Margaret’s Merriest List: Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Foodie Friends

Happy Holidays! ‘Tis the season to celebrate the special people in your life and what better way than with Margaret’s Merriest List. For my very first ever gift idea list, I would like to highlight some Kitchen Chat guests with their recommendations along with a charity that they would like to feature. As we give to those we love, it’s also important to give to those we don’t even know. Although donations of any and all amounts to charity are wonderful, it’s also the gifts from the heart, like volunteering that make a great impact. Thank you for being a special part of the Kitchen Chat foodie friend community. I truly appreciate you. During these busy times, always remember to take a moment and Savor the Day!

  1. You will feel like an Iron Chef and a Top Chef with Chef Stephanie Izard’s collection of sauces. What an honor for Jaime and me to have a fun kitchen chat with her. She is an outstanding businesswoman, chef and philanthropist. She was recently named Board Chair of Equality Should Be Normal. This organization is raising funds for the Barbara Murphy Resource Center to provide services for the Washington Park neighborhood. A weekly schedule for the Community Resource Center includes free community haircuts on Make Over Mondays, computer and  STEM  training  for the community on Technology  Tuesday, free onsite therapists and mental health services on Wellness Wednesday, resume and financial literacy classes on Financial Fridays, and free time and space for special events and programming the remainder of the week. Please consider a donation to help with this Community Resource Center.

2. Chef Bill Kim and his wife, Yvonne Cadiz-Kim are a dynamic duo in the hospitality industry- and they are dear friends. Chef Kim’s wonderful book Korean BBQ along with his sauces and Urban Belly gift cards will be the perfect holiday present for your food enthusiast. Here is a link. And enjoy the special Kitchen Chat with Chef Bill Kim. Consider a special gift from your heart to Inspiration Kitchens whose mission is “to train low-income and homeless Chicagoans for careers in the foodservice industry in our kitchen. Our graduates go on to work at some of the city’s hottest restaurants and catering companies, giving them the opportunity to exit poverty for good.” Here is a link to donate.

Chef Bill Kim and Yvonne Cadiz-Kim at the 2019 James Beard Media Awards

3) Chef Carla Hall’s ebullience and joie de vivre will light the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. She is truly a dear friend and a wonderful guest on Kitchen Chat. I will always remember making my first batch of biscuits with Chef Carla, Chadwick Boyd and Jaime. Here is a link to that fun Biscuit Buddies Kitchen Chat. My favorite moment with Carla was when she invited me into her New York City apartment and taught me how to cook a grits recipe from her Soul Food cookbook, and we shared special memories about our late fathers. Carla has some wonderful gift ideas for you: Anything from Harlem’s Chocolate Factory (which is also on Oprah’s Favorite Things 2020 list) and A.P.’s Back Beach Bees Honey. Please consider donating to two of Chef Carla’s favorite charities: Pajamas Program – Pajama Program promotes and supports a comforting bedtime routine and healthy sleep for all children to help them thrive and Helen Keller International –Helen Keller International is dedicated to combating the causes and consequences of vision loss and making clear vision a reality for those most vulnerable to disease and who lack access to quality eye care.

4) Barbara Lazaroff’s Flame of Life shines so brightly. She is a philanthropist, a successful restaurateur, an amazing designer, a wonderful mother and very dear friend. Her encouragement during my Kitchen Chat culinary journey helps me live my joy. Here is our latest and special Kitchen Chat with Barbara Lazaroff and her son Byron Lazaroff-Puck at Spago recorded before the pandemic. Here are some wonderful gift ideas: Barbara’s exquisite Flame of Life Dinnerware – Barbara has created this limited edition Flame of Life Dinnerware to enliven your meals and inspire your soul. And a portion of each sale supports one of the several non-profits Barbara has supported since she found herself so fortunate in her success. Another fun idea is to call Chinois on Main (310) 392-9025 and/or Spago (310) 385-0880and purchase a To Go order for friends that live in Los Angeles. I’m going to order one for my youngest daughter. A special charity that Barbara would like to highlight is No Kid Hungry. Please consider a donation to feed a hungry child.

A special time at Spago before the pandemic with Barbara Lazaroff, Byron Lazaroff-Puck and Chef Jaime.

5) Caroline Manzo adores her family and always says that “Food is love.” She is a fantastic entrepreneur and founded Caroline Manzo’s Friendly Monkey Soap Company on Etsy that has a selection of items that anyone on your gift list will love – including yourself! Relax during and after the season with a spa gift package of four handmade bath bombs including one with South Pacific scent priced at under $30. They also have individual bath bombs including themes like Frozen, Christmas Candy and many others that cost around $6 each. What a great way to make bath time fun for the kids. Chef Jaime (Caroline’s brother) and I had such a fun Kitchen Chat with Caroline in the Middleby Residential/Viking Showroom in New York City. Two charities are dear to her heart: Wounded Warrior Project and her sister’s Halfway Home Animal Rescue Team. Please consider donating.

6) Nancy Wall Hopkins is a beautiful powerhouse within the culinary world. She is the former editor for dining and entertainment at Better Homes and Gardens and is the president of International Association of Culinary Professionals. It’s always fun to #EatwithNancy. We have enjoyed several culinary adventures including La Grenouille in New York City. Check out our Kitchen Chat about bringing everyone to the table. For the foodie in your life, Nancy suggests gifting an annual membership to International Association of Culinary Professionals for $19 per month for professionals and $7.99 per month for students and new professionals. Also consider donating to American Diabetes Association in honor of Nancy’s mother Lavalon C. Wall, who passed away last month.

