All About Food: Will Gwen be cutthroat enough?

Celebrity chef Jamie Gwen is a Southern Californian who has lived in south Orange County for the past 10 years.

She has authored four cookbooks, worked with many famous chefs and had a television show. She currently has a syndicated radio program. This week, she will be one of the contestants on the new Food Network program “Cutthroat Kitchen.”

Jamie’s early memories about food are centered on watching her mother, Lana, cook. Her single mom worked all day but came home every evening and cooked a meal big “enough for an army.”

At lunchtime in school, while most kids were eating their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Jaime dined on chicken cacciatore and homemade banana bread. At 13, Jamie, using her mom’s recipe, started her own cheesecake business. She made business cards with puffy paints and sold the cakes to her mom’s friends.

Her mother eventually opened a café and bakery in Brentwood, where Jamie worked the counter, learning about business, the work ethic and persistence. Many local chefs came in to enjoy a coffee at the espresso bar, and when she was 16, one of them, who worked for Wolfgang Puck, invited her to see how a real restaurant kitchen looked and functioned.

She apprenticed there for a while and picked up Puck’s recipe for mashed potatoes, which she still says are the best ever. The secret is to cook peeled whole garlic cloves in the water with the potatoes and then put them in the food mill with the potatoes, adding cream, crème fresh and herbs at the end.

Realizing that food was her métier, Jamie enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation, she worked with Joachim Splichal at Pinot Bistro, learning the ins and outs of every station in the kitchen as well as managing the front of the house. Another of her mentors from Pinot was Octavio Becerra of Palate Food + Wine.

At 27, while successfully managing a restaurant, she auditioned for a TV show called “The Home and Family Show” and won the job over 50 other chefs. She stayed there for 2 ½ years, cooking more than 1,000 recipes.

This was followed by five years on the Home Shopping Network. She worked for Emeril Lagasse as a food stylist for his sitcom. Then on the Canadian shopping channel, when Emeril was busy, she was his stand-in. Staff called her his West Coast chef.

For the past 14 years, she has had her own radio show called “Food and Wine with Chef Jamie Gwen,” which she co-hosts with her mom, Lana Sills, who is also her manager and the producer. Jamie is also a certified sommelier.

The show airs here on KFWB News Talk 980 at 8 a.m.Sundays. You can also hear it on iTunes worldwide. The show has recently been syndicated across the country.

This energetic chef also teaches cooking classes each year on an Oceania cruise ship outfitted with a state-of-the-art kitchen with 28 fully equipped stations. In addition to cooking classes, there are wine seminars and, of course, off-ship culinary adventures. This year, she will be doing the Baltics.

Jamie loves Orange County and someday would like to open a restaurant here. In her spare time (yes, she does claim to have some spare time), she plays tennis, creates new recipes and does lunch.

If you have not heard about the latest Food Network program, hosted by Alton Brown, be sure to tune in at 10 p.m. Sunday and see Jamie face off against three other chefs. They have three rounds of cooking, each starting with a given ingredient, and 60 seconds to raid the pantry for ingredients to complete a dish.

The catch is that they’re all given $25,000 to bid on things, which they then give to their opponents to use, in an effort to sabotage their dishes. For example, in the first episode, someone buys a Swiss Army Knife and gives it to a competitor, who must then use that only and give up all his other knives and tools to create a dish. A culinary celebrity judges each round for the best dish.

TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at

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