Peggy Fallon is the author or co-author of eight cookbooks, and has contributed to dozens more as a recipe developer, tester, and editor. Born on Thanksgiving, Peggy remains passionate about the preparation and enjoyment of good food. In addition to being a longtime member of the SFPFS, she is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Bakers’ Dozen, and Consumer Business Professionals of San Francisco.

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When did you first decide you wanted to make food your career?
After working in the corporate world for a number of years, I craved a creative outlet. I took a phenomenal number of cooking classes in my off-hours, and gained a bit of a reputation for entertaining. (Well, at least among my circle.) Due to popular demand I began catering for friends on weekends and in my spare time. It was exhausting, but I loved the challenge. I found planning menus and cooking far more rewarding that sitting in front of a computer, and eventually got up the nerve to quit my day job and start my own catering business.

As it turns out I still spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, but the subject matter is a lot more fun.

How did you get where you are today in the food business?
I honestly have to credit the SFPFS.

Very early on I catered a cocktail party where one of the guests was Gabby Saylor, a SFPFS member. She came into the kitchen with some very kind words about my food and encouraged me to join the SFPFS—a group I had never even heard of at that time. I jumped at the opportunity to connect with other food professionals.

I learned a lot during 7 years of catering. Mostly that I didn’t want to cater any more.

Through the SFPFS I met dozens of people—many of whom have become lifelong friends—who encouraged me to explore other facets of the business, like food styling, recipe testing and development, and teaching. I was your basic freelancer, dabbling in a bit of everything. While helping another SFPFS member work her cookbook, her editor suggested I branch out on my own.

What is your favorite food experience?
I suppose I should expound on some fancy-schmancy restaurant meal—and there have been many wonderful ones—but there is one quirky memory that always makes me laugh.

I was working with Lonnie Gandara, who at that time was a food consultant for Macy’s. It was the ‘70’s—the golden age of food in the Bay Area. For one of their many promotional gigs, Macy’s asked us to make the World’s Largest Chocolate Truffle. (Never mind The Guinness Book of World Records had no such category.)

How much did it weigh? We have no idea; but it was definitely large. We had to hire a medical transport company to deliver it—on a stretcher—to Macy’s.

The Truffle took on a life of its own. We decided it needed a decorative paper cup as a finishing touch, so we purchased a huge pleated white lampshade at a hardware store on West Portal, and convinced the owner to cut it down to one-third of its original height. Macy’s constructed a refrigerated glass case to preserve it, and customers actually stood in line to take a peek. Seriously.

The Truffle was mentioned in Herb Caen’s column. We even accompanied The Truffle (in the back of the ambulance again) to and from a local television appearance. Lonnie and I waited in the green room with the Smothers Brothers while The Truffle was wheeled onstage.

When all was said & done Macy’s’ chocolate promotion was deemed a huge success, and the truffle was donated to Meals on Wheels.

If you had one last meal, what would it be?
I’m not really sure, but it would probably involve mashed potatoes.

What is the most exciting thing going on in food right now, in your opinion?
Molecular cooking is kind of a big “meh” to me, but cooking with the seasons never disappoints…and usually tastes a heck of a lot better.

I realize I’m dating myself here, but I can actually remember when it was a Very Big Deal to find fresh mushrooms at a supermarket. I am delighted the farm-to-table movement is here to stay.

What advice do you have for young people who wanted a career in food?
Stay involved, and keep your options open.

What condiment is always in your refrigerator?
The usual suspects: a gazillion kinds of mustard; tapenade; harissa; capers; cornichons; Calabrian chiles; piquillo peppers; pickled jalapenos; and of course mayonnaise. (After a lifetime devotion to Best Foods, I am a recent convert to Dukes. I buy it on Amazon.) And of course I have all those crazy little jars of Asian chile pastes and sauces.

The “condimentia” takes up a lot of real estate in my refrigerator.

 

What is your go-to recipe for entertaining?
I wish I had enough sense to have a tried-and-true recipe for entertaining, but it seems I’m always experimenting on my friends. Sometimes the results are brilliant. Other times, not so much.

Where do you shop for food?
Now that I live in a rural part of Petaluma, I am spoiled by all the local farm stands. Green String Farms is my neighbor; and of course I also patronize Petaluma’s weekly farmers’ market. For less perishable items I shop Petaluma Market, Thistle meats, Trader Joe’s, and Costco.

 

What project are you working on now?
At this point in my career I can be more selective about the jobs I take. I still write a monthly column for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association; teach occasionally; and do a fair amount of recipe testing for several cookbook publishers. I also do some recipe development and editing for other cookbook authors. I enjoy the fact that I am continually learning.

Have you held SFPFS board positions in the past?
I served as SFPFS Secretary for 3 or 4 terms. Many moons ago I was also Barbecue Co-Chair; and spent one term as Parliamentarian.