Who: Kim Arteaga-Bisk
Artist’s chosen location for interview: The Parisian Courtyard Inn Bed and Breakfast (1726 Prytania), at a table in the front parlor where the sun was streaming through and WWOZ played on the radio
Q: What is something you did as a child that you miss doing?
KAB: Going to the beach. When I was a little girl, my grandparents had a beach condo. It was part of a complex that was 14 stories, but everybody knew one another. Even though all the families were from all over, we all were like one big family.
It was the place to go, and it was a party every weekend.
This was in Caracas, Venezuela, and a lot of the families had lived there since they built the place. I grew up there, my aunts and uncles grew up there, and my kids grew up there. And, it’s called Laguna Beach. [Laughing].
When my youngest daughter was born, I actually ended up living in the town where the condo is, and it was great to go back. It was like getting back with family, and we were all at the same spot in life. My friends all grew up, they all had kids, and then our kids became friends. These are apartments that are passed down from generation to generation, so you can build those kinds of relationships. It’s interesting to think about those different families that you make as you travel.
It’s funny because I came to New Orleans when I was two years old, and I lived here for a year. My grandfather was the Venezuelan Consulate here in New Orleans. Mind you, I don’t remember anything. I just know that I was here, and then I eventually came back. I never thought I would move here. It was never in my plans or my dreams, but look what I did. Everything seems to become a circle.
Even being involved with this Bed and Breakfast has this circle to it because my husband and I, when we were in Chicago, bought a farmhouse that we were going to turn into a bed and breakfast. It was this amazing farmhouse with a silo on the side, and in the 20s it was run as a gambling establishment. It had lockers in the front where people would put their guns, there was a dance floor, and it was this hidden club.
Well, when my husband passed away, that whole idea of running the bed and breakfast sort of crumbled because I didn’t want to do it by myself. And look at where I am at. I am running this bed and breakfast at The Parisian Courtyard Inn. It’s just ten years later. Even though that farmhouse would have been an amazing place, it would have never had the history of this inn in New Orleans.
Q: Whose secret ingredient or recipe book would you like to get your hands on?
KAB: It’s hard to say because I admire a lot of chefs, and I know that their food is amazing, but I don’t really think there is a secret ingredient. It’s all about how you work with the ingredients.
No recipe is done the same twice if it is done by two people. Whether it’s a recipe from Besh, Emeril, or Anthony Bourdain, those will not turn out the same even if you follow the recipe step-by-step.
We all have different ways of kneading, shaking, or cutting, so really the secret ingredient is the chef.
Q: If you could have a food truck or pop-up, what kind of food would you want to serve?
KAB: I have already thought about that. I would do a variety of finger foods. Whenever you do a truck you need it to be finger foods, but I would want it to be gourmet finger foods.
I’m always out and about, and I would love to stop at a drive-through or something really fast, but I don’t necessarily want a burger or a taco. I want a bacon-wrapped date. [Laughing].
My menu would most likely be full of Spanish tapas. I’d make bacon-wrapped scallops, bacon-wrapped dates with romesco sauce, and all the wonderfully fried foods that are part of the tapas cuisine.
Maybe I’d name is Tapas Tascas and call it TT’s for short.
Q: What color can you not stand?
KAB: Red. Actually, I do like it at Christmas time, as you can see. [Gestures to all the bright red Christmas decorations that don the inside of the parlor and dining room.].
But I don’t like to wear red because…I want you to know that I’m not vain, but I don’t like to wear red because it does not go with my hair. [Laughing]. It’s a very vain reason, I know, but I’m a redhead, so I can’t put red with red.
I think every color has a meaning and an energy, so any color you put on depends on where you are going, who you are seeing, and what you are doing. I wear a lot of black, greys, and whites for practicality, and then I’ll add a little bit of color.
Oh, I don’t like orange either. My mom had a car when I was growing up that was like a Starsky and Hutch car. It was orange with a white stripe, and it was horrid. Of course, that was the only car I could drive because I didn’t have my own car. It was so embarrassing.
I can’t like orange because of that.
Q: How do you know when something tastes good?
KAB: They say that the best wine is the wine that you like the best. It’s the one that feels good to you, and I feel like food is the same way. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the ingredients are or what the specific food is, it has to make you feel good.
If you’re a chocolate person, it’s that feeling of the first bite of chocolate when you close your eyes and go mmmm. That’s the feeling I’m talking about.
I’m a chef, so good food to me is food that feels good all the way through. The textures, the flavors, the complications. I want it to have sweet and salt, it can have a citrus taste to it as well as a bit of spice; I want it to have a little bit of everything that pops in your mouth, goes to your brain, and goes yummy.
The same goes with wine. It has to feel good. It has to make you feel warm.
There are people that say, ‘This food is good; this food is not good,’ but all of our palettes are different. We don’t see colors that same way, so I don’t know why we’d think we taste foods the same way.
Whenever I cook I try to prepare my favorites, whether I’m having a dinner party or preparing a meal for a small party. With professional cooking you do, of course, cook items that you do not necessarily like, but I try to find a way that I would like it. That way I can prepare it with the passion and love that I put into dishes that are my favorites.
Although, I don’t add bananas to my food. I don’t like bananas, and I will not put them in my food. It’s a flavor that’s easy to detect, and even more than that, my dislike for bananas goes back to being a little girl in Venezuela. My mom had banana trees in our backyard. You have to cut the cask of the bananas when it’s not ripe yet because the banana tree is weak, so it cannot handle the weight. Well, you hang the ‘hands,’ which are like the bananas we see in the grocery store and wait for them to ripen.
Of course, they all ripen at the same time. So when I was little, I would have corn flakes with bananas for breakfast. I would take a banana to school for snack. I would come home and have a banana smoothie after school. Then at dinner we would have banana flambe for desert. That would go on for days and days.
I think I ate enough bananas for this life and all my future lives.
Kim Arteaga-Bisk is the chef at The Parisian Courtyard Inn as well as the innkeeper of the bed and breakfast. She also prepares personalized dinners for couples or small parties at the bed and breakfast where you talk through and create a menu with her. You can contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.