Tiny Chef Melanie Meyer

Chef Melanie Meyer (right) co-owns Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef with Chris Ward.

While honoring stay-at-home orders, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, baked goods and more.

Melanie Meyer is the chef and co-owner of Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef at The Silver Ballroom. The homegrown pizza and Korean street food operation is temporarily closed for business along with the bar but is offering intermittent curbside frozen pizza and Tiny Chef specials for pickup via The Silver Ballroom's side window. Check the business' Facebook page for updates. Gift cards are also available via Square.

What is one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen? Stock! Save veggie and meat scraps for stocks. Use the stock for adding additional flavor to soups, rice, etc. The water used to rinse rice can also be used to thicken up soups and stews (Koreans do this)! Any leftover rice can be brought back to life by sautéeing it with a little oil, stock and veggie accompaniments.

How can home cooks stretch out their ingredients? Boil whole cloves of garlic in olive oil (garlic confit) and freeze in ice cube trays for future use. When buying bulk meat, pre-portion them in freezer bags. Take a portion out of the freezer the day before you cook your meal and thaw it in the refrigerator. And get your supplies from local Asian markets (especially now)! My personal favorites are Jay International, Pan-Asia Supermarket, Global Foods Market and East Seoul Oriental Store. You can always find so many delicious treasures in any of those places.

What is a convenient, comforting meal you like to make with pantry staples? Koreans have this meal called budae jjigae and it basically translates to army stew. It was created to scrounge up any and all materials at hand, cooked in a giant pot to share. It has since adapted in many ways. My personal favorite is fresh veggies, egg, Spam and cheese with a very spicy Korean ramyun pack.

How do you make a well-balanced rice bowl? I personally love all different flavors and textures: crunchy, chewy, soft, tangy, spicy, savory. The more I can add, the happier I am! Just don’t forget to top with a runny egg, as the yolk will add more depth and flavor. I personally enjoy roasted and sautéed pork belly, kimchi, mushroom, sesame, cucumbers and a spicy sauce. An easy, on-the-fly sauce would be sesame oil, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, chile paste and garlic chiles, but make your own! Make sure to put your own personal touches in your dishes.

What tips can you offer people hoping to make their own kimchi? Don’t be afraid! There are over 200 kimchi variations in Korea alone, so do your research and get to work. Always wear gloves and taste as you go. You won't have the fermented product right away, but it's always key to judge salt and spice factor before that process begins. When I make my kimchi, I always use fresh ingredients. Go to your local Asian market and pick up their daikon, napa, carrots, etc. for your own kimchi. I usually let mine sit out for about three full days before jarring it all up and refrigerating it. The fermentation process slows down exponentially in cooler temps and that will help extend the shelf life.

What is Dalgona coffee, and how do you make it? So this dream-like, fuel-induced coffee beverage recently went viral from South Korea, but I think it originated in India. It’s just equal parts instant coffee, sugar and boiling water that’s been whipped into submission, creating a cloud-like texture. Pour over milk and enjoy! Once you’ve tried the OG, go from there and add spices, booze, candies, etc. This is why food is so much fun – there are so many ways to make a single thing. Get creative, you have the time!