By Ginna Parsons
BELDEN – Getting recipes out of Michael Monroe is like pulling teeth.
“I don’t measure anything,” said the Tupelo dentist. “I just dip and taste. I don’t use cookbooks. I hate precision. I hate having to do that.”
Monroe, 33, knows exactly what goes into each dish, he just doesn’t know exactly how much. So nothing he makes ever tastes quite the same twice. But almost everything he prepares has three of the same seasonings.
“I put salt, pepper and garlic powder on just about everything I cook,” he said.
Monroe, who was born in Greenville and raised in Ridgeland, taught himself to cook when he was a junior in college. He’d always been husky in high school, and in college he really started to pack on the pounds.
“I wanted to figure out how to eat the things I like to eat, but make them more healthy,” he said. “My mother was not a good cook. She was a microwave, casserole queen. She’d just throw it in.”
He learned some of his skills from working in two restaurants in Ridgeland: Tico’s Steak House and Mint.
“I learned about flavor pairings, which types of seasonings go with what,” he said. “And I learned plating and presentation. You eat with your eyes first.”
Today, Monroe said he cooks five or six nights a week for himself and his wife, Leigh. The couple has a 9-week-old son, Connor.
“Everything I do probably takes 20 to 30 minutes,” he said. “I cook light. I don’t use a lot of butter, cream or oils.”
“He is a much healthier and lighter cook than I am,” said Leigh Monroe. “So we need to be eating what he cooks and not what I normally make.”
On a typical weeknight, they might enjoy pasta primavera with shrimp; Greek pasta with grilled chicken; homemade pizza with a white sauce, spinach, chicken, roasted red peppers, red onions, mushrooms and mozzarella; or grilled pork tenderloins with lemon mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.
“I want to open a fine dining restaurant that is health-conscious as well,” he said. “You could have a nice, elegant dinner and feel good about it. I’ve not found too many of those types of restaurants.”
Monroe said he’s found that moderation is the best way to enjoy food.
“I used to be fairly extreme, but I’ve added some things back to my diet,” he said. “I’m not near as strict as I used to be.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.