My mother was my cooking inspiration. She was a wonderful cook. When I was fourteen, before I'd had any interest in cooking, she passed away. She left no recipes. After I moved away for college, I had to learn to cook for myself. I realized that cooking required both scientific precision and artistic freedom; as someone who never backed down from a challenge, I thrived on this culinary complexity. I've since spent many hours in the kitchen using my childhood memories trying to recreate my mother's dishes.
The first dish I learned to cook successfully and consistently is ginger-braised chicken.
For a savory dish, I enjoy making Vietnamese eggrolls. My mom used to make them for special occasions, and they were my favorite thing to eat growing up. I've managed to figure out her recipe, and though it used to be an all-day affair before I had a food processor, the results were always worth the laborious wait. As for sweets, I love making ice cream. I've been experimenting with various creative flavors like honey lavender and browned butter. I hope to one day open a shop where all the ice cream is made from organic, locally sourced ingredients.
I learned not to worry about what anyone else was doing in the kitchen and to just focus on my own dish. It didn't matter what others were cooking or which ingredients or techniques they used; all that mattered was that I do my very best, learn from past mistakes, take the judges' culinary advice seriously, follow my gut instincts and make something I'd love to eat myself. Most of all, you must cook from the heart; make something you'd be proud to serve your friends; and create it with passion, love, and fervor.