Culinary Q&A with Chef Tracey Couillard

by | People, Q&A

After 20 years in the Army National Guard, chef Tracey Couillard headed to culinary school, then worked her way up in Indianapolis kitchens, including Cerulean, Field Brewing and the Wine Market in Fountain Square. She joined Ash & Elm Cider Co. as executive chef in 2021 with a goal to create a seasonally inspired menu that complements the cider. A native New Englander, chef Tracey likes to cook food that, as she says, “makes you feel loved.”

How would you describe your cooking style or philosophy?

I would describe most aspects of me, including how I cook, as lovingly chaotic. When I am cooking, I try to let the ingredients shine. Well-seasoned, good food put out lovingly and chaotically for you to enjoy. It is very satisfying to see people enjoy a well-prepared meal, whether it is prepared by me or by someone else. Food is a common language that can bring people together, and I dig that.

What are some favorite ingredients you look forward to using this time of year?

Ramps, garlic scapes, wild mushrooms, the delightful spring farmers market finds

Any dish or ingredient that you don’t like to make or wish wasn’t so popular?

Olives – they really make me gag. It’s the worst when a rogue olive gets on my pizza.

How do you approach creating a menu that pairs well with or spotlights Ash & Elm cider?

Joseph Kilbourn and the brewing team really do an amazing job of selecting fresh ingredients for the ciders. His philosophy and mine are a natural match in that regard. From there, it is putting food out for the folks that they will enjoy.

Any advice for home cooks who want to up their game?

Don’t be afraid to [mess] up and have fun! Get a good knife and don’t be afraid to try something you think you don’t like. Sometimes things aren’t prepared right, and when done right, they are delicious.

What items are always in your fridge at home?

There is always something weird that I forgot about in the back, plus cheese, eggs, a whole door full of condiment-type things (from applesauce to yuzo, ranch to fish sauce, hot sauce and Duke’s), jelly and half and half.

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