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Sun Sentinel Food Editor Deborah Hartz-Seeley Steps Down

February 15th, 2010 · 7 Comments

Deborah Hartz-Seeley, who’s been the anchor and editor for the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Food Section for 20 years, left the paper last week.

Deb and I are friends and we were colleagues. I’m going to miss her – as I’m sure her readers will.

I caught up with her for a little retrospective on her most interesting career.

The first, obvious, question – why did you leave now?

Deb:  I decided it was time to leave because I felt like the section was at its prime, and readers loved it. And I think it’s best to leave when things are on top.

How long have you been involved in food – not just at the Sentinel?

 Deb: I got my first  job in food working in a pizza kitchen in college and never looked back. I managed a steakhouse full time while getting a bachelor’s of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pa.

And then I worked in restaurant kitchens for a year or so after graduation until I decided to get a master’s of science degree in agricultural journalism specializing in food and nutrition from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. (Journalism intrigued me because I’d helped put myself through college writing comic books.)

After that, I went straight to the test kitchen at Ladies’ Home Journal. I’ve worked on newspapers in Indiana and the Chicago suburbs. I also was editor in chief of Cook’s (the forerunner to Cook’s Illustrated) before coming to the Sun Sentinel 20 years ago.

Do you remember the very first dish you cooked or baked?

Deb: I made a spiced layer cake from a Duncan Hines boxed mix. I slathered it with maple icing made from a vanilla boxed mix that I dressed up with real maple syrup. The “recipe” was on the cake mix box. Of course, that was the first “real” food. My two sisters and I used to play Miss Cookie’s Kitchen where we pretended to run a restaurant and serve food.

Tell me about some of the most memorable stories that you covered.

Deb: I got to go stone crab fishing with Julia Child. I spent a day in the kitchen with a French chef and that turned into my being able to spend a morning a week in his kitchen working side by side with him for a couple of years. It was an incredible education. The most fun for me over the years has been going into a kitchen and actually working with a chef or home cook.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool you found over the years?

Bottom blade of corn stripper

Oxo's Corn Stripper

Deb: It’s a tool I got recently for removing kernels from an ear of corn. I used to hate that job. The cob would fall over and the kernels go flying all over the room. But this tool looks like a computer mouse with a blade on the bottom. You drag the blade down the cob and the kernels collect in the bulbous part. It even measures the cups of kernels you’ve got.

How do you think food world has changed over the years, and what or who had the most influence over it?

Deb: I think television has had the most influence changing the food world. What I’m seeing is that if you talk to the older generation of chefs (those from, say, 45 to 75), and ask them where they learned to cook, they can tell you wonderful stories about growing up. They talk about grandparents who cooked, fathers who cooked, mothers who cooked. They make you want to sit at their family tables and eat with them.

But if you talk to the younger chefs (those in their 20s and 30s) and ask where they learned to cook, they tell you from chefs and cooks they watched on television.

Did it make us better cooks, or more aware of our food? Or are we on a downhill spiral?

Deb: We are losing all those chefs’ wonderful stories, not to mention their years of experience in the kitchen that is not being passed from one generation to the next. I find it incredibly sad.

What are you planning to do now, at least short-term?

Deb: I am taking some time to relax. I know I will want to do some sort of work – whether it’s freelancing, other type of writing or teaching. I shaped a very strong food section that attracted readers and advertisers in a very down economy. That wasn’t by chance. I have many insights I’d like to share (and, no, I didn’t learn them on TV).

But I’ve been working steadily for 30 years. I have a kayak hanging in the garage that hasn’t had its skeg in water for a long time. It’s calling me. At least for now.

Where can people contact you?

Deb: I am easy to find at debhartz@att.net – and my cell is 954-675-0596.

Leave us with a favorite recipe that you learned while food editor.

Deb: Here’s a go-to dessert recipe I printed in the Sun Sentinel in 1998. It is from Lisa Montenegro, who at the time was a pastry chef/instructor at the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach (now the Lincoln College of Technology). (Ed’s note: Montenegro is at Cakeability in Jupiter, FL.)

I just made it for a dinner party I had a few weeks ago. One tip, don’t remove it from the pan until it is completely cooled.

Lisa Montenegro’s Chocolate Pecan Torte

(This pastry chef-instructor recommends Callebaut or Ghirardelli brands chocolate for baking.)

Pecan Torte:

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (see note)
  • 1/4 pound (4 ounces, or 1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1- 1/4 cups ground and toasted pecans
  • 1 tablespoon flour

Ganache Glaze:

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make torte: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. In the top of a double boiler, combine the chocolate and butter.

Bring water in bottom of double boiler to boil over medium-high heat. Place top of double boiler over pan of hot water and stir often until mixture melts.

Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until well-combined. Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until combined. Stir in the pecans and flour; mix thoroughly.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 30 minutes or until center is set, not dry or wobbly. Let cool completely before glazing.

To make glaze: Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Place cream in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring, until it boils. Remove cream from heat and immediately pour over chocolate, whisking until all the chocolate is melted. Add the vanilla and stir to blend.

Place torte on rack over waxed paper. Let the glaze cool until it feels slightly warm to the touch and pour over torte, starting in the center and letting it cover entire torte including sides (if you have used almost all the glaze and there are any uncovered spots on the sides of the torte, pour some glaze on top right above the spots and let it run down to cover them). Place torte on rack and refrigerate 20 minutes to set glaze. Remove glazed torte from rack to a clean serving plate and serve. You may want to let it warm up just a little to make serving easier.

 Makes 16 servings. Per serving: 410 calories, 5 grams protein, 32 grams fat, 33 grams carbohydrates, 96 milligrams cholesterol, 25 milligrams sodium, 71 percent calories from fat.

*Note: Bittersweet chocolate does contain some sugar but not as much as semisweet. We were unable to find bittersweet chocolate, so used 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate and 6 ounces semisweet chocolate in the torte. It worked fine.

**To toast pecans: Place nut halves in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden. Shake pan periodically to turn nuts. Let cool and then grind nuts.

Copyright © 2010 The Sun-Sentinel.

Tags: Food People · Today in the World of Food

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Food Editor Deborah Hartz-Seely Steps Down from Sun Sentinel // Feb 23, 2010 at 9:38 am

    […] her former colleague and friend Jan Norris interviewed her. Read Norris’ Q&A with Deb here.  She had quite an interesting […]

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