by Eric Barton | March 26, 2020

Quarantine Eating? Chef Lindsay Autry Tells us Not to Feel Guilty About That Potato Chip Problem

The South Florida chef shares tips on how to cook yourself through a global pandemic


Chef Lindsay Autry is a downright savant at turning the simple dishes we loved as a kid into something truly special.

It’s a skill that will undoubtedly help these days, with restaurants around the state shuttered and stay-at-home orders meaning we’re going to be spending a lot more time cooking for ourselves. How do we handle all this home cooking without it getting too repetitive?

We asked Autry, chef at The Regional Kitchen & Public House, for suggestions. She came up with solutions we can all use, including how to stock a pantry, ways to make fried rice a stellar leftover meal and why potato chip binging should be guilt free.

What items should be in a well-stocked pantry?

Simple ingredients like rice, whole grains, dried or canned beans, canned tomatoes and spices will lend to many variations of meals. Fresh vegetables are great if you have them, but go ahead and cook them and freeze them for later use if you have an abundance. 

Do you have a go-to recipe made from items you can always find on your kitchen shelves?

I really love fried rice, and it can be something made with just a few ingredients like garlic, sesame seeds, eggs and green onions. Or you can be more elaborate with fresh vegetables and protein. I also apply the same technique of fried rice with other grains like farro or quinoa if I am trying to use up some of those grains that I bought but haven’t put to use.

Is there a guilty pleasure in your kitchen that you eat when nobody’s looking? A frozen pizza, bag of pork rinds or a Moon Pie?

My guilty pleasure is Ripples Potato Chips and store-bought onion dip. It was something that I grew up having as a snack, and I’ve never gotten away from it. I’ve made my own fancy versions in the past, but store-bought is my favorite.

Growing up, was there a staple pantry dish? And knowing this is a thing you do well (I’m thinking of your tomato pie, which I’m taking to that hypothetical deserted island), have you ever tried to improve it?

My grandmother was Greek and always would make a pot of rice seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and then would put either fresh tomatoes from the garden on top, or if they were out of season, we would stew down canned plum tomatoes to put on top. It is such a simple but nostalgic dish that is easy and satisfying.

Everyone is likely going to get pretty tired of the simple stuff: pasta and red sauce, mac and cheese, beans and franks. Any thoughts on how to make some of those staple recipes more exciting?

Use up the spices that have just been sitting in your pantry since the last adventurous time you cooked. Spice up your basic pasta dish with fennel seeds, crushed red pepper flakes and dried sage. A can of beans can be very versatile and made into a delicious stew with other vegetables, a soup with pasta or rice or even spiced with curry and coconut milk for something different.

With all this time we’ve got hunkering down, this might be the opportunity to take on something tough, a dish that takes hours. Any advice?

As a chef, my favorite way to pass the time is to cook. But even for someone that is not a professional, taking on a lengthier cooking project is so satisfying once it’s completed. Take on a braising project. The grocery stores are low on proteins that are in high demand like steaks, chicken breasts and chops. So braise a pork shoulder or short ribs. It takes time but will be well worth it and also is great to repurpose throughout the week into a pasta dish, tacos and more.

Read more about Chef Lindsay Autry