Morning Routines: Raquel Pelzel - Food Network Judge, Toast Expert and Author

Raquel Pelzel knows a thing or 20 about telling stories through food. In addition to being a professional cook and recipe tester, she’s penned 20 cookbooks, including two that earned a James Beard nod. In fact, Raquel's first cookbook, Toast, is a staple in the Love Your Mornings kitchen and we were more than a little *cough* fan-girled when Raquel agreed to be interviewed!  Raquel's career spans from test kitchens to magazine columns, but it all started, as she often says, at the table with her father. Not only is Raquel the foodiest of foodies, she’s also fun, authentic, and inspiring. Raquel shares her favorite toast recipe, tips on working in a bakery, and her morning routine.

You used to work in a bakery and worked early mornings! Be honest. Are you still a morning bird, or are you a night owl now?
No way! That’s half the reason being a morning baker didn’t work for me—it’s a bummer to crash hard by 7pm every night—especially when you’re in your twenties. I do get up early now but that’s because I have kids. I’m usually beginning my day by 6:45am.

What are you most excited about right now?
I am super excited for my next cookbook to come out—Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian!—it comes out in October. Some really fun and delicious recipes—many of which are vegan and/or gluten free! Besides that, I’ve just started running again. I’ve never been a runner and my goal is to get up to 4 miles by summer. Every week I increase my run by ¼ mile. I feel great and super motivated!

What intention do you live by?
You only fail when you don’t try.

You have authored many cookbooks, but your first solo venture was Toast! Why did you write about Toast
Toast was (and still is!) having such a moment. It seemed like every chef in NYC and now across the country was doing cool stuff on bread. From a creative standpoint, it was a whole new way of serving food so I could really be as creative as I wanted with it.  

What is your fave recipe from the book?
My boys (I have two sons, ages 11 and 7) would definitely say the s’more toast. I love the crab and avocado toast because it’s fresh, simple and tastes so clean and bright. But I have lots of other faves too, like the cumin-roasted carrots and muhammara, the cinnamon toast and the smashed toast and egg toast (so good with ketchup for breakfast!).

Fill in the blank:
I love toast but I (usually) eat -- ummm—toast -- for breakfast! Usually with avocado. And if tomatoes are in season, I’ll throw a few fat and juicy slices on top with flaky salt and a drizzle of olive oil. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

You are very familiar with international cuisine. What’s the best breakfast you’ve ever had?
I had the most beautiful breakfast more than a decade ago at the Oberoi Amarvilas hotel in Agra, India. I ate these beautiful steamed idli—kind of like puffy silver-dollar-sized sponge bread made from a fermented rice and black lentil batter. They were served on a silver platter with sambhar and various chutneys. I sipped chai masala and looked out at the Taj Mahal from my balcony while monkeys swung from tree to tree. That was pretty special.

What’s your go-to morning drink?
Coffee! I make mine in a Bialetti moka pot and drink it with cashew or almond milk and a little drizzle of maple syrup.

You can only eat breakfast at one restaurant for the rest of your life. Which one do you choose?
I’m not a big breakfast at restaurants person. I like breakfast at home.

What’s your morning “Happy” song or soundtrack?
Oh my God. Don’t laugh—my kids are obsessed with the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, so I’ll turn on Pandora and select Guardians of the Galaxy. The music is really fun get up and go music from the 1970s. I love it when they start singing along to Queen or the Jackson Five.

What do you listen to first thing in the morning?
After I get the boys off to school, I usually turn on NPR and start my day with a bit of news. If I’m running, I like to listen to Fresh Air podcasts.

What’s your current morning routine?
Usually it’s something like this: up at 6:45, make a mocha and pack lunches.

Put on the Pandora Guardians of the Galaxy station (no laughing!) and get the boys up.

We’re out the door by 7:35; when I get home, I put on NPR and usually head straight for the mat to do some pilates. Then I shower, make a toast and get to my computer ready for the day by 10am.

It’s a romantic dream of many to work in a bakery. As someone who has taken this plunge, do you have any advice to others who may want to follow in your footsteps, quit their jobs, and just bake?
Know this: you make NO money. You get NO paid time off if you’re sick.

The work is SUPER physically intense (think of hoisting 50-pound bags of flour on your shoulder or burning your arms on sheet pans).

In the summer it’s HOT (I used to work in the walk-in refrigerator sometimes just to cool down!) — most bakeries are not air conditioned because that effects the dough too much.

You’ll work WEIRD hours—like 4am to noon—and be ready for bed by 7pm.

You’ll eat tons of carbs and bread and sugar and breathe lots of flour. If you can come to terms with all of that, then go for it! It’s honestly a lot of fun too and you do meet the most wonderfully talented, kind and caring people.

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Buy a copy of Toast on Amazon here