Q&A with Chef and Restaurateur, Andrea Baumgardner

“There is a lot of care in food. I think people can feel the love. It isn’t necessarily about how much time you’ve spent, but it’s about how engaged you are.”

Andrea Baumgardner, a Fargo, ND chef and restaurant owner sat down with us to share her tips and ideas for holiday entertaining, and how she incorporate simply delicious, naturally nutritious beans into festive meals. Andrea currently owns and operates BernBaum’s, a unique Fargo lunch counter blending Jewish and Icelandic cuisine.

Bean Bulletin: Can you tell us a little about your background and why you became a chef?

Andrea: I was a French major in college and I spent a year abroad in Europe. I became completely entranced with the food in France. I lived with a normal French family and they had normal French attention food but they really cared.  They made all their own meals – bought eggs from Corsica, produce from the market – it was just a part of the culture and this made sense to me. When I came back I decided to go to chef school.

BB: What’s your holiday entertaining like?

Andrea: Because I catered for so many years, I’ve gotten to a place where I don’t fuss like I used to. I used to spend 3 days cooking and the meal would be over in 30 minutes. You can’t help but feel resentful. Now, I really appreciate the time to be with people. I really like foods that can be room temperature or one-pot meals. It’s more about getting together with the people you love and less about the perfect meal.

BB: How would you describe the perfect holiday party?

Andrea: I think you need to keep the energy up. I’m a big fan of keeping things small and snack-like. There’s nothing that kills the energy of a party faster than making everyone sit down to a big, heavy meal or buffet.  I also think the perfect holiday party needs a festive drink – something fun and delicious.

BB: What tips or ideas can you share to make holiday entertaining more fun and less stressful?

Andrea: When I entertain I like to do a couple expensive items, like a smoked fish, shrimp or crab cakes and then economize a bit on other things. I think a beautiful cheese with fresh vegetables, grapes and dried fruit all goes over well. And these items are a little less expensive but delicious.

I also don’t believe you have to make everything from scratch and there are some really great store bought products that are worth the buy. You have to think about what’s the best use of your time.

Also, I think the best advice is to plan well but don’t sweat it. It’s more about connecting with people and having fun than wowing people with your skills. If something doesn’t turn out right, think about Julia Child and her advise- don’t apologize!

BB: What ideas do you have to give beans the delicious factor?

Andrea: Beans are flavor absorbers, so if you’re cooking dried beans add something to the liquid. At work we’ve been doing a lot with dried chiles, and I think they can add really interesting, smoky, dark notes. Beans need seasoning so salt and acids are important. You also want to think about ingredients that are going to infuse the beans with flavor – vinegar, lemon juice, really good olive oil, sea salt, maybe something spicy like curry. Beans can stand up to a lot so don’t be afraid to give them lots of flavor.

BB: For people having a holiday party with appetizer, do you have any bean recipes to recommend?

Andrea: Beans make an excellent addition to antipasti platters. I also like Italian or Turkish marinated beans spread on a toast or crostini. Mashed beans are always good – any variation on hummus. Also, everyone loves a 7-layer dip with refried beans. You could even rethink the 7 layer dip – maybe a black bean cake with crème fraiche and salsa!

BB: Do you have a favorite bean recipe to entertain with?

 Andrea: I really love beans. They are part of every culture and it’s fun to explore different cultural bean dishes. I have an Indian bean recipe where you soak beans, grind them and add some spinach to make cakes. You serve them with a date sauce. I also love Mexican style cooked beans – a little epizote, salt, garlic and some fat or a bone. Beans also do really well in salads too. I just really love beans.

To learn more about Andrea’s food philosophy, current restaurant and to see more photos of her kitchen, visit Zach Davis Photography’s Artist Study.

Photo credits: Zach Davis Photography | www.zachdavisphotography.com