Jill from Colombia, Mo., was stumped.
Her pasta recipe called for leeks. Not having a clue what leeks were, she threw in broccoli instead.
That’s where chef Billy Parisi came in.
After some good-natured ribbing (“Jill, only God knows why you substituted broccoli for leeks in this dish”), Parisi showed her what a leek was and how to slice and clean it. And in a matter of minutes, he walked her through the recipe — all streamed from his Humboldt Park kitchen to the Internet.
Parisi, 27, is the face and culinary talent behind the three-month-old Web site, www.FixMyRecipe.com,which, as the name implies, helps hapless cooks with recipes that are failing them.
Think of it as a virtual Dear Abby for the kitchen challenged.
Or, as business partner Thatcher Kamin says, “It’s Mr. Food meets 2009.”
Or, as one of their buddies says, “It’s ‘Pimp My Ride’ meets Emeril Lagasse.”
Whatever the comparison, it appears the Web site, which is updated daily, is in a category all its own.
The Internet is littered with cooking and recipe Web sites, but most deal with someone else’s recipes, not your own. Web-based services such as ChefsLine.com, which employs professional chefs, talk you through a recipe live — for a fee.
FixMyRecipe.com, which launched in November, is free. Viewers submit their problem recipes by e-mail.
Parisi, a Detroit native and graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, reviews each recipe to see where it, or the cook, might be going wrong.
Within a week, he and Kamin take to Parisi’s kitchen to tape a two-minute video “fix” and post it on the site.
“This sounds like one of those unique ideas like Threadless Tees [the Chicago T-shirt company],” says Chris Haack, senior market analyst at market research firm Mintel. “It’s creating a sense of community.”
And it’s hitting at a time when people say they are cooking more at home.
“People may not be going out buying expensive cookware, but they might go online to a recipe Web site because it’s interactive, cheap and fun,” Haack says.
Though Parisi and Kamin are interested in careers in TV production, neither can take credit for the idea. That goes to their investors, onion producers in Florida who met Parisi last March during the Fancy Food Show.
Parisi, a waiter at the time for a downtown steakhouse, waited on their table. They all got to talking, and the Floridians told him they were looking for a chef for a new online venture.
“I thought, I’m not going to call these people. They’re not serious,” Parisi says.
But he did, and they were.
Parisi and Kamin, 26, a LaGrange native with a degree in broadcast journalism, have filmed about 80 fixes since the Web site launched.
Recipe problems usually fall into one of three categories — baking, flavor enhancement and recreating a recipe. Parisi says he often can tell what the problem is just by looking at the recipe.
He has helped a woman who wanted to lighten up a flourless chocolate cake recipe by omitting the butter altogether and another who was trying to revive a 100-year-old family recipe for stuffing made with potatoes.
It’s a bare-bones operation. Parisi shops for groceries in the morning (“They know me really well at Dominick’s,” he says). After lunchtime, Kamin dons a headset and sets up the camera in Parisi’s box of a kitchen.
During a recent shoot, Parisi wore socks and flip-flops with his jeans. Kamin, also in jeans, opted just for socks.
“Dude, that is going to be awesome,” Parisi said off camera as he finished layering a lasagna (the recipe was from a college friend whose version of lasagna typically includes “a can of Ragu and ground beef”).
Still on the agenda after an hour of cooking and filming: bruschetta and buttermilk biscuits.
Leftovers often are distributed to Parisi’s neighbors in the building — all guys.
The site isn’t exactly a moneymaker yet. Kamin says the plan is to provide media companies with a widget for their own Web sites, for a fee.
“It’s sustainable content,” Kamin says. “You’re never going to run out of recipes to be fixed.”