It’s Mary, Of Course

Mary Haglund, owner of Breakfast of Course (Mary’s, Too!) in Winston-Salem, loves to make people happy, and it shows at her restaurant and in her cooking. We asked her about her love of food, people, and North Carolina. Later this week, we’ll post an honest discussion we had with Mary about the ups and downs of being in restaurant business.

Starting with the basics:
Occupation: Owner of Breakfast of Course (Mary’s Too!) in Winston Salem. Where are you from? Gary, Indiana. Same town Michael Jackson was born in, but I was born a little before him. When did you move to North Carolina? Let’s see, I moved to North Carolina about 34 years ago from Indiana.

What do you love best about North Carolina? Well, I’ve been all around the world and did a lot of moving in my life. I came here and it was a beautiful place. Where I am from is flat, but there are hills here. Here, you are four hours from the beach and four hours from the mountains. It’s got everything, especially Winston Salem, which doesn’t have big city problems. North Carolina and Winston Salem – I guess it was a love affair.

What type of music do you listen to when you’re cooking in the kitchen? Jazz, I am a one hundred percent jazz girl. I like the Blue Note Years and some modern stuff.

Top 5 favorite foods? (anything goes) (1) I LOVE really good Mexican food. Not the general Americanized stuff. Along with that, New Mexican food. (2) Curries and Thai food. (3) Love, love, love really good vegetarian food. Creative vegetarian food. I don’t eat a lot of dairy, even. The older I get, I just have to eat lighter food. (4) I love Italian food. (5) I love Mediterranean food.

What is your comfort food? My number one is toast. Toast is such a comfort food, especially with a cup of tea. My favorite thing to cook is soup. I could live for the rest of my life with really good soup. I make all the soups in the restaurant; they are all homemade.

Mary and her husband eating homemade pop tarts

Are there any foods you won’t eat/try? I hate okra. I’m not Southern, and I’ve just never been able to get used to it. It’s slimy. I’ve developed a taste for a lot of Southern things, but that’s just not one of them. Also, I’m not French and I just won’t eat a lot of brains. I don’t like it.

What is the last memorable meal you’ve eaten recently? Quite frankly, I had a great meal last night. I cooked for my (middle) daughter and two of my three grandchildren. It was total comfort food. We had BLTs with tempeh bacon along with mac and cheese and applesauce, and it was just really fun.

The ingredient you currently can’t stop using is: There is an ingredient that I cook with all the time, and it is the New Mexico Hatch Chiles. I get them imported from a woman in Santa Fe. They have such a specific flavor because they are grown in that Mexican climate. The chiles’ combination of peppers are just beautiful. That’s why people get addicted to my different chilis.

You have a day with absolutely no obligations. How do you spend it? I have days like that, which are rare, of course, in this business, and I don’t get to be home as much as I like. My husband, three dogs and I are renovating an old home from the 1920’s, and it is my sanctuary. I love hanging out at home. We just hang out, watch TV, work in the garden… it’s very relaxing.

What do you cook at home that you never cook at the restaurant? I don’t think there’s much of anything because my food is pretty much integrated. I can’t really think of anything. The food we make at the restaurant is pretty reflective of food that I make at home.

What are some cooking challenges or techniques you would like to tackle? Yes! my grandmothers: they were a big influence as far as cooking, and they made the most beautiful pie crusts. My life goal is to make a perfect pie crust before I die, and I’ve tried my whole life. Dough is one of those things where it’s all by feel and you have to know it’s perfect.

Who is one person you’d love to cook with? Right now, because I love Mexican and New Mexican Food so much, I’d love to cook with Rick Bayless (the guy who does Frontera Grill), just so I could learn.

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