Hi. I’m Alexandra Stafford, but you can call me Ali. I love cooking, I always have, and I love teaching people how to cook.
In 2006 on a whim, I started Alexandra’s Kitchen, a place for mostly simple, always seasonal recipes. Eleven years later, my cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs, made its way into the world. And today I spend my days cooking, baking, writing, and eventually recording everything here on Alexandra’s Kitchen. I live in Upstate New York with my husband, four children, and two cats.
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10 Quick Things About Me
1. I love bread. I love eating bread. I love making bread. I love teaching people how to bake bread. I wrote a cookbook all about bread and how to use every last crumb to its full potential. Read more about Bread Toast Crumbs, an IACP finalist, here.
2. Cooking seasonally is of utmost importance to me. I subscribe to a farm share, the Roxbury Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture—more on that here), nearly year round. I love the weekly challenge of using a box of vegetables to its fullest potential and helping others do the same.
3. I don’t follow any specific diet — Whole30, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, Atkins, gluten-free, low-carb, keto, etc. I believe in balance and moderation. I believe in eating humanely raised meats. I believe in eating seasonally, and supporting local, sustainable agriculture within your means. I love nothing more than a simple roast chicken, a BLT, and a griddled burger, but more and more, I find myself drawn to vegetarian cooking.
4. Immediately after college, I attended cooking school in Philadelphia, then spent five years working in catering and restaurant kitchens in and outside of the city. I spent two years at Fork, where I ultimately was the sous chef for Thien Ngo. More about that experience here.
5. For several years, I contributed weekly to Food52, writing about weeknight cooking. Alexandra’s Kitchen has twice been nominated for a Saveur Blog Award in the Most Inspired Weeknight Cooking category, and in 2018 it won. More weeknight cooking inspiration here.
6. I’m a homebody. So happy at home. Zero wanderlust. But: Paris.
7. A few years ago, I renovated my kitchen. If you’re thinking about a similar renovation, this post might be of interest: How To Plan for a Kitchen Renovation. Here’s my kitchen today: Kitchen Reveal.
8. I love cookbooks. My library contains over 500 books. It continues to grow.
10. Today, I live in Upstate New York with my husband, 4 children (ages 5, 6, 8, and 10), and our one cat, Jedi (RIP Anakin).
A little more background:
If you’ve been reading for awhile, then you know that no one has influenced my love for cooking more than my mother. I grew up eating homemade bread at nearly every meal, not knowing salad dressing and chicken stock could be purchased at a store, and thinking there was nothing unusual about making spanakopita and moussaka from scratch.
After college, I enrolled in a six-month cooking school in South Philly, then spent several years working at catering companies and restaurants in and outside of the city. The two years I spent in the Fork kitchen first as a prep cook and ultimately as sous chef for Thien Ngo most notably have shaped what and how I cook today. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about something Thien taught me — how to dice onions into perfect little diamonds; how to make the crispiest fingerling potatoes; how to create the prettiest lemon wedges by cutting straight down around a lemon’s center.
With the exception of a few traumatizing experiences — working the Sunday brunch omelet station (for a year), for example — I had a ball in that kitchen. I often dream about the fried egg sandwiches with Chinese sausage on just-baked rolls Thien would whip up as a morning snack, a reward for knocking out our to-do list; and about squeezing fresh lime juice over fresh papaya and then scooping out its flesh, the perfect breakfast; and about sipping full-fat cappuccinos made with La Colombe espresso beans, the best in the city; and about wrapping tinga in tortillas topped with Isidoro’s guacamole, the staff’s most requested family meal; and about wine and cheese dinners when Max MacCallman came to town, the most fun night of the entire year.
I had a ball outside that kitchen, too, mostly in Chinatown on my bike following Thien to various restaurants and shops inevitably returning to the restaurant with live Dungeness crabs squirming in my backpack and fresh rice noodles digesting in my belly. Thien introduced me to the Vietnamese sauce mam nem and to green papaya salad at Nam Phuong; to snails with black bean sauce, steamed live shrimp, pan-fried noodles, and stir-fried crab with ginger and scallions at Tai Lake; and to tacos de lengua at La Lupe. Thien made the most memorable braised chicken curry, romaine salad with sauce gribiche, and pan-seared duck confit. He drank only grenache wines, specifically Gigondas AOC wines, and at dinner hour was rarely seen without a glass in hand.
I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work at a place that continues to thrive after 20 years. Fork’s owner Ellen Yin was the first to introduce me to the mantra “buy fresh, buy local”, a concept the restaurant has been committed to since opening its doors and one that has forever shaped how I cook. If ever you find yourself in Philly, be sure to stop by Fork for a meal — it’s a wonderful place.
Alexandra’s Kitchen has been recognized by The New York Times, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, Goop, Food52, Domaine Home, The Huffington Post, Design Sponge, Wisconsin Cheese, FairTrade, Ballard Design, and King Arthur Flour.
Alexandra’s cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs, has been praised by Dorie Greenspan, Jim Lahey, and David Lebovitz, featured in New York Magazine, and named one of the top five cookbooks of the year by Tasting Table.
In a prior life, Alexandra designed stationery and wall art. Bon Appetit described the set of notecards she designed in honor of Julia Child’s 100th birthday as their “new favorite notecards,” and this same set was a finalist in the 2013 LOUIE Awards.