“Madison Papp’s Recipe For Creating Alchemy In The Kitchen & In Life”
As a chef, Madison Papp takes a distinct and progressive approach to food, flavor, and cooking using a balance of fantasy, elegance, and unbridled vibrance. Born and raised in New York City, she grew up among her mother, a Jin Shin Jyutsu and energy medicine practitioner and her father, a (now retired) fine art and antiques dealer. While many aspects of her childhood were fairytale in nature she faced distinct health challenges such as epilepsy and Lyme disease which she overcame by turning obstacles into magical outcomes.
How did your upbringing influence your career path and outlook on life?
“My upbringing taught me about transformation and not to attach oneself to the moment because there is always another path ahead. Life isn’t a cookie-cutter fairytale and the challenges we face are part of the path of being human. It is how you react, cope, and shift that create your landscape in present but also shape the path towards and within your future.”
“When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with petit mal seizures – experiencing several each waking hour. At that moment, my whole life shifted. I fell behind in school, kids made fun of me, I was put on elimination diets, and took medications that made me feel like a zombie. To make matters worse, I developed a learning disability which was later identified as dyscalculia (known as ‘math dyslexia’).’’
“All of a sudden, at a young age, I had no option but to tap into my creativity, finding new ways of functioning within a new set of boundaries. Later in life I was diagnosed with Lyme disease which took about five solid years out of my twenties. Once again, life gave me new parameters to work with and I had to figure out a new way forward and into happiness and harmony.”
“These experiences have shaped who I am in my personal and my professional life. As a chef, I am constantly met with clients who are kosher, gluten free, or vegan. When these dietary codes are shared with me, I get so excited because it allows me to challenge dietary preferences that may seem restrictive. However, I see these “restrictions” as opportunities because I’ve been in similar shoes. My clients trust me and they know I will take care of them and produce a safe, beautiful, and high-level meal.”
The concept of creating a multi-sensory wonderland is very much at the crux of the “Madison Papp” brand and your tagline “Make magic in the kitchen.” How does this apply to the projects you take on?
“I love the word ‘wonderland’! My late grandmother’s name was Alice and although she wasn’t the best cook, many of the flavors from her kitchen and stories of food from her childhood influence how I develop recipes. I can’t mention Alice without mentioning my other Grandmother, Rita. Now, she is quite the cook and years of sampling her homemade carrot cake, brisket, paella, and more showed me how putting love into food informs flavor and experience.”
“I grew up believing that magic was real. So, when I saw my mother or my grandmother transform something as simple as rhubarb or tomatoes into a whole new vortex of flavor, my belief in magic was confirmed real.”
“As humans, we don’t physically see all the complex layers of food and the nutrient and chemical interactions that happen daily in a kitchen no matter how passive or active. To me, that level of mystery and intrigue only enforces my reality that there is magic in all corners of the kitchen and I invite anyone to explore.”
Can you share a few words about your passion for serving others, philanthropy, and social impact?
“Service is a big part of being a chef. In my mind, service does not just apply to my clients, it also applies to the kitchen assistants, sous chefs, dishwashers, bartenders, and servers I work with. It is important to me that I keep a flowing level of care and compassion within a work environment in balance with equitable pay and perks such as fully stocked snack areas and thoughtful bonuses for the people I employ.”
“In terms of philanthropy, for the past seven years, I’ve been an active member of the Park Avenue Armory. It is an esteemed non-profit in New York City dedicated to the exploration and display of unconventional visual and performing arts that cannot be mounted in traditional performance halls and museums. In addition, the organizations’ Arts Education Program supports underserved public schools with creative educational initiatives including paid, project-oriented internships for high school students who attend schools with whom the Armory has a close relationship. I currently serve as the co-chair of the Armory’s Avant Garde young patrons program and I am a longstanding planning committee member for the annual gala.”
“I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of giving back wherever you can and focusing on the causes that resonate with you the most. I am constantly inspired by those who step up and create new ways of supporting the most important efforts during this time.”
Most recently, I participated in a worldwide bakesale dedicated to dismantling racism: Bakers Against Racism. This movement was founded by three inspiring chefs: Willa Pellini, Paola Velez, and Rob Rubba. I not only wish to see more grassroots movements like this pop up as the world moves forward, but I have already raised my hand in participation and I encourage others to join me in doing the same.
The shoot was styled and creatively directed by the multi-talented Jerome Lamaar
What inspired the shoot and what did you love most about working with him?
Jerome is my best friend, mentor, inspiration, and guide. He is a creative force of nature constantly creating beauty in whatever he does. His heart is bigger than anyone I know, I feel so lucky to have met him years ago, and even luckier that he is a part of my life for the long haul.
For the shoot, we wanted to convey a certain air of magic alongside the multifaceted sides of my personality–We are both geminis. Much like my cooking, I can go from sweet to savory in a hot minute.
