Many of Fanny Slater’s life experiences prepared her for this opportunity: to compete in a cooking contest on “Rachael Ray Show” and a chance to publish a cookbook.
If you don’t already know where this is going, she won the contest in 2014. Her book, “Orange, Lavender & Figs,” has been published and she has two Triangle book events this week.
Slater, 30, a Ravenscroft graduate, grew up in Raleigh in a family that loved food. In the 1970s, her mother started a company called Rachel’s Brownies, which eventually grew to become a multimillion-dollar business with 100 employees. Her parents were both experienced home cooks who invited her into the kitchen by age 4. Her family celebrated many occasions at the North Raleigh restaurant Margaux’s, where she would later intern for a project while a senior at Peace College (now William Peace University).
“My whole life, food has been very important to me,” Slater said last week by in a phone interview.
Her other love was being in front of a crowd. After college, Slater went to Hollywood to try to launch an acting career. She took classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy theater and discovered she enjoyed the spontaneity of improv.
A year and a half later, she returned to North Carolina to start a catering company in Wilmington. That’s when her grandmother told her about The Great American Cookbook Competition on the “Rachael Ray Show.” Slater applied and was chosen to compete.
What Slater remembers clearly about the experience was that all the other competitors were nervous about being on camera but she wasn’t. “I got to make my own food. I got to be on camera. I got to be myself. I got to be off the cuff,” Slater recalled. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.”
It’s no wonder that she won and now has a 245-page cookbook filled with recipes that reflect not only her love of food, but the experiences that got her to this point.
Meet the author
Raleigh native Fanny Slater has two upcoming book events in the Triangle:
▪ 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday (March 23) at Margaux’s restaurant, 8111 Creedmoor Road, Suite 111, Raleigh
▪ 7 p.m. Friday (March 25) at Barnes & Noble, 760 S.E. Maynard, Cary
More upcoming events: fannyslater.com
Tune in to WUNC’s “The State of Things” at noon Thursday (March 24) to hear an interview with Slater.
First-Prize Breakfast Sandwich with Orange Lavender Fig Jam
From “Orange, Lavender & Figs: Deliciously Different Recipes From a Passionate Eater,” by Fanny Slater. (Atria Books, 2016).
6 large eggs
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1⁄2 cup Orange Lavender Fig Jam (see recipe)
4 English muffins, split in half
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces Taleggio cheese, rind removed and sliced
1 cup baby arugula
Position a rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat and preheat the oven to broil.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt and pepper. Toast the English muffins until golden brown and set aside.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, pour the eggs into the pan. As the bottom begins to cook, lift up the outside of the eggs with a heatproof spatula so that the runny center flows to the sides of the pan.
When the bottom is fully cooked – about 30 seconds – carefully flip the eggs so that they’re now top-side down. If you’re not comfortable flipping the eggs, scramble them with the spatula until soft and fluffy. Immediately remove the eggs from the heat and divide into 4 portions.
Spread all 8 toasted English muffin halves with fig jam. Top 4 of the halves with even portions of scrambled egg and Taleggio, and place them on a baking sheet. Broil until the cheese is melted, about 45 seconds. Top the melted cheese with arugula and the other half of the English muffin.
Yield: 4 sandwiches.
Orange Lavender Fig Jam
1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved (or 1⁄2 pound dried figs, stemmed)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons orange juice (or 1⁄2 cup if using dried figs)
1⁄3 cup packed light brown sugar (or 1⁄4 cup if using dried figs)
1⁄2 tablespoon fresh lavender or 1 teaspoon dried
Pinch of kosher salt
In a medium saucepan, combine the figs, orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar, lavender and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. If using fresh figs, mash with a potato masher. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. If using dried figs, now you can mash with a potato masher or pulse in a food processor for a very smooth spread. Refrigerate the jam for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Yield: 2 cups.