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Chef Melissa Novak

Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2012

Favorite class to teach: Date Nights

Training/education: Pennsylvania Culinary Institute

Cooking since: Does cooking with my mom count?

Favorite childhood food experience: Making my first meatloaf with my mom.

What made you want to become a chef? I wasn't allowed to play with my food when I was growing up, and now I get paid to do it!

What is your signature dish? I make so many different things that I really can't say I have one signature dish, but I do make a lot of cookies with my niece!

What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Sriracha, butter, cheese (all of them), vegetables, garlic.

What do you love about cooking? Getting to play with my food!

When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? It all depends on where and what I'm doing, I take my inspiration from everywhere.

What advice would you give a new cook? Make as many mistakes as you can now and experiment with everything that you can!

What are you doing when you're not cooking? Reading, knitting, taking the dog on adventures, cooking with friends.

Describe your perfect evening. Someone else cooking for me.

If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? Avec, Frontera Grill, Dragon Ranch, Slurping Turtle

Where are you from? Cleveland, Ohio

What was your favorite vacation? Visiting an old roommate in London and friends in Paris.

What are your hobbies? Knitting, running and reading.

What is your favorite band? It changes all the time, but right now I'm really into Pink's new album.

What is your favorite sports team? My heart always roots for the Browns, winning or losing.

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? Pierre Hermé

What are your guilty pleasures? Playing drunk Scrabble with friends.

Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Julia Child

What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen?

  • Very sharp knife
  • Sharp serrated knife
  • Microplane grater
  • Quality non-stick frying pan
  • Solid wood cutting board

What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block students? Our staff is so expansive with everyone having such varied backgrounds that I would say question the chefs as much as you can with whatever questions that you can think of.

List your favorite tip or technique you use in the kitchen. I've spent the last 10 years working as a pastry chef so my absolute favorite technique is rolling laminated doughs by hand!

Melissa's Favorite Products

BenchScraperMy knife kit is jammed with tools and knives, but there are two things that I reach for more than the others.

I use my bench scraper and Microplane grater more than any other of my tools. I actually have two Microplanes in my kit, one that I use for zesting citrus and grating Parmesan and other hard cheese. The other I use for grating garlic and ginger.

My bench scraper is not only used when I make doughs and desserts, but I also use it to help me organize my mise en place and safely transfer things I've chopped from my cutting board to bowls and pans.