Randi Hirschman: Baked Bliss
An OKC chef’s appetite for knowledge
Photos by Shannon Cornman
Although she was born in Oklahoma City, Randi Hirschman’s parents moved to Ingleside, Texas, while she was still an infant. Growing up along the Gulf Coast in south Texas meant Tex-Mex, seafood and chips ‘n’ salsa as a kid. The family moved back to OKC when Hirschman was 16.
While she confesses to missing the frequency of Tex-Mex meals in south Texas, Hirschman, Chef de Partie at Nonesuch, said she’s never been a picky eater. She’s not kidding; frozen taquitos are one of her go-to guilty pleasures.
Hirschman attended Oklahoma State, where she got a Hotel and Restaurant Administration degree. That was her first experience working back of house, and she took to it quickly.
“I love the fact that there will always be something to learn,” she says. “There’s opportunity to get better, and I’m always creating something.”
The creative impulse served her well as a bartender, too. She spent some time behind the bar at O Bar at the Ambassador Hotel in Midtown before moving back to the kitchen at The Hutch on Avondale. She just couldn’t stay away from chef life.
“I miss the interactions with people and the interesting characters you meet as a bartender, but I feel more at home in restaurant kitchens,” she smiles. “Honestly, cooking just comes more naturally to me than bartending.”
Hirschman interned with Chef Kurt Fleischfresser and Chef David Henry, and now she works with Chef Colin Stringer, so her resume is remarkable already. One of the advantages of OSU’s HRAD program is the number of influential people students meet, and Hirschman points to those experiences – Wine Forum, Ranchers Club and chef events – as formative in her culinary career and decision making.
Education and personal development are core pursuits in her life, so much so that she has little free time. Not surprisingly, much of that is spent meeting friends for new food experiences or cocktails. “I love the cooking life because there is this ongoing challenge to learn more,” she says. “I don’t know much about it, and that drives me, and I love the task of combining and altering ingredients to create a dish that brings someone satisfaction.”
For her recipe, Hirschman chose focaccia bread, for two reasons: “It’s hard to mess up, and bread is my favorite thing to make. Kneading it and shaping it are some of the most rewarding things for me. The feel of the dough, flour everywhere, the science of baking, achieving balance of water to flour to yeast … and it’s delicious!”
► How It's Done
Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia Bread
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 tsp dry yeast
4.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups kalamata olives, halved (or any type of nice Greek olive)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup shaved ricotta salata
Place 2 cups warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over; stir with fork. Let the yeast bloom, at least 5 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, measure 4.25 cups flour and the salt. Pour in the yeast mixture and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky).
Once the mixture is combined well enough, pour out onto a clean, floured surface and knead dough until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoons if dough is sticky, about 10 minutes.
Form dough into ball. Lightly oil large bowl and add dough, turning over to coat well with the oil.
Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 90 minutes.
Punch down dough; knead into ball and return to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise again in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Coat 15x10-inch baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil.
Punch down dough. Transfer to prepared sheet.
Using fingertips, press out dough to 13x10-inch rectangle. Let dough rest 10 minutes.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over dough. Sprinkle olives, chopped rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes evenly over the dough.
Let dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.
Preheat oven to 475°F. Press fingertips all over dough, forming indentations. Bake the focaccia until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes. After out of the oven and slightly cooled, sprinkle the shaved ricotta salata over the focaccia.
(Optional) Lightly drizzle olive oil over the top, along with light sprinkle of Maldon salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
Serve bread warm or at room temperature.