Cooking from the Heart

Food is intended to be nourishment for the body -- providing the vitamins, nutrients, and sustenance needed to complement a productive lifestyle. But it can also be nourishment for the heart -- providing connectedness, warmth, and a sense of comfort in a hectic world.

For Samie Laforce, a perfectly planned meal is an ideal backdrop for a culinary spread -- as soul-soothing as a warm blanket on a crisp autumn day.

Samie Laforce comes from a big family that she describes as a “hodge podge” of people who have come together over the years both through blood and by circumstance. Her siblings mean the world to her and have evolved to become her best friends, worthy of a feast fit for a royal family. Add to this her 7-year-old son and husband Adam, and her appetite for event planning and hosting family and friends in their home has been nurtured into a lifetime of jollification. Through this Laforce has been able to master her craft of cooking with passion, a craft molded since she was younger and one that has extended into a profession in the food, beverage, and catering sales industry.

How did your love of food begin?

“As a kid I was assertive, talkative, and calculated, and I was able to leverage those traits into leadership and sales skills in the hospitality industry. Even in the deepest throes of event planning, my emphasis was always on selecting and writing menus, pairing wine, and tying all of those to the event at hand to create an unforgettable experience. To me, food creates memories for people. People always remember the best meal they’ve ever had.”

What are your food inspirations?

“I am inspired by people. I love to listen to people and to watch them react to things. I think food makes people happy or nostalgic. I love taking simple things and creating something familiar and comfortable but with my own personality injection. I love the original form of things. To strip away all -- the deconstruction of the oils and powders and foams in plating and really look at where a food came from. I love traditional Mexican food and Southern food. My sweet mother-in-law is from Italy. When I met her, I knew I wanted to marry Adam. She taught me how to make real meatballs, and my father-in-law taught me about red sauce (or “gravy” in Italian homes). They make fresh pasta and pizza, and the laughter and love in their house is almost as addictive as the food.”

Do you have a signature dish?

“Probably the Buttermilk Fried Chicken. It takes time and patience, but it’s my favorite thing to cook for people. When Adam and I were dating, early on he told me that his single most favorite food was fried chicken. I promised myself I would perfect it in that moment. I did and it worked. We’ll spend the rest of our lives together. Fried chicken sealed the deal.” 

Describe the perfect meal.

As long as the table is full of people and the house is loud with laughing and kiddos running around, then the food will taste good. I want people to feel comfortable in my kitchen. I want anyone to be able to walk in, sit down, and fill their bellies with real, fresh food and have a cold drink and some laughs. I love baking fresh bread with any meal. James Beard said, Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts. My kiddo knows the joy of a hot roll right out of the oven with butter dripping from his chin. To me, that joy is what it’s all about.”

What is the most important quality you believe a good cook must possess?

“Knife skills. I do have an affinity for the knives themselves, but you can have all of the expensive knives in the world, and if you can’t use them, it will do you no good. To me it’s the most important tool, and if you learn to use it well, your prep will be enjoyable and easy.  Also instinct. It’s hard to teach instinct to people. Knowing how something should feel, or look or smell, that’s hard to describe. I think it takes a lot of failure. You have to keep trying things. If it doesn’t work, change something and try again.” 

Laforce believes food is more than fuel, a meal is more than a collection of ingredients, and a table is more than a meeting place. It is a culmination of a well-planned cooking experience that brings people together.

“Success to me is how you show up in the world, what legacy you’re creating, and how people will remember you. If I can live in a way that teaches my son that without hard work you won’t achieve your goals, that family is the most important thing, and that serving people is an amazing gift, then I am living successfully.”

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