Becky Windels of The Herb Box

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Chef Becky Windels' career is a culinary Cinderella story. Once upon a time when she was waiting tables, Windels was offered the opportunity to help start a catering business. When a chef friend backed out of the project, Windels began reading cookbooks cover to cover so that she could take his place.

Now more than fifteen years later, Windels and business partner Susan Smederovac-Wilcox own a successful restaurant mini-chain called The Herb Box, which recently added new locations at Scottsdale's SouthBridge and inside the Lifetime Fitness athletic club just outside of Minneapolis. 

While preparing for hefty Bowl Championship Series crowds this week at SouthBridge, Windels took a few moments to chat with us about her childhood, her love of veggies and the ingredients she can't live without. 

Was one of your parents a good cook? Both of my parents are. They didn't work in the industry, but they always cook together so amazingly. Everything tastes perfect. My family is from the South, so I had a lot of Southern influences. But healthy stuff.

Lunch box treats: All the other kids had candy bars and Snickers and all that, and I had to have those Tiger Milk bars. The sweetest thing that we had was peanut butter and honey.

Favorite dish from home: My mom always made things from scratch. She baked her own bread. She made amazing liver and onions. I liked it as kid, but not now.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I never thought I would be a chef. I was always into art, commercial art. I thought I would go in that direction, but I've never been able to sit down long enough to devote four years to college! What attracted you to the culinary world? My interest in food started very young. This is when I was 7 or 8. My father was Air Force. We lived off-base, so I wasn't one of those military Air Force brats.

We always lived in the country in these amazing little communities. We got to meet people and I tasted very unique flavors. I remember having some Malaysian food and some Indian food and I liked it. I liked that big, bold flavor. 

Food crush: I love spaghetti squash. I like mine with goat cheese. I wish instead of pizza delivery I could call someone to bring me a spaghetti squash!

You're so healthy. Do you ever eat fast food?  I should be honest here. I'll do it if I'm desperate, if I have to eat. I'll do Taco Bell, the vegetarian items like the bean burrito. I won't do fast food meat at all unless it's In-N-Out Burger. I know that they source all of their meat from one location, so I'm ok with that.

Must-have ingredients: Sea salt and pepper. I'm really staunch on having things perfectly seasoned. I want the perfect balance.

Tune in tomorrow for info on Chef Windels' New Year's resolutions, and check back on Thursday for a healthful recipe you'll love.

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