Nancy Silverton says the key to a great dish can be quite simple, interview exclusive

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Guest judge Nancy Silverton and judge Joe Bastianich in the “Nancy Silverton Pasta Challenge” airing Wednesday, July 14 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.
MASTERCHEF: L-R: Guest judge Nancy Silverton and judge Joe Bastianich in the “Nancy Silverton Pasta Challenge” airing Wednesday, July 14 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX. /

While the food world can be fickle, Nancy Silverton has been at the pinnacle of industry long before she was given legendary status by MasterChef Legends. Ahead of her upcoming appearance on the FOX television show, she graciously took some time to chat with me about her approach to cooking, appreciating a good palate and her obsession with food.

Before earning her Michelin Star for Osteria Mozza, Silverton made a name for herself in the Los Angeles food scene. Having worked with Wolfgang Puck, the importance of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients was ingrained into her cooking.

At La Brea Bakery, Silverton turned her obsession for creating the perfect breads into a passion for changing how people look at the food staple. Instead of just being another item on the plate, that bread was an artistic expression of what food can and should be.

While at Campanile with the late Mark Peel, Silverton captivated diners with dishes that defied expectations. From her impeccable desserts to the infamous Grilled Cheese nights, Silverton stayed true to her culinary voice.

Why does Nancy Silverton believe in the simplicity of the ingredients?

Ahead of her appearance on MasterChef Legends, Silverton spoke to me via Zoom. While our chat was brief, her passion for food and cooking has never waned. Anyone who has seen her recent Instagram posts from Italy is captivated by the bounty on her table. Even though many aspiring cooks long for her tenacity and creativity, Silverton offers a simple slice of advice.

Silverton believes that the key to a great dish is “bring those fresh local ingredients to your to the table.” While that concept might seem simplistic, the reality is that is paramount.

As she goes on to explain, that when using “great ingredients and ones in season is that most of the work is done for you.” “Well chosen, seasonal, quality ingredients” will always make an impact on a dish. Even though those ingredients “do not have to be expensive,” they need to be the best possible.

With those amazing ingredients, all the “home cook has to do finish it off.” Although the aspiring chef longs to just let those ingredient shine, the concept is one that more and more cooks should hinder. Burying great ingredients under too many “other” items can be detrimental to the enjoyment of the food. Sometimes simplicity is the best course.

Nancy Silverton describes her flavor preferences

Many people in the food world consider Silverton to have an amazing palate. Anyone who has watched her on various food television shows can see how professional chefs are moved when Silverton praises a dish. Still, her palate preferences might not be the same as others, and that can be a good thing.

Silverton believes that “it’s a personal preference.” For her, she stated that she “happen(s) to like food that has aggressive flavors and when I say aggressive I mean that they’re well-seasoned.” Her preference is for “foods that are very acidic.” While those flavors excite her palate, she admitted “that’s not everybody’s taste.” Still, Silverton believes that flavorful food is always on point.

On her episode of MasterChef Legends, Silverton shows the home cooks how to make and cook fresh pasta. While many foodies long for this cooking experience, Silverton shares her thoughts on why pasta has such a connection to comfort food.

She shared, “when they think pasta, that they think comfort.” While there are many types of Italian food, “home style, Italian cooking” and the “simplicity of cooking with pasta” has a draw for many people.

While the food that she may serve at her restaurants varies, there is always a sense of welcoming and nurturing on the plate. From the freshest, seasonal ingredients to the perfected pizza dough, that plate will hold “food that that they understand.” And, just maybe that dish will lead them to a food obsession that will linger far longer than the dinner hour.

In a Chef’s Table, Nancy Silverton said that she had an obsession with food and some people might call it a food quest. When asked if that food journey continues, Silverton emphatically said, “it never ends.” While that infinite journey might be the good and bad part of the obsession, Silverton believes is the quest that keeps her going forward.

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Nancy Silverton owns several restaurants around the world, including the highly celebrated Osteria Mozza. In addition, she is the owner of Nancy’s Fancy, which sells a line of gelatos and sorbettos. Silverton is often seen on many food competitions shows as a judge.

MasterChef Legends airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on FOX. This season features numerous legendary guest judges including Masaharu Morimoto, Sherry Yard, Michael Mina and many others.