If being a mom is anything like a high wire act, Linda Hymes, The Dancing Gourmet, is poised to pull off the balancing act of her life. After a 15-year career as a professional ballerina, she traded her pointe shoes for a set of knives and is carving out a new career as an award-winning cookbook author.
Derek Gaffney, Linda's husband, paired his sumptuous food photography with her healthy and elegant recipes in their first joint publishing pas de deux, released to rave reviews. The couple eagerly awaits the debut of their most creative effort to date: the arrival of their first child; a son tentatively scheduled to appear on March 9, 2004.
Released in 2002, The Dancing Gourmet: Recipes to Keep You on Your Toes! won two prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook awards and a Foreword Magazine "Cookbook of the Year" award. "Celebrity chef" status was immediately bestowed on its creator, leading to book signings, broadcast and print interviews, and cooking demonstrations at high-profile gourmet food events.
Linda thrives on the challenge of developing recipes that appeal to people of all ages; gourmands and health-conscious diners alike. In addition to being a cookbook author and culinary celebrity, she also writes a food column for Point Magazine, the largest dance magazine in the United States. Following in the successful steps of The Dancing Gourmet, Linda and Derek have slated publication of their second cookbook, The Nutcracker Sweet: Show-Stopping Desserts Inspired by the World's Favorite Ballet, for later this year.
In addition to keeping up with the high physical demands of her professional training at the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center in New York, Linda enrolled in college at Fordham University. During this period she discovered the secrets to maintaining a lifelong balance between her taste-buds, healthy food, mouthwatering presentation and her tutu'd waistline: "I quickly learned that to handle such a busy schedule it was very important to eat properly."
When Linda met Derek, she was dancing professionally; he owned a restaurant at the time and was also an accomplished photographer and sculptor. After marriage, they intentionally set aside beginning a family for several reasons. She reflects, "I wanted to finish dancing then move into a career I was passionate about that would also allow me the time to raise a family."
Despite concerns about stereotypical long hours and limited pay in the restaurant industry, Linda's passion for cooking allowed her to take a second look. "I quickly came to realize the professional food industry offers vastly more career possibilities than I had ever imagined -- mainly that I could be my own boss as a private chef and caterer," she says, adding, "My highly-disciplined background, creative talent, and academic skills also made me well suited for a part of the industry I had not previously considered -- food writing, styling, and publishing."
Being a professional ballerina gave Linda unique and valuable insights into maintaining an optimal weight while staying strong and healthy. "Paying careful attention to diet naturally made me more aware of the nutritional content of everything I ate. Since I also happened to love food, I was determined not to deprive myself. I learned how to make the most of healthy ingredients. People think they must starve themselves in order to stay thin. Developing my own recipes has been my most effective method of weight control -- I refuse to diet."
Variety, moderation, and balance are the three components of Linda's culinary philosophy. "These have come to be my motto," she says, continuing, "but what is most important is that the food I eat has to taste great." The Dancing Gourmet cookbook is the result of years of experimentation; cooking for friends and family as well as working as a professional chef. Linda emphasizes, "The book is not a diet cookbook -- I have lots of diet cookbooks -- I never use them. My recipes are so popular first and foremost because they're delicious, secondly because they are healthy."
When asked about the potential impact of motherhood on her professional approach to cooking, Linda says, "Although I emphasize a healthy and nutritious approach to cooking, I'm a classically-trained chef who values all great food! I believe along with a well-balanced diet, occasional indulgences are the key to well being. This is a philosophy I'm proud to pass on to my children."
Saratoga Sweet Potato and Ginger Purée
Melt butter in pot over low heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add potatoes, chicken broth, ground ginger, and salt. Remove from heat. Place cooled soup in the bowl of a food processor or blender, in batches if necessary. Pulse several times to break down mixture. Add milk, a half cup at a time, and process to a purée. Return soup to pot and season with freshly ground pepper. Reheat over low flame until heated through and serve. Serves 6-8