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In My Kitchen: Two different flavors that blend perfectly

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REHOBOTH BEACH – Kathleen Hy and Pete Farley met a decade ago when they lived in Milford and worked at Pig + Fish in Rehoboth Beach. Neither has any formal culinary training. Kathleen, a native of the Bay area in California, studied corporate law in college; Cleveland, Ohio, native Pete majored in business.

Kathleen got her start in Delaware restaurants as the pastry chef at Salt Air Kitchen and Bar while Pete had worked in various chain restaurants in the area. Today, the two are close friends – Kathleen is head chef at Salt Air and Pete is the sous chef – and say their strengths and weaknesses complement each other.

Kathleen Hy and Pete Farley | Photo by Eric Crossan

When I’m at home, I normally cook … rice and eggs in some shape or form. Sometimes it’s just plain rice and eggs, or spam fried rice, right now I’m working on perfecting the Japanese omurice (Kathleen).

The lessons that I’ve learned over the years that I’ve brought back to both my work and home cooking are …

• Pete: Be humble and patient. The funny thing about kitchens is that something always goes wrong. Whether it be a recipe that is missing one or two ingredients, a sauce that isn’t quite hitting the way you wanted it to, or simply not having an ingredient that is necessary to complete your vision. Patience is key in keeping your cool and figuring out a plan B on the fly to complete your dish. The humbleness aspect is just something that I have always practiced. Cooking is such a hard job because you can never please everyone, and staying humble when compliments are given is a good way to control your ego!

• Kathleen: Always make time for yourself, even if it’s just a few minutes a day.

The kitchen tool that I can’t live without is …

• Pete: A pair of tongs. Tongs have become such an extension of my body over the years. To grabbing hot plates and pans, to plating food. I could definitely never go a whole day in a kitchen without using tongs.

• Kathleen: My rice cooker, I learned how to cook whole meals with it in college and I still do to come home to warm meal. I can even make cakes with it!

In my pantry you will always find …

• Kathleen: Pickles. Of every kind. From everywhere. 

• Pete: Hot sauce. I’m a fan of spice, and when you eat my food, there will almost always be some form of heat. Hot sauce is also diverse as it can be used as a condiment and an ingredient.

In my freezer you will always find …

• Kathleen: Thai chili peppers, I can’t live without them. I put them in everything.

• Pete: Ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s is my favorite, but I’m a sucker for any frozen treat!

My favorite cooking television show is …

• Pete: “Chopped” on the Food Network. I find myself watching hours upon hours of this show in my free time. There is something about competitive cooking that just wows me. These chefs are put to the highest test against the clock to make composed dishes out of completely random ingredients that usually never flow well together. It’s insane the amount of stress and pressure they must feel and really keeps me coming back to watch the next disaster or masterpiece.

• Kathleen: I rarely have time to watch TV these days, but my favorite show used to be “Good Eats” by Alton Brown. It had a bit of everything from science to history and it was fun to watch. He was like the Bill Nye of the food world.

When I entertain, I like to make …

• Kathleen: Big meals that involve everyone, communal eating. Like Korean BBQ, Chinese hot pot, Vietnamese spring rolls, picking Maryland blue crabs. It’s such a happy time together! 

• Pete: Something Caribbean. I enjoy bold flavors, and I have a very good recipe for a jerk marinade/sauce. This sauce combined with pork, chicken, or shrimp is absolutely my favorite, and is perfect to grill with. Usually with my jerk sauce, I will complement with my favorite fruit mango. These are a match made in heaven!

My cooking mentor is/was: Over the years, I have had many good chefs to work with or under. The start of my creative culinary journey was helped by Raul Rodriguez and Kevin Curry. I worked with these guys at Pig + Fish in Rehoboth. They really took me under their wing and made a line cook into a chef. Without them in my life I may not be where I am today. (Pete)

My time in Delaware has made me a better chef because …

I learned to cook outside my box. I never even knew what Old Bay was until I got here! But it’s been great getting to know and use all the fresh local ingredients here (Kathleen).

My favorite person to cook with:

• Pete: My girlfriend, Cat Durney. She was a little green in the kitchen when we first started dating, but she would watch and help me cook over the years. Now she is whipping up dinner for me when I get home and absolutely blowing my mind with her talent and creativity. The best part of cooking is successfully teaching someone the ropes and watching them thrive.

• Kathleen: My brothers. They both started cooking after I did and when I would go home to California, we would challenge each other to cookoffs. We would always have something new to show off and learn. 

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