Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.
Television personality and Bird Bakery owner Elizabeth Chambers has judged baking competitions like Chopped Sweets and Food Network's Best Baker in America, but her go-to dessert is the simple-yet-classic chocolate chip cookie.
"It's the simplest recipe," says Chambers. "It's so nostalgic. Some people garden; I bake chocolate chip cookies. It's very therapeutic for me."
At Bird Bakery locations in Texas and Colorado, Chambers sells baked goods based on recipes she grew up eating in her grandmother's kitchen. "All of the recipes we serve at the bakery are from my grandmother's kitchen, except for my cookie recipes," she tells Yahoo Life. "I spent my 20s perfecting my cookie recipes. Cookies are my happy place; they are family recipes that I've tweaked that we serve now at Bird."
In addition to appearances on Food Network, Today and the Cooking Channel, the 40-year-old baker has appeared on television and in the film The Game Plan. She says her acting career was may have been helped along by bringing baked goods to auditions. "I would say my career is 30% my talent and 70% my cookies," she says. "I would bomb an audition and then I would bring them my cookies with a thank-you note, and all of a sudden I would get a callback."
Chambers' entrepreneurial spirit is inspired by the women in her family. "My mom and my grandmother were both culinary entrepreneurs who were ahead of their time," she shares. "My grandmother started her catering company in San Antonio at a time when women were not trailblazing the way she was. My mom opened the first health food store in San Antonio when she was just 26. Everyone is in the food or wine business in our family."
But with such a food-focused upbringing, what family food traditions does Chambers cherish most?
"Christmas cookies," she says. "My mom is a chef, my sister is a trained chef and my mom is an amazing baker. Every year, from the time we were tiny, my mom would always host holiday parties for my dad's business and she would make, no kidding, over 3,000 cookies every year."
"I have such fond memories of my mom's entertaining as a child," Chambers continues. "I try to repeat as many family traditions, especially food-based traditions, for my kids: Our kitchen is always open, 24 hours a day, except when we're sleeping. My son Ford, who is 5, enjoys the prep more, and my daughter, Harper, who is older, really enjoys the hospitality aspect."
Chambers' biggest kitchen secret? You need to be passionate about what you're making or you won't be very good at it. But one thing she is not passionate about? Rice.
"Rice just really doesn't have a place in my heart at all," she says. "That is translated when I cook rice. My daughter is always like, 'Mommy, why are you good at making so many things, but you always burn the rice or it's not very fluffy?' Whenever we make anything and rice is served, she asks me to order it from the Indian or Japanese restaurant."
Chambers does, however, enjoy making dishes other than dessert in the kitchen. "Right now, I'm having a real moment with parchment-steamed fish," she shares. "I gravitate towards seafood when I'm focusing on what I like to eat. You take parchment, any kind of vegetables, olive oil, salt and pepper, whatever fish you like and some butter and staple it all together and pop it in the oven. It's ready in 15 minutes."
Chambers spoke with YahooLife as part of her work promoting Bird Bakery, sharing one of the biggest fails she's experienced as an entrepreneur. "We've had a lot of wedding cake fails at the bakery," she admits. "It's a big momentous occasion ... the Texas heat is brutal to wedding cakes. We were learning as we went, but now there is always a decorator on site for wedding cake deliveries in case there are any issues."
So what's next for the culinary entrepreneur and her bakery? "I always open in places that are meaningful to me," she says. "Definitely top three on our list are Los Angeles, Houston and Austin. Hopefully one day we'll be everywhere, but we want to make sure we give each location the attention it deserves."
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