Cooking Superstar

Well Fed

Cook along with #CookingSuperstar Melissa from Well Fed

Melissa Joulwan
Prague, Czech Republic

When did you first get in to cooking and do you remember the first recipe you tried?

My dad owned and restaurant when I was growing up, and my mom won every cooking contest she ever entered. Food is a Big Deal in my family, and I can't remember when I didn't know how to cook. I don't remember the first recipe I cooked on my own, but I do remember making Chef Boyardee ravioli and pretending to be on a cooking show as I added garlic salt and dried oregano to the pan. (I still sometimes pretend I'm the host of a cooking show when I cook.)

What's your kitchen like and how do you keep organized when cooking?

My husband and I recently moved to Prague from the U.S., so our apartment kitchen is very different from the American kitchens I'm used to. We have an electric stove; after cooking on a gas stove for about 20 years, it was a big adjustment, but I eventually figured it out. Our refrigerator is only slightly larger than a dorm fridge, but our apartment has a very large wine chiller so we use that for fruits and veggies instead of bottles of vino. To keep myself organized on the small countertops, I have two large cutting boards that cover almost all of the countertop space on both sides of my stove. Each cutting board has its own assigned knife, and I use one board to prep meat and the other to prep veggies. It's such a good system, I think I'll use it even if I have a larger kitchen again some day.

What tips would you give to someone wanting to become a better cook?

Thanks to all the food photos on Instagram, there can be a lot of pressure to make beautiful or fancy food. The only rule in the kitchen is to cook what you like. I think it's really important to follow a recipe from someone trustworthy the first time you make a dish, but once you've made it and understand how it all comes together, don't be afraid to experiment and make it your own. Food can be really fun, and as long as YOU like what you've made, you're a great cook.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and what would you cook for them?

I'd love to invite Charlotte Brontë for dinner, but she was so shy, it would probably be horrible for her, so... Oscar Wilde to make the conversation witty, Barack and Michelle Obama for their intelligence and warmth, Michael Chabon to keep Oscar company, and Julie Child to help in the kitchen and bring her joie de vivre to the party. And of course, my husband, Mom, and Dad because they would love it.

Do you do any other crafts and what are your hobbies?

I'm not very crafty outside the kitchen. When I'm not writing or cooking, I spend a lot of free time walking around Prague—it's a beautiful city with lots of parks, gorgeous architecture, and a river, so plenty to see—and I read as much as I can without turning into a total hermit.

Which cooking blogs do you love to read?

I'm pretty picky about recipe blogs since I write recipes myself. I'm a big fan of Zenbelly (, Stupid Easy Paleo (http://www.stupideasypaleo), and the thoroughly entertaining and informative Gastro Obscura ( It's an online guide to unusual food and food-related stories from around the world.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Food is one of the best ways to bring people together, and I love to cook (and eat!) international recipes because it's a way to learn more about the other people who share our planet. I chose recipes from all over the world to share, and I hope your readers have fun taking a world tour with their tastebuds.

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Melissa Joulwan
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Paleo recipes

What's your favorite...

TV Show
Duran Duran
Gosford Park
Cook Book
Betty Crocker's Cooky Book
Lebanese, Thai, Vietnamese
Plantains, fresh herbs, duck fat, cumin
Kitchen Gadget
Stick blender!