Jerome and I also have a truly “unspeakable” bond. We seem to communicate without even speaking regardless if we are in the same room or miles apart. Especially with this shoot, he just did his thing and I knew it would be great because I love him, he is family to me, and he is the ultimate creator.
Tell us about the recipe idea you created for RESERVED MAGAZINE and is there a specific process in the way you select ingredients?
This recipe is a total accident…some of the best recipes are. I’m in the process of seeking the next place where I’ll live, grow into a new phase of my business, and nourish this next phase of my life. So, ceremoniously I have been crafting meals from the back of my spice cabinets and pantry…slowly excavating dried cactus fruit, nigella seeds, and dried herbs I’d yet to play with.
In finding these nigella seeds I decided to merge them with some black sesame and carrots I had just picked from the farmer’s market in Union Square. Soon, a batch of delectable Roast Carrots with Nigella, Black Sesame, and Creme Fraiche was born. The recipe itself is quite simple…although the flavors are far more layered, complex. I will certainly be making this dish a staple in my clients’ kitchens as we move into autumn.
What can we look forward to next from Madison Papp and where we can follow your adventures?
I’m in a space right now where I am totally open to what’s next. I am not afraid of the future or its complexities. It is time for me to sit back and enjoy the ride. I have a few very special moments and projects percolating…you will see. Too keep watch on what fate has in store for me, you can follow me on my instagram handle @MadisonPapp & website www.MadisonPapp.Com
Roasted Carrots with Nigella, Toasted Black Sesame, and Crème Fraîche
This recipe serves one if you are looking for leftovers. Two if you are in the market for an elegant vegetable-forward side.
Metal baking/cookie sheet (a glass or pyrex baking dish would also work)
Spoon or spatula for mixing
Blender with ideally small/medium blender cup
Dish/Plate for serving
For the Carrots
1 pound carrots (about 7 medium in size), cleaned and peeled
one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon sweet paprika
2 large shallots (there should be two lobes in each shallot, total of 4 lobes), peeled and cleaned
About 3 sprigs fresh thyme divided into 8 stems
For the Black Sesame and Nigella Oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds, divided
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon raw runny honey (it’s ok if your honey isn’t raw or runny, it’s just preferred)
About ¼ cup plus two tablespoons crème fraîche
1-2 tablespoons chive blossoms or finely chopped fresh chives
A few pinches toasted black sesame seeds
Toast the Black Sesame Seeds
- Adjust your oven rack(s) so that one is available in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 325F.
- Spoon 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds on a cookie sheet lined with a bit of aluminum foil. Since you are toasting a small sampling of sesame, I like to make a little 10×10 inch foil island in the middle of a larger cookie sheet, folding up the edges slightly so the seeds don’t escape.
- Toast the black sesame seeds in the oven for 2.5 minutes on the middle rack. Then, open the oven door and give the seeds a quick stir with a spoon so that they toast evenly.
- Close the oven door and bake for another 3.5 minutes. Cool and set aside.
Make the Nigella and Toasted Black Sesame Oil
- In a small blender cup/blender combine ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds (make sure you reserve some of the seeds for plating), 1 tablespoon nigella seeds, and 1 teaspoon runny raw honey.
- Blend on high for 20-25 seconds or until the seeds are no longer whole and are ground finely (ok if a few coarse bits remain) into the oil mixture. Set aside.
Season and Bake the Carrots
- Pre-heat your oven to 400F and prepare a metal baking/cookie sheet by covering it with a sheet of aluminum foil.
- Slice your carrots into 2.5-3 inch by ½ inch long sticks. Not all carrots are created equal. Thus, some carrots can be cut into eighths, others into sixths depending on the size. The trick is to make each stick the same size so that the carrots cook evenly.
- Place the carrot sticks in a mixing bowl (you can also do this next step right on the baking sheet if you are feeling a bit lazy) and coat with ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, and ¾ teaspoon sweet paprika. Set aside.
- Slice your shallots flat side down on a cutting board so you end up slicing thin rings.
- Place the seasoned carrots on the baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with the sliced shallots and thyme stems.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then give the carrots and their seasonings a quick mix with a spoon or spatula. Bake for another 10 minutes (20 minutes total), and remove from the oven.
- Discard the thyme and season with extra salt to taste if needed (remember the nigella and black sesame oil has salt too…so don’t overdo).
Plate the Carrots
- Choose a serving dish or (two smaller dishes if you are dividing into individual portions) and place the carrots with the shallots in the dish.
- Drizzle with a healthy serving of the nigella and toasted black sesame oil.
- Top with an extra large spoonful (about 6 tablespoons) of crème fraîche and sprinkle with the remaining toasted black sesame seeds and chive blossoms (or finely chopped fresh chives).