Always fun to #eatwithNancy. This was at The Whitby Hotel in New York City last year

7) My dear friend and Kitchen Chat co-host, Chef Jaime Laurita truly knows how to savor the day. His impeccable taste, eye for design, culinary talent, joie de vivre and kindness are the key ingredients of his life. Jaime is like a brother to me. A highlight of Kitchen Chat was being inducted into the Taste Awards Hall of Fame this year before the pandemic hit. Here is a special photo that captures the joy of the evening. Here is what is on Chef Jaime’s Merriest List – the Brava! You can cook with the speed of light with this countertop appliance. Also his husband, Rich creates beautiful masks, pillows and dog carriers on ElevenElevenConcepts on Etsy. A charity that is on Jaime’s heart this year is his sister’s Halfway Home Animal Rescue Team. This mission of this organization is to help rescue, rehabilitate, and find loving homes for  animals in distress or at risk of losing their lives. Animals bring us such comfort and joy. Here is link to bring them comfort and joy. Please donate.

Chef Jaime and me on the red carpet at The Taste Awards in early March 2020

8) Chopped Champion Jackie Rothong is an accomplished chef with a sparkling personality. In fact, her nickname was “Sparkles” when she was the Senior Culinary Stylist for The Chew. Chef Jaime and I had so much fun featuring Chef Jackie on Kitchen Chat in the Middleby Residential Showroom in New York City’s A & D Building, where she is the executive chef and brand ambassador for Viking. How fun to learn that Chef Jaime actually prepared a sandwich for Chef Jackie when she was a young child and visited Jaime’s family’s restaurant. Such a small world! Chef Jackie’s recommendation for a great gift this year is Florentine Touch pasta tool from Romagnoli Pasta Tools. A meaningful charity that she would like to feature is Breast Cancer Research Foundation. As a breast cancer survivor, I truly appreciate that. Here is a link to donate to BCRF

Chef Jackie with Chef Jaime and me in the Middleby Residential Showroom in New York City.

9) “No one person is bigger than the whole” What beautiful words that Donnie Madia lives by. During our Kitchen Chat in April, Donnie shares about the challenges that restaurants are facing during this time of the pandemic. He is such an inspiration. His fun foodie gift idea is a box of his favorite items from PQM that he is calling Donnie’s Picks, a.k.a. the Italian job. Two charities that are dear to him include Misericordia – Misericordia offers a community of care that maximizes potential for persons with mild to profound  developmental disabilities, many of whom are also physically challenged and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation – Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) is changing the lives of children with cancer by funding impactful research, raising awareness, supporting families and empowering everyone to help cure childhood cancer. Please consider a donation to these charities. Here are donation links for Misericordia and for ALSF.

Donnie Madia joins Chef Jaime and me for a Kitchen Chat in 2018 at the Merchandise Mart

10). Katie Chin is like a sister to me. We are both on culinary journeys in which she is honoring her mother, and I am honoring my father. It’s so much fun to moderate her weekly Cooped Up Cooking with Katie and Becca on Facebook Live. Tune in every Sunday at 5 pm CST and you could win some amazing gifts just by leaving a comment. A special gift that she would like to mention is her cookbook Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen. In addition, you can pre-order her new cookbook Katie Chin’s Global Family Cookbook. It was such an honor to write the foreword to her book. She was recently named Culinary Ambassador for The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation (NPCF) is dedicated to funding research and clinical trials to find less toxic, more effective treatments for childhood cancer. The research NPCF funds is board reviewed, vetted, and governed. Here is a link to donate

Walking in Central Park with Chef Katie Chin

Dear Foodie Friends, this has been a challenging year for everyone. I am so grateful to you for encouraging me on my culinary journey with Kitchen Chat. This platform brings me tremendous joy. In the new year, there will be more Kitchen Chats as Chef Jaime and I have conversations with chefs, cookbook authors, food experts and with people in different industries. Meanwhile, I hope you will find some time to relax during this holiday season. An item on my merriest list is European Spa Eucalyptus ShowerMist. A spritz of this ShowerMist (I love the plain Eucalyptus) invigorates the senses. I first experienced this wonderful product at the Spa at Terranea that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. A 4 oz bottle is under $30 and an 8 oz bottle is under $40. I have such special memories of visiting the spa with my youngest daughter Katie before celebrating Kitchen Chat’s Induction into the Taste Awards Hall of Fame. It seems hard to believe that it was in early March this year, just before everything closed down. A spritz of this Eucalyptus ShowerMist takes me back to Terranea and brings the spa into my home. A special charity that I would like to feature is Wings. I serve on the Leadership Advisory Board for this wonderful organization which is helping women and children flee from domestic violence in the Chicago area. You can help provide a second chance for victims of domestic violence through a donation or volunteer opportunity. Thank you for your consideration of donating to Wings. Also, please keep your local food banks in mind especially during and after the holidays. Let’s help nourish our communities.

My youngest daughter, Katie and me at The Spa at Terranea

Wishing you Comfort and Joy during this holiday season. Please check out the “Savor the Season” give-aways on @kitchenchat instagram.

Savor the day!