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The Kelly Twins: Twice The Spice In St Louis

May 19th, 2011

Like the famous chewing gum jingle, The Kelly Twins, Bridget and Margaret, provide "double the flavor and double the fun" on the St. Louis culinary arts scene.

As co-hosts and producers of Twice Baked (the name of both their popular daily TV cooking show and their syndicated weekly radio show), the twins bring cooking back to the basics. The two spirited chefs also produce a local weekly radio live-broadcast, Food Talk with the Kelly Twins. They emphasize the heritage of American cooking and "technique rather than recipes," because they firmly believe that "mastering the basics will lead any average cook to an improved lifestyle and greater success in their kitchen."

Culinary Arts Entrée

Entrée into the culinary arts profession was a challenge for the twins. Maggie identified 'attitude' (in the negative sense) as a problem for some women trying to break into the essentially male-dominated culinary arts sector. They often walked in with a "chip on their shoulder" with "something to prove." Realizing that attitude generally creates problems, she chose a different strategy. "When I walked in the door, it was about the food, and learning everything I could--with my mouth shut and eyes open."

A Simple Fix

At an early age, Maggie identified what she considered the primary problems with existing cooking shows: staging recipes without discussing or even acknowledging the basics of both preparation and execution. She set about to change the cooking show paradigm. Now, Maggie and Bridget have done exactly that. Videos of their Twice Baked shows, which are posted on the Internet, show the basics: roasting a chicken or making chicken soup, how to use hot and spicy condiments, and simplifying the process of making enchiladas, curry, and Asian stir-fry. Useful kitchen tips, such as caring for wooden cutting boards, are artfully woven into the fabric of each show.

Media Mix

Twice Baked showcases seasonal and local food ingredients for healthy, yet basic dishes. The twins hope simplicity will inspire the audience to cook for themselves. The show also boasts other culinary-related fare, such as wine country visits, trips to specialty food farms, and restaurant profiles. Food Talk with the Kelly Twins provides a forum for guests--restaurateurs, produce farmers, and local and national chefs--and a sounding board for call-in listeners.

Served up Family Style

In addition to their huge commitment to their listening and viewing public--and to local philanthropic efforts--the twins bring their signature drive and dedication to their families. Both Bridget and Maggie have husbands and children. Acknowledging early on that she could not simultaneously be a good executive chef and a good mom, Maggie turned to her sister Bridget. Together they found a way to have it all--they job share, and they create and produce their own cooking shows.

Basic Ingredient for Success

Success for both twins started with education, and it continues with ongoing dedication and hard work. Bridget graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Hospitality Management and then apprenticed in Paris, which brought her expertise in 'front of the house' management. In addition to her fulltime St. Louis celebrity chef status, she is also a culinary consultant for Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, a nationally-syndicated PBS series.

Maggie attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, worked at the Zuni Café, then attended a culinary arts school in St. Louis, and finally apprenticed at the prestigious St. Louis Club. In what Maggie laughingly calls her 'spare time,' she also works at Terrene, their popular new St. Louis restaurant, with chef / partner / husband Dave Owens.

Culinary Education Comments

When asked about the value of education, Bridget stressed that attending culinary arts school can provide "useful contacts as well as the opportunity to volunteer for competitions and work under noted chefs who can mentor your career." She says getting a culinary degree shows a high level of commitment and a willingness to put in the hard work necessary to succeed at your craft.

I caught up with Maggie via phone in the 15-minute drive from her restaurant to her child's pre-school. Her take on culinary education is that "it gives you the basic classical cooking structure you need before you start improvising with the latest food fads--fusion or foam, for instance." She also believes that attending culinary school gives aspiring chefs the hands-on experience they need, beyond theory, to understand what happens when you actually put the ingredients in a pan and see how they behave--to learn which ingredients go together and how they interact. In the final analysis, she says, "when you work for a restaurant, you are there for the restaurant; when you go to culinary school, the school is there for you."

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