Name: Martie Duncan
Company Name: MartieDuncan.com / Martie Knows Parties®
Where were you born and raised?
What inspired you to become a chef?
I’m not a chef in the traditional sense because I don’t work in a restaurant. These days, anyone who cooks food for others is considered a chef, so I suppose by those standards, I am one. In 2007, Microsoft gave me the opportunity to take my love of entertaining and turn it into a career with a series about food and entertaining for msn.com. That series has resulted in a career in food; something I could have never imagined.
Where did you train to become a chef?
In my mama’s kitchen. And more recently, by watching chefs in restaurant kitchens across Alabama.
What does your typical workday involve?
It depends on the day and what I am in the middle of. Right now, I’m working on an exciting new podcast for allrecipes.com called “Homemade” which centers on the author Pat Conroy’s quote “a recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.” I’ll be talking to cooks, famous chefs, and folks from across the food world to discuss favorite family recipes and stories from the kitchen.
Who is the most notable person you’ve ever cooked for?
Gosh. For me, that would have been my father. It was my privilege to have been able to cook and care for him. But I’ve cooked for a lot of famous Food Network chefs, including Guy Fieri, who is my personal hero and one of the reasons I auditioned for Food Network Star. I’ve cooked for a few notable musical artists at the Hangout Music Festival—Tom Petty sent his folks over to get our food and then came back to meet us—and I have even cooked with Alabama’s own American Idol, Taylor Hicks.
If you could cook for with any celebrity of historical figure, who would it be?
Queen Elizabeth II. I absolutely love her. At 94, she’s still riding horses and going out for a ride almost daily when she’s at Windsor Castle. According to her executive chef, the Queen likes her food fresh, seasonal, and local, so we have that in common. And she loves seafood with veggies! One of her favorite meals is local fish with spinach and zucchini.
What inspires you about Alabama’s restaurant industry?
I’ve written three cookbooks and visited hundreds of Alabama restaurants over the past eight years. I know for certain that our locally owned and operated restaurants and the folks behind them are the best you will find anywhere; I have the recipes, the photos, and the extra pounds to prove it.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I travel a lot for work, but also for fun. I play polo—not as much as I once did but still manage to play occasionally. I’m also in the process of renovating a home and doing a lot of the interior and exterior projects myself. We’ll see if a new hobby results from it. I am not a fan of painting, but I like tile work!
What’s your favorite seafood dish to serve up for yourself?
Part of my job requires that I eat at restaurants, so when I cook at home these days, I like to keep it simple, low calorie, and very healthy. Once a month, I go to the Fish Market on Southside or Sexton’s in Cahaba Heights (both in the Birmingham area) to get whole filets of Gulf Snapper or Grouper. I portion it, wrap each piece individually, and freeze it. When I want to cook dinner, I can have a nice piece of Gulf fish and a vegetable ready in about 20 minutes. I typically cook fish in a parchment paper pouch in the oven if I am super busy, or I’ll sauté it in a pan on top of the stove with just olive oil, salt, and pepper…maybe a little butter to finish at the end.
What makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special?
I grew up fishing for and eating Alabama Gulf Seafood so it’s just normal for me. My dad would go deep sea fishing and come home with coolers full of grouper or snapper that my mom would turn into a feast. Because Alabama is right on the Gulf (shocking how many people do not know this) we have easy access to the finest and freshest fish you can find. Aren’t we so lucky?