Today on Foodie Friday, learn more about food writer, speaker and author Laura Kurella who operates Laura Kurella, LLC as a virtual company serving clients and companies throughout the United States. She’s a wife, mother, grandmother, journalist, author, college instructor and speaker who uses her education in natural medicine and years of life experience to create food that makes people feel good. Her recipes, food styling, photography and features appear in her award-winning, weekly newspaper column as well as many other news outlets, including the Food Channel.
What is your role in the food industry?
I am a newspaper food columnist, speaker, author, adjunct professor, and Food Channel contributor who uses all these platforms to help others find a path to food that makes you feel good – both figuratively and literally!
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
My entry into the food industry was a baptism by fire. I was given a job as a newspaper food columnist even though I had no degrees in either journalism or food. The offer came after a series of life events that linked together to form a culinary purpose for my life, most notably the sudden and tragic loss of my father, who fell dead into my arms from a heart attack when he was 58 and I still a teen.
This stunning loss then coupled with a little health scare of my own in my thirties, led me to study natural medicine and longevity, which in turn led to me being offered that weekly newspaper column, Folk Medicine.
Appearing in print in the Colon Express newspaper on the day before the horrific 9/11 attacks, my column (surprisingly) caught the attention of a larger newspaper that, in addition to running my Folk Medicine column, also offered me a spot for a weekly food column, too.
Penning my first weekly food column, Vitality Cuisine, in the spring of 2002, my work has been running every week, uninterrupted, and in multiple publications across the Midwest, ever since!
The exposure that the newspaper platform brings me has drawn many opportunities that, through fruition, have spawned books, cable television shows, radio shows, live appearances, food stylist, photography and journalism awards, and ultimately led to my being offered to join the Food Channel as a contributor, which I did at the top of 2018.
I also devote time to my community by instructing basic nutrition and cooking classes at college campuses near my home.
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
There’s no doubt that my father was the inspiration behind my work in food. In fact, I write under my maiden name, Kurella, in homage to him. I feel blessed that I was able to channel the energy from my pain into a purpose to help others. The synergy that my readers continually provide helps not only fuel me, but also fuel what I write about in my columns and features, as well as everything that has spawned from them!
If you had one message for people who don’t live and breathe food like we do, what would that message be?
Care enough about yourself to make sure to eat good, quality food that both pleasures and preserves the body – it’s the only one you have. Pamper it!
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
I personally appreciate that people are becoming more conscious, aware, and educated about today’s food, and the huge impact it has on our health and how we look and feel.
What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the food industry?
The return to heirloom, heritage, naturally-raised/grown food sources – thank you, God! The ever-growing demand for healthier food, grown in a way that helps sustain – not pollute - our bodies and our environment, is a positive, life-altering shift for all of us!
Tell us about an industry professional who influenced you most?
There’s been a string of chefs that I feel/felt drawn to: The Galloping Gourmet, Julia Child, Charlie Trotter, Emeril Lagasse, Alton Brown – a motley crew! In addition to them all being awesome chefs, they also are/were awesome people who emit warmth, charm, and goodness of character along with delicious food. You can’t beat that!
What's your big splurge food item? Any particular brand you're willing to pay more for?
Since what we eat does have a cumulative effect on our health, good quality food ingredients are simply a “must” for me, especially ones I use daily, like olive oil. I’d much rather pay an extra $10 on a bottle of good quality, certified organic American olive oil that has a harvest date on it then run the risk of serving and consuming a low quality, blended and refined oil mixture of questionable freshness from parts unknown.
What keeps you motivated as a food professional?
I am motivated by two things: Positive feedback from audiences/students, and my readers who, by interacting with me, fuel me forward; and ingredients which, in the spirit of Charlie Trotter (who also suffered from dyslexia) cause me to see food in a different light. Like him, I like to build meals or drinks around a specific, awesome ingredient, rather than the other way around.
What do you view as your greatest achievement to-date as a food professional?
I would have to say it’s the completion of my children’s book, “A Delicious Day at Mrs. K’s,” which came as the result of learning that, predominantly due to poor eating habits, for the first time in recorded history, today’s generation of children are not expected to live as long as their parent’s generation. This news broke my heart, especially since I have grandchildren who are today’s generation. I created this book in the hopes of reaching the K-2 age group and teach them the importance of nutrition, and the why behind it, so that they have the knowledge to help them make wiser food choices on their own, and have longer, healthier lives.
What three foods/ingredients could you not live without? Why?
Oil, ginger, citrus. A good amount of my cooking in a skillet begins with a good quality oil. Whether it’s the morning eggs or sausage, the afternoon’s chicken or the evening’s shrimp, oil is where the cooking begins!
Being one who does enjoy good, quality ingredients, I’ve also come to prefer my own fresh refreshments, and as such make my own ginger ale from fresh ginger, citrus and Perrier, which I sweeten with maple syrup my husband harvests from our own trees! This makes a most amazing beverage loaded with good-for-you benefits, like natural anti-inflammatory agents, that are all nicely tucked into a fun and fizzy, flavorful drink!
Tell us about a memorable meal you’ve had.
Memorable meals are those shared with loved ones and for me, a very present-minded person, the most memorable meals are always those I am looking forward to sharing with family, no matter what the food may be. We tend to really get excited when we eat things straight from the garden. Yes, even carrots can be exciting when they are ones that you grew!
What food or meal makes you happiest? Why?
Shrimp has always been a favorite of mine. Not sure why, but it is one food I can eat prepared any way possible, and it’s a food I have eaten since I was a young girl – Still LOVE it! It takes me back to childhood whenever I bite into one, so I feel bound to shrimp in a very special way.
Tell us about food or ingredient would you never use or eat.
Cilantro is not in my kitchen because I never cared for its taste or smell, which is strong and bitter to me. Don’t know why I don’t care for it. Just don’t. However, it’s amazing for detoxing the body, so I am looking for pills!
What cookbooks or cooking classes are most important to you? Why?
My mom’s cookbooks are precious because they hold the magic and the memories of childhood times with her and my siblings in her kitchen – cooking away! I am also fond of Julia Child, and Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, because I have memories of watching their television shows as a child, which I think helped influence me to be more focused on food. I also like Martha Stewart’s no-nonsense, Eastern European approach to cooking likely because I am 96% Eastern European! (according to Ancestry.com)
Connect with Laura
Facebook: Laura Kurella