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Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget- Charles Mattocks “The Poor Chef”

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Written by Heather Jones   
Saturday, 18 July 2009

ImageHere at Project Foodie we pride ourselves on having a little something for everyone regardless of your financial status.  Periodically, we post what we like to call "Frugal Foodie Recipe Redux" where we show how to take some of those fancier, more expensive meals and make them more budget friendly.  It has become a very popular feature and we are always in search of other resources where we can find even more budget friendly cooking tips and ideas.  We aren't the only ones heeding the call for more budget friendly meals.  Florida based TV Chef Charles Mattocks aka "The Poor Chef" has put together a great new cookbook "Eat Cheap but Eat Well" featuring over 120 "Penny-Pinching" recipes.  I had an opportunity to speak with Chef Mattocks about his inspiration for this cookbook, keep reading to find out more about this fellow Frugal Foodie.
Foodie Heather:   For those who haven't had the chance to see your book "Eat Cheap but Eat Well", tell us about your culinary journey.

The Poor Chef:  I started cooking as a child, I learned from my mom and my grandmother, being from the West Indies we are taught very early to work hard and provide for one's needs.  My grandmother was an amazing cook and she could whip up what seemed like a gourmet meal in minutes. I really got serious about cooking about 4 years ago when I had to step in as a single father. I had always cooked and loved it, but things changed when my son and I started living together full time and I found that he was a very fussy eater. I had to learn how to be creative, make sure the food tasted great, and save money in the process. My son's favorite food is chicken so I had to come up with tons of new ways to serve chicken.

Foodie Heather:   What does you son think about how your career evolved from your desire to cook healthy meals for him?

The Poor Chef: My son is a tough nut to crack, I mean that in the best way. He's 15, a young man now, very much into skateboarding and like many kids he's not that impressed by what dad does. He does get excited when he comes up with new ideas for me, or when he thinks he's getting his big share from helping me come up with a potential idea. One day when he looks back I hope he sees that all I do was inspired from my love to be able to feed him healthy meals and be the best dad I could be. 

Foodie Heather:   You have such an interesting mix of recipes in the book from Caribbean to Mediterranean. Is there a particular type of cuisine that inspires you more?

The Poor Chef: To be honest, I like some of the Caribbean recipes, some of these are from my mom and grandmother and also my aunties. And when I make these recipes on television I try to make it fun for not only the viewers but also the host I work with. The same way it was for me growing up in the kitchen. I recall being on Bonnie Hunt making some curry shrimp and we had a blast, we were not just making good food, but we were dancing together and got the crowd involved. There is no one on television right now showcasing Caribbean foods, and since it's in my blood I tend to focus on that. There's nothing like curry chicken or saltfish and dumplings.

Foodie Heather:  Some say watching food shows has become America's newest spectator sport, what are your suggestions for making sure people are getting back in the kitchen and staying there.

The Poor Chef:  Involve the family, I don't care if its your wife or your grandmother, get back in the kitchen like the days when families sat down and ate dinner at 6 o'clock sharp and prayed before eating. There was no internet or cable TV, (I'm not that old by the way), but let kids or other family take part in the meal from the shopping to putting it in the oven. Part of why I created the poor chef and what we do with the TV show side of it is go all across the country in search of the best budget meals. We go into real peoples homes and let them share their secrets to some of their family recipes. Those are the stories that make this country so diverse and rich. So I encourage everyone to get back to the family and eat together, share together and stay together.

Foodie Heather:  Okay, here's a non-food related question for you.  Your uncle was the legendary singer/songwriter/performer Bob Marley, what is your favorite Bob Marley song?

The Poor Chef:  Redemption song, it shows my uncle in the light I recall him in, I saw him twice before he passed and the part we have all come to love is the man that gave his love and passion for a cause. He is what inspired me to get into the entertainment industry which eventually led to me cooking professionally, but my journey is far more about just making a meal, its about life, and giving, and sharing, and doing all I can to make a change in my world and for the ones I love. "These songs of freedom"…, I almost wish I could sing it to you right now, and I can sing by the way.
Foodie Heather:  What's next for you? Another cookbook? More television/radio?

The Poor Chef:  I just got back from training for QVC , I will be on in August, I will be appearing on the Today show again in mid-July, I have many appearances and book signings coming up, but I am also working on a Poor Chef show for PBS. We've just wrapped up all the final details and should begin shooting in the next up coming months. I have some new products that I'm trying to get out on those supermarket shelves, a mango peach hot sauce and bbq sauce. I also am doing some work with and we hope to launch this product nation wide. I'd also like to get back to my other love a bit which is acting and do more film work. A vacation on some tropical island with a frosty drink in hand would be good too. But honestly I just want to continue to be the best father, the best son, the best Christian, and one day the best husband that I can be. I really am a very simple man, and don't forget to come see me at my site
Foodie Heather: Thank you Chef Mattocks for such an enlightening interview and we wish you all the best, keep doing what you do and feel free to share some of your recipes with our readers here at Project Foodie from time to time.
Be sure to check out one of the Poor Chef's favorite recipes from his recently released book below.

Tarragon Chicken Baguettes

From Eat Cheap but Eat Well by Charles Mattocks, Wiley 2009.

This is a nicely sophisticated sandwich that can be served warm or cold. The chicken can be poached well ahead of time. You can divide one long French baguette into four pieces, but we prefer to buy the individual baguette-type French rolls, or any good crusty roll for that matter. You can also make this chicken salad with leftover chicken.

  • 1 or 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (four 4 ounce halves)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 4 individual-size baguettes or rolls
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a deep skillet, bring 2 cups broth (or 1 cup each of broth and white wine) to a boil. Add the chicken, cover the skillet, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Poach the chicken until it is no longer pink inside, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate; pour off the liquid into a separate container and reserve.

2. Add the butter to the empty skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Gradually pour the poaching liquid back into the skillet, whisking, until it forms a fairly thick sauce. Stir in the mustard until the mixture is well blended, then stir in the tarragon. Return the chicken to the pan and, if it's not fully immersed in the sauce (which will depend on the size of your skillet), turn it over so that both sides are coated. Reduce the heat to low and cook just long enough to reheat the chicken all the way through.

3. Serve each chicken breast with some of the sauce on a baguette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

About Eat Cheap but Eat Well

ImageIf you're looking for easy ways to feed your family on a budget, then this cookbook is for you. Appearing on TV as "The Poor Chef," Charles Mattocks has spent years demonstrating that it's possible to serve up healthy, tasty meals for only $7.00-or less. Now, in this practical cookbook, Charles collects the all-time best penny-pinching recipes from his television appearances. Contributed by real cooks around the country and inspired by cuisines around the globe, the recipes you'll find inside have only two things in common-they're incredibly cheap and they're incredibly delicious.

Available at

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Friday, 17 July 2009 )
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