Judi Gallagher has had a love affair with food since she was a child.
She said she grew up in Manchester, Conn. in one of those sterotypical Jewish families where everyone asks what's for lunch while eating breakfast.
When she got her first easybake oven she immediately began improvising with the cake recipes and then began selling her creations. And when Gallagher was in the 5th grade she hosted her first full-fledged dinner party, featuring stuffed baked potatoes, chicken with a Corn Flakes crust and lemon meringue pie for dessert.
She knew even back then that her love for food was not a passing flirtation. She was in love with the craft and wanted to be a chef. Her mother didn't encourage her to go professional, after all women didn't become chefs when she was a child. But Julia Childs was on television and Gallagher saw her as a role model and went headlong into her career.
Gallagher went to Johnson and Wales in Providence Rhode Island after getting out of high school, graduating in 1980. In 1984 she opened her first restaurant in Boston. Early in her career she owned two restaurants in Boston and a dessert company just north of Boston.
If you think food isn't central to her life then consider this:
She met her husband because he was a regular customer at her restaurant.
She moved to Sarasota 16 years ago after coming down for years and dining at Ophelia's on the Bay. She finally sold her own restaurants and moved mostly for the sunshine, but partly for the food.
Only partly, because back then there were far fewer restaurant options in Bradenton, Sarasota and even Tampa than there are today.
Soon after moving to the area she became the General Manager at Ophelia's where she stayed for five years. In that time she became involved in charity events, did some cooking demonstrations and started writing about food and then eventually became a television chef, first for Blab-TV and then for ABC-7. While she's still creating meals on television, she has broadened her work and is now a restaurant consultant for eateries throughout Tampa Bay.
Her gig as a writer, restaurant consultant and TV chef offers her "the best of all possible worlds," she said. "I get most holidays off and I still get to get my hands wet."
She has become an authority on the area's restaurants and recipes. And she plans to share her expertise with our Patch readers. Keep an eye out for Chef Judi's blogs on Patch.