AT HOME WITH VITA is a monthly interview with artists, designers, and friends who inspire us.
Lidey Heuck is a food writer, cook, recipe developer, New York Times contributor, and creator of LideyLikes. She began her career in East Hampton working as Ina Garten’s assistant. She tested recipes, managed social media, helped Ina with 4 books, and fully immersed herself in the Barefoot Contessa’s world for six delicious years. Looking to gain experience in a restaurant kitchen Lidey switched gears and spent the 2020 summer season cooking with Erin French at The Lost Kitchen in Maine, where she also appeared on Magnolia Network’s The Lost Kitchen TV show. Lidey has been a regular contributor to The New York Times since 2019 and, in 2020, hosted a series of cooking segments for Food Network Kitchen. She has also been featured in Food & Wine, Food Network Magazine, Delish, Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn. She continues to grow LideyLikes, a one-stop resource for anything and everything related to cooking and entertaining, which has accumulated to 100k digital community members since its launch in 2015. Lidey got married earlier in June and plans to move upstate with her husband Joe and their dog.What mood or aesthetic do you aim to evoke, which colors or textures do you gravitate towards?
Lidey Heuck: My entertaining style is casual and comfortable, with a little bit of flair. I always want my guests to feel at ease and relaxed, but I also enjoy putting effort into entertaining and think that a beautiful table, a well thought out menu, and thoughtful little touches along the way make an evening feel really special. I gravitate more towards maximalism than minimalism - lots of food and flowers and plenty of good things to drink!
What are your essentials to setting a festive table at home?
Lidey Heuck: I love to use color on the table and am not shy about it. My dishes and glassware are mostly neutral so that I can do a lot of mixing and matching, but I have a ton of napkins, table runners, and serving dishes in fun colors.
Setting the table gets me excited for whatever occasion I’m hosting, so I like to do it early in the day when I’m having friends over. That also gives me time to focus on the food in the hours leading up to dinner.
How does your entertaining style inform the recipes and style of your upcoming cookbook?
Lidey Heuck: My recipes are, I think, a direct reflection of my entertaining style. I want them to be easy enough for a beginner cook to pull off, and doable in real life (we all know what it feels like to make a recipe that takes all day and uses every pot in the kitchen.) That said, I also like to make sure my recipes have a lot of personality and are memorable in some way. I want them to be the kind of recipes that pop into your head - the ones you go back to again and again. I think there’s a fine balance between keeping things simple and making sure they’re really delicious and interesting
What aspect of your wedding were you most excited to plan?
Lidey Heuck: A wedding is essentially a massive dinner party, so it was fun to think of it that way in the planning process. Of course, there are a million more details that go into planning a wedding, and it’s a lot more complicated to create a menu for 200 than it is for 12, but we really wanted our wedding to capture the feeling of a great dinner with friends. We spent a lot of time on the seating chart, trying to figure out who would enjoy meeting each other and become fast friends. It was fun knowing that all of these people from different parts of our lives would be together for one night, and we wanted to make sure they all felt taken care of and had an absolute blast along the way.
No meal/party is complete without:
Lidey Heuck: Mood lighting and good music! Growing up my mom always taught me the critical importance of lighting when entertaining (or even eating a quick dinner on a Tuesday.) Turn those overhead lights down, light some candles, and voila- instant atmosphere. I particularly love to put tall taper candles on the table - they instantly add this sort of romantic moodiness and elegance to the whole room. Il Buco Vita’s twisted beeswax candles are my new favorites - the taller the better!
Music is equally important. I think it’s fun to tailor a playlist to the guests, the location, the mood for the evening. As with lighting, there’s also an art to finding that perfect volume where you can both hear the music and hold a conversation!
What is the most important lesson you learned from working with Ina Garten?
Lidey Heuck: This is a hard question to answer because I learned so much from Ina over my years working for her. I think the one lesson that’s stuck with me most - and that extends beyond the world of food - is to not to be afraid of taking professional risks. Ina has always been a big proponent of “jumping into the pond,” as she says, and figuring out where you want to go from there. This advice sounds simple but as I build my own small business, it’s reassuring to remember you don’t need to have it all figured out before you try something new.
What is a go-to/favorite summer entertaining recipe?
Lidey Heuck: My pasta with Spicy Tomato and Eggplant Caponata is one of my favorite things to serve in the summer, once tomatoes and eggplant are in season. It’s super flavorful: spicy, sweet and savory all at once, and delicious both warm and at room temperature. It’s also dairy-free and can be made vegan, so it’s something almost everyone can eat. I serve it with a big arugula salad and a lightly chilled red wine.