A third culture kid born to American expat parents, Lauren Holdcroft, SideChef’s Senior Culinary Editor, spent many of her early years exposed to different cultures. Originally from Washington, she has lived in Hawaii, Argentina, and China and reflects the rich culinary traditions of those places in her cooking.
Lauren originally came to Shanghai as a student. Still, the pull of the kitchen was too strong, and she ended up working at SideChef - first as an intern, then as Recipe Editor, and now as
Senior Culinary Editor.
Growing up in Hawaii was honestly what shaped my personality and especially my tastes! Hawaii really is a melting pot in terms of diversity, and this is reflected in the vast cuisine types you can find co-existing on the islands--Portuguese Malasadas and sweet bread, Japanese katsu and mochi, on the same menu next to Cantonese steamed buns, heaps of macaroni salad, and huge glasses of passion fruit, orange, guava juice. There’s a reason I think of butter mochi when someone mentions a bake sale!
Cooking, for me, has had many stages. My mom was always a fantastic cook, and I was super lucky to grow up on awesome dinners and lots of “helping out” in the kitchen. I was into baking in high school. Cupcakes, cookies, muffins...I really loved making pretty things, which I think is why I loved baking more.
It wasn’t until I moved to New York for university that I realized that I should learn to make food that would actually nourish me. What started in my tiny New York apartment transformed my view of cooking from a chore into a borderline-obsessive hobby. I started with a few recipes that I would cook over and over, refining them, then moved on to another set.
When I’m missing home, which usually means missing Hawaii, I will always whip up a batch of my favorite childhood snack, Spam Musubis. These little blocks of rice, seaweed, and perfectly-seasoned Spam are a poster child for the amazing food that comes from so many cuisines mixing in one place. They were essential for beach days, after-school snacking, and post-soccer game refuel.
Oh god, I don’t think I could do it! Maybe a good french bread? I could probably do it if I also got some cheese.
I started at SideChef as a Recipe Editor. Still, after two years of growing an amazing team, it was time for me to make a lateral move over to our Culinary Studio as a Culinary Producer. Now, three years later, I am a Senior Culinary Editor.
Cooking has always been something I loved. From the days peering at my mom and grandmother over the counter creating mouthwatering dish after dish to a cupcake obsessed teenager to feeding myself in a tiny new york apartment, cooking and food has always been a source of joy, comfort, and excitement for me. After moving to China for a career I hated, I began cooking more and more to cope with the stress. And soon, every hour I wasn’t at work was spent planning, shopping for and cooking meals for myself and others. Finally, I realized that I was being silly not to pursue a career in the culinary field. SideChef and I found each other, and the rest is history.
If I had to choose one, it'd probably be this recipe for Baked Sweet Potato with Tahini Drizzle.
This is one of the first SideChef recipes I ever made, and the one that really hooked me. The way that each individual part of the recipe is prepared and seasoned really makes this dish stand out - and even though I love a good meaty main dish, I just might love a flavorful plant-based main even more, especially for casual weeknight cooking.
Developing recipes is one of my favorite parts of my job. The process of starting with an idea - a season, a flavor, an ingredient, an event...and somehow turning that into a (hopefully) replicable dish that people anywhere can enjoy, it’s a great feeling. Like making art but with more utility.
Tieghan Gerard’s Spicy Lasagna Soup . It’s so comforting and spicy, and the big, thick pieces of lasagna noodles are really fun to eat. I’ve played around a lot with tomato-based soups and even wrote a failed recipe for pizza soup back in the day, but her spicy lasagna soup is just something that I saw and immediately wished I had thought of it! Plus, it's easy to make it heavier or lighter depending on your mood- I’ll use heavy cream for a hearty winter version and then use milk instead and more veggies for a lighter dinner or lunch. I love recipes like this that really inspire me, too - I make a mean white mushroom lasagna, so I’d love to try and adapt it to a soup version as well someday!
Follow your cravings! Don’t worry so much about finding the perfect recipe to cook for dinner every night (which can be overwhelming for anyone, even myself) and instead think about something that sounds really good to you, and work from there to find a recipe that fits. I also believe it can help to work with what you have, especially if you’re someone who has trouble with fresh ingredients going bad. Let’s say you have a bunch of spinach, and you’re craving Korean food - look up Korean or Korean-inspired recipes that use spinach, and that way you have a much more specific set of search terms to help you find something you want to make, based on ingredients you have! I’ve discovered a lot of really cool recipes this way, and it’s always a great feeling to use up what you have in your fridge.