Dame du Jour: Candice Berthold

by Maria Isabella, Interview by Vicki Todd-Smith

Candice Berthold is a degreed microbiologist by education…a sales and marketing professional by experience… and an entrepreneur by choiceNot to mention she’s also currently pursuing certification as a health and wellness coach. How did she end up where she is today? “I followed my passion,” explains Candice. “It certainly wasn’t planned!”
Candice opened her first Mediterranean retail store, playfully called The Olive and the Grape, in Mentor in 2005. She has grown that concept to now include two more locations: one at the West Side Market and one in Cleveland’s Kamm’s Corners neighborhood on the West Side. Not only has she found success through growth, she’s also been recognized for her quality products (winning the “Best Sea Salts of Cleveland” award from Cleveland magazine in 2010, for example).
Prior to entering the retail world, Candice taught wine sensory classes and hosted a radio show on wine — which is a credit to all that her mother and maternal grandmother taught her. “They were wonderful mentors to me,” says Candice, “both as great cooks and awesome hostesses. I got my flair for entertaining from them.”
When asked to describe her perfect meal, she quickly responds, “There is no perfect meal. There are countless enjoyable meals. I like variety. In fact, people know me for preparing healthy yet delicious food.”
Candice was first introduced to LDEI through an invitation to be a guest speaker at a meeting in May 2010. She gave a presentation on sea salts and was so impressed that two months later she applied for membership. Today, Candice serves as chapter vice president.
What does she enjoy most about being a member?  Her fellow Dames and the opportunity to expand her knowledge.
Learn more about Candice as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.
Of all the places you’ve traveled, where did you have the best food? I have enjoyed many excellent meals while traveling. My recent favorites, though, are in California. Everything tastes so fresh! And, of course, the wine is also excellent. Which reminds me of my recent trip to Chateau Montelana in Napa Valley. This was the winery that won the Chardonnay competition in the legendary Judgment of Paris tasting. I joined their wine club and now have two bottles sent to me every three months, plus I have options on their reserves as well!

What is your favorite cookbook? I generally don’t follow recipes. I like to be creative. But my favorite kitchen books that provide me with both knowledge and creativity include Italian Cooking Encyclopedia, Cooking with the Bible: Recipes for Biblical Meals, The Flavor Bible, and Molecular Gastronomy.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Linguini with Sardinian or Sicilian olive oil, herbs, fresh tomato, fresh spinach, and good Parmesan cheese.

Any favorite indulgences? Red wine and dark chocolate.

What’s your favorite snack? Sardinian music bread and wine, or homemade hummus and pita chips.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? I like all types of desserts. My current favorite is angel food or pound cake with a chocolate raspberry filling, drizzled with red raspberry (or chocolate) balsamic vinegar, garnished with fresh raspberries, and dusted with cocoa and powdered sugar.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? I once dropped a whole serving platter of Chicken Divan right as my guests were arriving! Luckily I had plenty of “extras” in the fridge. I extended the appetizers to a lengthy hour while I prepared a second batch of Chicken Divan.

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without? Premium olive oil. And good aged balsamic vinegar, too.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Silicon spatula, microplane zester, and garlic press.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? At least 8 bottles of opened olive oil (all from different countries). But then again, if you knew my business, that wouldn’t be a surprise at all.


Dame du Jour: Vicki Todd-Smith

By Maria Isabella, Interview by Candice Berthold

Vicki Todd-Smith
Vicki Todd-Smith (who is currently the executive chef of Pneumatic Scale Angelus and an instructor at Gervasi Cucina) confesses that over 30 years ago she used to be bored at her day job. That’s when she decided to go to night culinary school just for fun. As it turns out, she suddenly discovered her one true, pure passion! So, she switched careers and followed a whole new path in life…and now food dominates her every day.
Over the years, armed with degrees from the University of Madrid and Escuela de Cocina Cervantes, plus additional coursework at the University of Florida, University of Florence, and Cordon Bleu, Vicki has created several cooking schools and catering companies in countries throughout the world, including Japan, Singapore, and the Philippines. She also once worked as the director of the prestigious Raffles Hotel Culinary Academy. Other past positions include food and beverage manager/senior executive chef of Kent State University Conference Center, catering director of Mustard Seed Market in Solon, and executive chef of Jones Day law firm. 
However, when asked what her proudest professional accomplishment to date is, she will tell you without a moment’s hesitation that it’s the cookbook she self-published for her two children. “They’re after me for volume two now!” she laughs.
Admittedly, Vicki’s love of food did start at a very young age, as supported by a little-known fact: She asked Santa for caviar when she was only five. No lie. And she unabashedly credits her father for that. “My father was the best hobbyist chef I have ever known,” she declares. “He sowed the seed for me.”  To this day, Cuban lechon (slow-roasted pork with mojo) reminds her of home, as does Cuban flan.
When pressed to name her perfect meal, she insists there is no such thing as just one. “Each meal that’s prepared with love and passion and zest is perfect in and of itself,” she says. But one thing she will admit is that her all-time favorite restaurant in the States is The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia. Why? “It’s dining with layers of utter ecstasy,” she smiles.
Fellow Dame Jennifer Wolfe Webb introduced Vicki to LDEI. What does she enjoy most about being a member?  Meeting other women who share her passion for food and wine.
Learn more about Vicki as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Fish testicles at a kaiseki ryori dinner in Tokyo.

Which one chef (living or deceased) would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Undoubtedly, Julia Child. I would serve her Cuban comfort food.

What is your favorite cookbook? Mastering the Art of French Cooking (both volumes) and Pacific Flavors by Hugh Carpenter.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Fried ripe plantains.

Any favorite indulgences? French cheese made with unpasteurized milk (Camembert comes to mind first) and salmon roe.

Do you have a signature dish? Salmon Carlos, named after my father, and Tandoori Chicken Bites with Orange Chutney Aioli.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? My favorite salad: baby greens, avocado, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, homemade slow-roasted tomatoes (which are always in my fridge), grilled salmon, extra-virgin olive oil, and pomegranate balsamic.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? I forgot to sear the filets before making Beef Wellington. What a bloody mess!

What’s one ingredient you can’t live without? Balsamic vinegar.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? Tamarind paste.