Throughout the past year, our team at Frank Family Vineyards has been fortunate enough to partner with talented people ranging from Grammy Award Nominee musical artists to a Food Network Chopped Champion Chef, all in part of our commitment to bring you endless wine and entertainment at home. Perhaps our most memorable and frequently recurring guest is Chef Christina Machamer, whom we have had the pleasure of working with even before our virtual tasting series launched. Now, thanks to the power of the internet, hundreds of you have had the opportunity to know her and cook alongside her.
With accolades ranging from winning the fourth season of FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen and working side-by-side with some of the world’s top chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller, we are truly lucky to have Chef Christina grace our kitchen at Winston Hill. She has worked all over the globe, from New York City to the US Virgin Islands, cooking in some of the best kitchens. Her culinary adventures led to an appreciation of fine wine that drove Christina to study and achieve a Sommelier certification from the Master Court of Sommeliers based in London. Chef Christina has lived in Napa Valley for the past decade where she now works as a personal chef for both wineries and tourists visiting wine country. Keep reading to learn more about her journey in the culinary world.
Growing up, Christina Machamer did not idolize Julia Child. In college, she majored in political science and criminology in hopes of going to law school. Food media did not yet exist and celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay or Guy Fieri were still rising to fame. “That said, I always could cook… something should have clicked,” she says. Christina could scramble eggs at the age of four and by six she was recording cooking demos on her dad’s camcorder. By the age of 18, she was hosting multi-course dinner parties for her sorority sisters. It wasn’t until she met her mentor, Chef Cary McDowell, that she thought of turning her passion for cooking into a career. Christina went on to spend a few semesters at the community college culinary program before transferring to the Culinary Institute Hyde Park, NY. It was in her final semester of culinary school that she had the opportunity to try out for FOX’s new reality TV show, Hell’s Kitchen, and the rest is history.
Chef Christina is classically trained in French and Northern Italian cuisine, although she admittedly loves Asian food. She attests her love of Asian cuisine to the large population of Vietnamese in St. Louis, where she grew up. When she is not in the kitchen creating magnificent meals for lucky patrons in the Napa Valley, she is collecting stamps in her passport with her family. A passion that she is planning to pass along to her now, two-year-old son, Elijah Danger, who had his passport at only three weeks old. While spending time travelling through Thailand, she fell in love with hot and spicy Tom Yum, and today she still loves to find authentic ramen or fresh sashimi when taking a trip to nearby San Francisco. Chef Christina also has a taste for the Caribbean, hoping that her son’s first stamp in his passport will be a trip to her adopted home in Belize. A self-proclaimed lionfish huntress, Chef Christina is a woman of many talents. As an avid scuba diver and spear fisher, Chef Christina enjoys hunting and cooking the delicious yet invasive species, lionfish.
Q & A with Chef Christina Machamer
FF: What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
CM: Ritz Crackers, Mayonnaise, and Butter. Can you tell that I am from the Midwest? Honestly, I can cook anything with these ingredients and it will be phenomenal. The key is to balance richness with acid and keep the portion size reasonable.
FF: What is the most valuable skill you learned while working with Chef Gordon Ramsay?
CM: Working for Chef Gordon Ramsay I learned how to plate food. I know that sounds simple, but there is an art and a technique, and it was built (or beaten) into me. There is so much finesse that goes into creating a brilliant dish that it is hard to explain in a concise way. When you are scrolling through Facebook later, or looking at the cover of a food magazine, watch for the misshapen chives, the errant pasta noodle, the sauce dribble – those are “tells” that someone has not been through an apex kitchen like Gordon Ramsay’s.
FF: What is your favorite wine and food pairing?
CM: Not surprisingly I have a few, but my favorite would have to be the first great pairing I ever experienced. It was a Portuguese Madeira and Pecan Tart. The pairing may seem esoteric, but I can explain. Madeira was a wine designed to travel. It is a fortified wine, meaning a distilled spirit has been added. It was placed onto ships in the 15th-16th century and sent to its final destination. Over the voyage, the wine would Oxidize, and Maderize (cook) which is how it gets its name. By the time it reached its destination, it was nutty, caramelly, and boozy. Pair that with a buttery, flaky, pecan tart, and every ingredient of the tart will jump out onto your pallet- butter, salt, brown sugar, toasted flour, roasted pecans, washed down by a once syrupy now surprisingly youthful and refreshing Madeira. Each sip of wine enhances the tart, each bite begs for another splash.
FF: If you could only drink one bottle of wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
CM: Champagne. Extended tirage grower champagne- with all of it’s Brioche, Biscuity, Lichen, Oyster Shell goodness. (May we suggest our Lady Edythe Reserve Brut!)
Want to keep up with Chef Christina? Check out her website and follow her new Food and Wine Lifestyle podcast Not Taking Orders, where Chef and her co-host Jay Brewner, Napa Valley’s Director of Fabulocity, will dish about all things worth consuming. This first episode drops in a few weeks and will be available to stream on Apple podcasts, Spotify iHeart Radio and everywhere else you stream podcasts.