Angela Baldanza, owner Baldanza Café in New Canaan, Connecticut cooked her way to victory on Food Network’s Cooks vs Cons. The culinary competition, hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian, sees talented home-cooks go up against kitchen professionals. Culminating in a blind taste test, to prove who has the best dish. Angela remained focused and calm and won the prize with her rack of lamb dish, followed by a French toast and caramelized apple dish.
Angela, who lives in Pound Ridge, New York has run Baldanza with her family for the past 3.5 years. She is a self-taught, instinctive cook who excels at creating organic soups and dishes, fresh salads and baked goods. Angela believes she inherited her skills from her grandfather and brother, who were both chefs. With family from Genoa in Northern Italy and down South to Calabria, she was locked in to family traditions, such as the dried mushrooms arriving from Italy in a cheese cloth sack, allowing her Grandmother to make yellow rice (risotto flavored with saffron). Angela says: “Cooks vs Cons was one of my best experiences to date. I was not particularly nervous, but I was conscious how I was going to be perceived. I genuinely liked my competitors and we have stayed in touch. It was a long, hard day but such a thrill to win. For me it is always about family and I knew they would be proud.”
Before getting into hospitality, Angela was in the fashion industry, with a career spanning 25 years. Her mantra is “food is the new fashion”, as she believes there is an affinity between the two. Angela says: “I started at Bloomingdales when the customer was interested in high end fashion, quality and source of materials. The focus was to make the best garment and food was emerging as “fast food” on the run. Nowadays there has been a switch, because there is more education and awareness about food. Consumers are more conscious of what they are putting into their bodies, rather than on them, hence the emergence of “fast fashion”. We only use high quality ingredients in our food, and people can tell.” Her synergy for fashion and food is further displayed by her careful balance of colors and textures on the plate.
Angela has done numerous local TV cooking spots and is very comfortable in front of the camera. She credits that to her experience in fashion – at the top of her career she was an Executive VP Merchandising for the Jones Apparel Group. Angela concludes: “My mentor has always been Ina Garten. I idolize her and respect how she has built up her brand. This win is so exciting giving our brand more exposure. My goals going forward are to complete our cook book, build baldanza soup kitchen and continue to produce simple recipes using good clean food from sustainable resources.”
‘Tis the Seasoning episode was judged by Ted Allen and Daphne Oz, to view upcoming airings visit: http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/cooks-vs-cons/300-series/tis-the-seasoning.html
The Baldanza’s share a passion for creating all-natural, delicious meals for the discerning diner. All ingredients are natural, organic and local when available.
Here are Angela’s winning recipes:
Lamb Chops with Apple Cider Cherry Reduction
Ingredients for the Lamb
- 8 Lamb chops about 2” thick 1⁄2 head of garlic in the skin 10 sprigs of Fresh Thyme
- 5 sprigs of Fresh Rosemary 1⁄4 C of good olive oil
- Coarse salt and pepper
- Ingredients for the Reduction 1⁄2 C of sparkling apple cider 1⁄2 C of tart cherry juice
- 2 TBS of unsalted butter
- 1 shallot slice very thin 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 tsp of dijon mustard
Separate the lamb chops and pound slightly to tenderize, season with salt and pepper.
Heat a cast iron skillet with the olive oil.
Add the 1⁄2 head of garlic and the thyme and rosemary. When the oil is hot add the lamb chops and sear for 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness turn and repeat on the other side for 1 to 2 minutes and remove from the heat. Let the meat sit for 5 min.
In a 10 “pan melt the butter and sliced shallots and herbs and sauté for 2-3 min until the shallots are transparent.
Add the sparkling cider and reduce on a high flame for 6-8 min.
Add the cherry juice and continue to reduce another 5 min.
Add the dijon mustard.
Continue to reduce and stir for another 5 min.
Baldanza’s French Toast with Caramelized Apples
- 4 Eggs
- 3 Egg yolks
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 1⁄2 C of heavy cream
- 1tsp of vanilla
- 2 tbs of orange zest
- 1⁄2 tsp of salt
- 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
- 10-12 thickly sliced brioche bread
Mix together all ingredients except bread slices. Dip bread into egg mixture coating both sides.
Place bread on heated griddle until golden on both sides.
Caramelized Apple topping
- 4 apples cut and cored in slices
- 1 stick of butter
- 1⁄4 c of brown sugar
- 1⁄2 tsp of cinnamon
Heat butter until melted add sugar and apples and cook for 5 min add cinnamon. Top French toast with warm apples.
Add maple syrup and whipped cream.
Baldanza Café, 17 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT 06840 / 203 966 4000 http://www.baldanzabc.com