The best part about Food52 is our community. Take a peek at the lively debates in our articles’ comments sections, or check out the thousands (upon thousands) of recipes our community members have contributed, and you’ll see what we mean. Occasionally, one of these community recipes will become unexpectedly popular, generating the same kind of interest and buzz as the recipes from our Test Kitchen. This, of course, always catches our attention.
Anna Chwistek is a community member whose recipes have done just that. In total, she’s published 91 (!) recipes on our site, and while they all look delicious (her photography and food styling is top-notch), there are, of course, a few standouts. Her Creamy Tortellini Soup With Sausage, which incorporates store-bought tortellini and Italian sausage to maximize flavor and texture with minimal effort, boasts 23 five-star ratings and 17 glowing reviews. There’s also her Eggplant Halloumi Stir-Fry, complete with noodles and a deeply savory sauce. Honestly, there are so many others worth highlighting (think: Spicy Tomato Beans With ‘Njuda, Bloody Mary Pasta, and Fried Feta With Sesame & Spicy Honey, just to name a few) that we couldn’t possibly list them all.
Since we’re such fans, we chatted with Anna to learn more about her cooking philosophy, recipe development practice, and more. Here’s what we learned.
Note: Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
From Our Shop
Anabelle Doliner: Could you share a little bit about your cooking background? When and where did your love of food and cooking begin?
Anna Chwistek: Thinking about it, I must confess that even my earliest childhood memories revolve around food. The thought of sneaking out of our little apartment in Krakow to buy my favorite Polish donuts still warms my heart. A few years later, me and my mom moved to Budapest, where I realized watermelons are comfort food too.
As a teenager, I ended up in Belgium. There, I got my first student job in a local restaurant. It was hard work, but it was exciting to see how a kitchen comes alive with people shouting, running, laughing, or, sometimes, even crying—people who all shared the same passion. After my studies, I decided to go all in and open a little diner with my friend. There, we served classic Belgian food. Sometime later, we had the opportunity to open a new place inside a music venue. That is where I started to create my own dishes and had the chance to cook for many Belgian and international artists.
Inspiring a younger, less experienced staff made me realize that I have only one mission: Convince everyone that cooking is nothing but pure joy and that delicious food is not that hard to make. Around this time, I also started photographing my food and writing down the recipes. My website, Serving Dumplings, is my creative space where I share my favorite recipes. I’m a big believer that food is a never-ending love affair and one of the best ways to learn about other cultures.
AD: Of all the recipes shared by our community members, yours have reached some of the widest audiences. Why do you think they’ve resonated with home cooks?
AC: During my childhood in Poland, we didn’t have much, but my mother always managed to get super tasty dishes on the table in no time. Her advice was, ‘Don’t spend too much time in the kitchen. Your world should be around conversations and exploring.’ This is also my approach to cooking. My dishes are fun and easy to make for every home cook who values the texture and taste of a good meal.
AD: Could you describe your recipe development process? How do you come up with your ideas? And how do you make recipes that are catered to home cooks?
AC: I start by thinking about something I would love to eat myself or put on the table for family and friends. I really like to mix flavors, but I try not to take it too far, as I think it’s important to create recipes for everyone and not just for me (and especially not the food nerd version of me).
Recipes need to be so easy that even the most inexperienced home cook is able to prepare them and still end up with food that looks and smells like something they want to eat. I think it’s important that whoever prepares my recipes feels like a chef and realizes that they accomplished something that might have seemed way beyond their culinary ability.