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  • Lisa Counts
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Chef Lisa Counts

Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2015

Favorite class to teach: Pasta Workshop

Training/education: I graduated from Kendall College in Evanston in 2003.

Cooking since: 1998: I had my first kitchen job when I was just 15 years old.

Favorite childhood food experience: Going to the market every August and picking up bushels of tomatoes and taking them to my Nonna’s house to make sauce from scratch and jarring it up for the whole family. Also, Sunday night dinners at her house were amazing.

What made you want to become a chef? I grew up watching all of the PBS cooking shows (back before there were Food Network and Cooking Channels) and loved learning about other types of food that my mom never made and that made me want to keep learning and cooking. But I really loved cooking with my mom, too!

What is your signature dish? Panko, Parmesan & herb breaded and fried Eggplant, stuffed with provolone, sauteed spinach and garlic and then rolled up, topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella and baked.

What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Garlic, Lemons, Eggs, Salt, and Black Pepper.

What do you love about cooking? Seeing people eat my food and enjoying it as much as I did making it.

When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? I always think about balance and trying to get a little bit of everything (sweet, savory, bitter, sour and texture) in every bite.

What advice would you give a new cook? Never get discouraged, recipes are just guidelines, use your imagination, and don’t forget to taste and season!

What are you doing when you're not cooking? I am eating or probably sleeping.

Describe your perfect evening. Going out to dinner some place new, see a live band somewhere, go home and eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy ice cream while watching Game of Thrones.

If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? Acanto or Nico Osteria for Italian, Dragonfly for sushi, Kanela for brunch, Rocks or Au Cheval for burgers, Naha or Avec for just a really awesome meal.

Where are you from? I was raised in Addison, a suburb west of Chicago, but have lived in the city for 13 years.

What was your favorite vacation? I would have to say Italy. I got to go on a tour to see how the real Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamico di Modena, and Prosciutto di Parma are made and taste everything! It was some of the best food I have ever eaten, and I learned so much.

What are your hobbies? I read a lot! I also like bowling and hanging out with my friends and husband and my Old English Bulldog.

What is your favorite band? Depends on what genre! Pennywise, Guns n Roses, The Used, Imagine Dragons, and Chvches to name a few.

What is your favorite sports team? The Blackhawks!

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? Jacques Torres. I would love to see what restaurant he would choose, and I would love to pick his brain.

What are your guilty pleasures? Chocolate, coffee and ice cream.

Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Jacques Torres. I always wanted to be a master chocolatier but instead I went the savory route and just saved chocolate making for fun. There is something very zen about tempering chocolate.

What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen? A good chef knife, cutting board, a flat whisk, a braiser, a good non stick saute pan.

What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block clients?

  • Food Lovers Companion
  • Flavor Bible
  • Culinary Artistry

List three of your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen.

  • I always use braised meats the following day because when cooled down and stored in the
    braising liquid the meat absorbs the liquid making the meat more flavorful and less dry.
  • I save all of my veggie scraps and when I have a good amount I make stock.
  • Dry herbs and spices always go in early in the cooking process and fresh herbs always go in last
    so the flavor doesn't cook out.
Lisa's Favorite Tool

LeCreusetBraiserMy favorite tool in the kitchen is the 5 quart Le Creuset braiser. The enamel coated cast iron makes it virtually non-stick and it retains heat beautifully. If I could only have one pot or pan in my kitchen, this would be it!

You can make everything from soups, stews and braises in it. You can also sear meat or fish and even create a risotto in this pan. Also, with the lifetime warranty and the fact that it is dishwasher safe, this is one investment piece you shouldn't go without.