Since adjusting to being back in the Hometown it has become more and more clear to me that I want to pursue a culinary career. No matter how long or tiring a day I’ve had, I’m always eager to get home to my kitchen to try out a new recipe or whip up a familiar batch of cookies. And while I’ll be the first to admit that many of my interests can be intense, but fleeting, this joy from all things alimentary has been a constant in my life pretty much as long as I can remember. I’ve been concerned that to turn this passion into work might somehow cause it to disintegrate and no longer be enjoyable, but the more I reject the possibility on those grounds, the more I simply don’t see an alternative. To push aside this love and skill of mine would simply be nonsensical.
Of course, coming to this conclusion has only been just the beginning of turning this new direction into a reality. I want start from a fancially stable place, meaning this is not in the immediate future, and, most importantly, I want to find a culinary school that supports my values, as most well-know schools (CIA, Cordon Bleu, etc) tend to have a very strong French/ Classic/ decidedly un-veggie focus. Much research has turned up a couple of options: The Natural Gourmet Academy in NYC and Bauman College, with branches in Berkley and Boulder. Both offer a curriculum based around health-supportive vegetarian and vegan cuisine, with additional units on humane meats. The very fact that these schools are out there is immensely exciting to me. My personal decision to follow a predominantly vegan diet, beginning a couple of years ago, has transformed my relationship with food. The possibility to create and share this sort of food, that is not only delicious but also key in lessening the environmental degradation, human suffering, and lack of personal responsibility that is so rampant in our world, is even more exciting. But, of course, the power of food extends beyond responsibility or health. It’s also about community, comfort, culture and tradition.
In that vein, I’ve dreamt up a fascinating project to dip my toes in the world of culinary education. I have decided to veganize the Culinary Institute of America’s standard textbook, The Professional Chef. There are many fantastic vegan cookbooks out there these days, but I’ve found a frustrating dearth of tomes that focus on the fundamentals of cuisine – the how and why of recipes. Particularly when attempting to adjust or recreate animal-based recipes using vegan ingredients, I find it absolutely fundamental to understand the role each ingredient plays in the dish—are the eggs acting as stabilizers? emulsifiers? adding bulk? moisture? lift? By starting with a book which does focus on these fundamentals, I hope to create my versions of each recipe from the ground up.
I intend to make my way through the techniques and recipes, adapting them to vegan ingredients, as much as possible. There are several chapters focusing on meat, poultry and fish. I will not attempt to duplicate all of these recipes with faux-meats, instead I plan on experimenting with the flavors, textures and techniques, exploring ways to incorporate the appeal of many of these recipes into vegetable ingredients. The same goes for the egg and dairy-centric recipes. That having been said, I anticipate that my approach will evolve with my progress. My goal is to translate much of the tradition, history and science that runs deep throughout the sort of classic Euro-American fine cuisine found in this book, and so many others like it, into a completely new way of thinking about food, health and the environment.
Wish me luck!
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