Chef Lisa Palmieri recently joined Fulfill’s Culinary Team as Culinary Service Manager. Palmieri brings with her over 20 years of diverse experience in the culinary field, including her most recent stint, with Smithville Peanut Butter Company. Palmieri has a B.S. in food and nutrition from Montclair State University and a certificate of baking and pastry arts from the Culinary Institute of America, in addition to a ServSafe Certification. As an instructor at Fulfill’s Culinary Training Program, her vast range of experiences and training are sure to have a major impact. Palmieri took the time to indulge Jersey Bites for a Chef Spotlight interview.
JERSEY BITES: What is your earliest food memory?
LISA PALMIERI: A childhood memory that brings me joy, would be making homemade pizza with my grandmother every Friday. This was always delicious and she let my sister and me help, which taught me that cooking was fun.
When did you realize you wanted to make cooking a career? Was there an aha! moment?
After graduating from college, with a degree in nutrition, I was working as a manager of a cooking school for nonprofessionals. I loved that job. I got to witness so many talented chefs teaching classes right before my eyes. This was the early 1990s, so the development of the Food Network and [most] other popular cooking shows were not yet in existence. I learned so much during the seven years I worked there. One day, Chef Sarabeth Levine, of Sarabeth’s in NYC, was teaching a class. I watched her pull a small ball of dough, for apple strudel, to the length of two six-foot tables, and I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Anyone who has seen strudel made traditionally knows what I am talking about—it’s awesome. It was in that moment that I decided I wanted to further my education. Soon after, I enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America, to study pastry arts.
Any interesting stories about getting started cooking professionally?
At the cooking school where I worked, we had well-known guest chefs regularly. I had the honor of working with Jacques Pepin, Jacques Torres, Pierre Franey, Martin Yan, Bobby Flay, David Burke, Emily Luchetti, just to name a few. I worked closely with cookbook author Carole Walter, who encouraged and influenced my career path tremendously.
What is your cooking style? Fresh, quick, and easy for weekdays. Rustic for the weekends, everything from scratch. I love entertaining at home with great food and opening a bottle of homemade wine.
What is the greatest opportunity that has come to you as a result of cooking?
Working at Fulfill will be my greatest opportunity. I have worked in production for my entire career; this is where I have developed and I’ve learned so much about food production. Having an opportunity to work with students, pass knowledge along, and help someone else start a career in culinary arts will be extremely rewarding.
What is the most memorable meal you’ve had, what did you eat, and where was it?
The most memorable meal I have was [when I was] visiting Paris, France. The restaurant was very small, located right along the side of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The cathedral was gorgeous, with lights shining on it. The meal was beef bourguignon, served table side with a fantastic bottle of French red wine.
It’s your last day on earth: what’s your final meal?
I’m pretty simple; maybe just an herb-roasted chicken with buttery mashed potatoes, pan gravy, and sautéed French beans in garlic. Flourless chocolate cake with vanilla sauce for dessert, or, if it is summer, a warm nectarine and blueberry crisp with homemade vanilla ice cream. It’s a tossup.
What is the best advice you have to share with young people interested in becoming chefs?
Learn the fundamentals of cooking and practice, practice, practice. Everything is based on fundamentals. Also, be sure that you feel the passion this industry requires. The demands on you, working in food service, can only be tolerated if you have the absolute passion—otherwise it is simply a lot of very hard, often backbreaking, work. You must love what you are doing.
Quick and Fun
If you could choose to be any food item, what would it be?
A piece of fine, dark chocolate. Smooth, rich, sweet, but not too sweet, and adds finesse to any finale.
What is the one staple food you always have on hand at home?
Pasta is always available in my pantry. I find it to be a great base to use up any leftover ingredients in the refrigerator.
What is your beverage of choice?
I like tea. I always have a variety of teas on hand, bagged and loose leaf.
What is your favorite comfort food?
Really good chocolate ice cream.
What New Jersey restaurant do you enjoy dining at, besides your own?
I like Thai food, so I enjoy dining at the Bamboo Leaf, in Bradley Beach. Authentic, family owned and run, always a great meal. I enjoy going out for food I won’t make at home.
If you could have dinner with any three people, living, deceased, or fictional, who would they be and why?
This is a tough one. I think if I were to pick someone from the culinary world, I would pick Gordon Ramsay. Not only is he an incredibly accomplished chef, but I truly admire his ability to bring out passion from everyone working in the kitchen. As I said before, do not enter this industry without the passion. Secondly, I am going to go with Ed Sheeran. I like his music very much, and he is another self-starter who is passionate about his craft. And third I would pick my grandmother, who passed away 11 years ago. She lived to 100 years of age, and I was blessed to have her as a huge influence in my life. Actually, I would rather have all three dinners with her than anyone else. She taught me that what we make in the kitchen—baking especially—is a way to show love for other people. She was my closest friend, and when I bake I remember her deep love.
Fulfill’s onsite Culinary Skills Training Program helps adults in need get the necessary training so they can obtain better-paying jobs. Participants receive the following:
- 13 weeks of on-site food preparation and classroom training provided by a certified executive chef
- An additional week of job shadowing at another food establishment
- The opportunity to receive CPR Certification and ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification
The program offers graduates assistance in obtaining and keeping jobs relevant to their training in the shore area. Fulfill is free of charge for qualified applicants, as it is supported through private grant funding.
Classes are held at Fulfill in Neptune and at the B.E.A.T. Center in Toms River. To date, the Culinary Training Program has graduated more than 300 trainees, many of whom are currently working in full-time culinary industry careers.
For more info about the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 732-731-1403.
3300 Route 66
The B.E.A.T. Center
1769 Hooper Ave Toms River, NJ