a versatile fruit. I use the arils in savory dishes to top salads or mix into rice pilafs. They are great to bake into your fall desserts as well. As a child, every fall my mother would dress me and my sister in our father’s old t-shirts and sit us on the back porch with fresh pomegranates to try our hand at picking the sweet arils ourselves as an afternoon snack!
Any simple tips for home cooks?
Don’t be afraid to try working with all the different fruits and vegetables of fall. Experiment! They are at their peak for such a short amount of time, so really enjoy them.
Where is your dream vacation to take over the holiday break?
I would love to spend the holidays in Italy. I think the great cities such as Florence and Rome would be beautifully decorated and it would be fun to go to one of the ski towns in the north as well.