Meet Lori Monte: The Kitchen Whisperer

Just north of Pittsburgh, Lori Monte lives a double life: nerdy engineer by day and cook/blogger extraordinaire... well, also by day.

Lori is the talent behind food and recipe blog The Kitchen Whisperer, which seeks to inspire people to conquer their fears of being in the kitchen. She tells us, "I believe food is love and is meant not only to taste good but to help build memories. My mantra is 'there's always room at my kitchen table,' while my tagline is, 'Taming the kitchen one bite at a time!'"   

Monte is a member of The Daily Meal's Culinary Content Network of food bloggers, and this week we get to know her a little better; keep reading to find out more.

The Daily Meal: How'd you get started?

I've always been in the food industry, having had a pizza shop in my family for 17 years. When that closed down I had folks constantly calling me asking me to make various dishes. When I bought my first house, I would have folks come over on Saturdays and I would teach them the basics while showing them that being in the kitchen is fun (as well as delicious). As word of mouth spread and more people wanted my recipes and items I made, I finally went business-official in 2011 with the launch of my blog.

What are some foods you can't live without?

Pizza — literally the best food ever as it's truly diverse.

Chocolate – 'Nuff said.

Bacon... Seriously, it's bacon.

Are there any foods you can't stand?

Cherries. I mean anything cherry or cherry-flavored — including cherry-flavored lip gloss. Those things are affectionately known as "demon seeds" in my world. Mayonnaise, blue cheese, and goat cheese (shudder) are other things I cannot stand at all. Did I mention I really hate cherries?

What is your proudest post?

Honestly, that's such a difficult thing to answer. Each post has meaning for me. When I write and post a recipe, it's a piece of me I give to the TKW Family. I share with them not only a recipe — anyone can do that — but for me, I share with them my life, memories, and emotions. I want people connect to me and see that it's just more than simple ingredients. That every recipe has a story, a purpose beyond just eating. For example, I just posted one that carries so many memories that I had tears of joy in my eyes as I wrote it. It was my Grandma's Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Pound Cake. This recipe is generations old, but even more importantly, this post allows me to bring back childhood memories of my grandma that put such a smile on my face.

What is your biggest blog blunder?

 Oh, dear lord, where do I even start? I'd have to say the day I decided to make a seemingly "minor" tweak to some of my code and completely crashed my entire site AND my database. And did I have a backup? Nope. It was scheduled to run that night but I was three hours too early. I was in a rush and you'd think my being a dual engineer in IT would keep the golden rule of "backup everything prior to making any changes" in mind. Nope. I crashed my own site. It took me three days to fix it and put everything back in place. Never again.

Do you have a memorable comment from a reader?

This one to this day still brings a tear to my eye. I had a woman once say to me that she grew up loving to be in the kitchen with her mom. Every day they would bake or cook together. She loved it so much that she went on to be an executive chef. Even after a long day at the restaurant, she would come home and still cook with her mom. Then her mom passed away suddenly. She said the day her mom died she lost her love of the kitchen. She said it died when her mom died. She quit her job as a chef and hadn't returned to the kitchen in years after that. Then one day she stumbled upon my blog and my Facebook page. She said she "liked" the page and would follow along as we all just "talked." Eventually, she would chime in and that's when I had learned her story. Then one day she posted on my wall something that honestly brought tears to my eyes: "You've made me fall in love with being in the kitchen again. You've made it 'home' for me. More importantly, you gave me my mother back. Thank you, Lori. You gave me more than you'll ever know." 

What's on your cooking playlist?

I must have music on in the kitchen. I have a very diverse music playlist, however, for me, I'm a metal girl in the kitchen. I love Five Finger Death Punch, Rev Theory, '80s metal, Disturbed, Steel Panther, and so forth. Most people that just meet me are shocked by this. However, you put on some Justin Timberlake or Meghan Trainor and I'm totally into it. Music for me is so mood-dependent. Also, give me Sinatra any day.

What are some other blogs you love?

 Simply Scratch, Recipe Tin, Damn Delicious

What are some food apps you love?

Not a food app but I love Pinterest (for food naturally), foodgawker, and Foodie (for photography).

What is the best thing about blogging?

Honestly, it's a selfish reason. It's not for the money or the notoriety; it's knowing that I have been able to inspire people to overcome their fear in the kitchen. To have people all over the globe blindly trust me to not only welcome me into their kitchens (virtually) but also make one of my recipes is truly humbling. It's a gift that is priceless and one that has never nor will ever take for granted. I blog because people let me share my story, my life, and my passion with them. I've been able to create a TKW Family that is more than just "followers." These are people that you build friendships and bonds with them. You get to know them, their families, about their lives, and share stories.

And the worst thing?

Truthfully, there is not one bad thing about it. Being in the kitchen, creating recipes, doing photo shoots, editing, and eventually blogging about it — I love it. Again, it's selfish but it's a way I get to share "me" with the TKW Family.

Is there a recipe you're currently obsessed with?

I literally just made it, but it's Italian three-meat stuffed banana peppers. And with the extra meat, I made two different types of meatballs; Italian three-meat meatballs and banana pepper meatballs.

What would even your most loyal followers be surprised to learn about you?

Hmmm, that's tough as I'm pretty much an open book with them. I played the saxophone for 18+ years, as that's what my dad loved. He inspired me in the fifth grade to learn to play the sax even though all of the other "girls" were playing the flute and clarinet. I wanted a "girl" instrument but he insisted that I try it for a little while and if I still didn't want to play it I could switch. Night after night he would sit with me as I fumbled through my lessons sounding more like I stepped on a goose than sweet beautiful notes. As I would play, he'd sit there, even with the missed notes or squeals, he'd have his eyes closed just listening and smiling. The more I practiced, the better I got. Eventually, I started winning awards, competitions, and going to state championships. The day after my dad passed away I sold my saxophone, and I have not played since.

Every time I hear a sax playing, I close my eyes, smile, and think back to my dad.

What are five of your all-time favorite posts?

Oh, tough one... Let me think about this one for a minute. In no particular order:

Chunky Portabella Veggie Burgers: This is the burger even meat-lovers crave!

Mom's Ultimate New Year's Eve Pork & Sauerkraut: Truly the best pork you'll ever eat!

Dulce de Leche Chocoflan: This cake was something truly breathtaking.

Mom's Classic Pot Roast With Savory Onion Gravy: I took a family recipe and adapted it to pressure cooking. It tastes exactly like Mom's but done in significantly less time.

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Pizza: Pizza is my all-time favorite food, however, not everyone can eat regular pizza dough. So I set out a goal to come up with a "veggie" crust that held up to my pizza snob standards, that didn't require a fork and knife to eat (sorry but no pizza should ever, ever be eaten with utensils), and tasted amazing. This pizza is that. I'll make this often instead of regular pizza because it's that good!