Last night my dad handed me a book he checked out from his library. He recently ordered it. One of the perks of being a branch manager is having access to all of your new inventory almost immediately. A few months ago, when he ordered the late and great Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", I was the first to get my hands on it. I'm the first to get my hands on this one, also. "Culinary Careers: How to get your dream job in food with advice from top culinary professionals" by Rick Smilow and Anne McBride. (It has that new book smell, too!) Have I mentioned that I adore books? I do; very much. But that's a tangent for a different time.
At first glance it looked like one of those self-help books that don't really help yourself. You know...the books that ultimately damage your ego and make you feel like a failure? Yeah. You know those books. Honestly, I should know better than that. My dad has great taste. As I flipped through it I found so many big names in the culinary world like Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Gale Gand, Graham Elliot Bowles, Elisa Strauss, and Dan Barber. I am so consumed by these chapters and pages. The priceless advice these amazing people are able to give comes from talent, years of hard work, and knowing how to play your cards right. They all specialize in different fields of the culinary world. The point of the book is to show that there are so many options regarding food service other than being a chef. I was reading through the options and making some neat discoveries when something caught my attention: Specialty farmer.
Farming is something very near and dear to my heart. My momma's side of the family owns and operates a dairy and crop farm in south-central Pennsylvania. I spent lots of summers there feeding calves, digging in the garden, and playing in the cotton seed piles. As I got older, I started playing in the dirt and planting things at home. I discovered that I have a "green thumb". By the time I got to college, I thought that I would surely end up doing some sort of agriculture. I tried landscape architecture since that combines horticulture and drawing/design. It turned out that chemistry and math are enemies of mine. The core classes made me miserable and I was very unhappy with the path I'd chosen. I gave up on agriculture and horticulture and opted for the culinary world. Shock and surprise! I can still combine farming with cooking. It seems as though I'm going back to my roots. I just wish it had not taken me so long to really put more thought into this.
Farm-to-table. Sustainability. Cooking and Eating Seasonally. Using the best, freshest ingredients possible. Thank goodness consumers are becoming more aware of and familiar with these concepts. It's about time we started paying a bit more attention to what is on our plates. Dan Barber is a perfect example of a chef working to achieve these things; especially "farm-to-table". I've been a fan of his for a few years now. He's the chef and co-owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns- a restaurant in which all ingredients come from the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. It's a fully functional, four-season farm, teaching center, and restaurant. It is amazing and one of the places at the top of my "I must go there" list.
I want to do something like that. At the very least I'd like to have an herb and vegetable garden at my restaurant. I want to be a farmer and a chef when I grow up. I wonder where this path will lead me now. There's only one way to find out. But first, I really want to finish this book.
I know I've already put up a few links within the post, but here's a few more to check out if you have some time to spare:
Definition of sustainability in a global sense here.
Really good article from the ACF here.