Tonia Moufaddal opened The Fig and the Olive (located inside the Residences at Daniel Webster, 246 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 417-7180, facebook.com/thefigandtheolivellcnh) with her sister Lisa Wilcox in July 2016. Since they were kids, Moufaddal has loved to bake while Wilcox is always the cook, so when an opportunity to open a restaurant came up, they decided to merge their talents and take on the endeavor as partners. Moufaddal hadn’t considered making baking more than a hobby until a chef-instructor at her high school culinary program told her she had talent and encouraged her to take it a step further. She went on to work as a baker at the Bedford Village Inn, Saint Anselm College and The Black Forest Cafe before opening The Fig and the Olive.
What is your must-have kitchen item?
My KitchenAid mixer. It makes my job easier not having to do certain things by hand. I can do bigger batches a lot faster and more efficiently.
What is your favorite ingredient to bake with?
A really rich butter. I use salted Cabot Creamery butter. It’s more money, but totally worth it, especially in a pie dough or puff dough where the only ingredients are butter, flour, salt and water.
What would you choose for your last meal?
Cheesecake. Cheesecake is my weakness.
What is your favorite local restaurant?
My husband and I love the Puritan. I love the chicken fingers there. They’re really great.
What celebrity would you like to see eating at your restaurant?
Tom Hanks. I think he’s so down-to-earth and a nice guy, and I love him as an actor. I’ll watch him in anything.
What is your favorite thing on your menu?
Our kale salad. I eat it almost every day and take it home on the weekends if we don’t sell it. It has an apple cider vinaigrette with radishes, pecans, dried cranberries, apples, blue cheese. I love the combination. And it goes great with our zucchini burgers.
What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
Definitely gluten-free and eating local. I’ve seen the gluten-free thing constantly while working in bakeries. Whether it’s for people with celiac or just a lifestyle choice, it’s in high demand. And local food, we try to use as much as we can to do our part and support other businesses, and people who come in like to see that here.
What is your favorite meal to cook at home?
My husband and I make a chicken Moroccan tagine, which is almost like a type of stew. You make it in a tagine pot with chicken, peas, Moroccan spices, carrots, potatoes, then you eat from the same dish with a loaf of bread.