About Me

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We started this school from scratch because we wanted to do it better and to do it right. We believe in good food. We believe in education. We believe in the communion that takes place between people sitting down together over an expertly crafted meal. We believe that learning to cook and bake should be affordable. We believe that solid skills, proper technique, educated palates, and comprehension of kitchen math are the cornerstones for cooks with futures, so that is what we teach. We are not perfect, but we strive for perfection. We expect our students to work hard and try every day and every minute. We expect the same from ourselves. We have heard our graduates referred to as 'Kitchen Ninjas' (at which we laugh but think that the term might fit). We do not want to take over the world. But we do want to make it a better place, filled with better cooks and bakers, better food, and a higher awareness of what it means to cultivate, harvest, render, prepare, cook, plate, present, savor, and give thanks, while taking responsible steps to make sure that those who come after us will have the same or better opportunities.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hello everyone! It's been awhile and a lot has changed! For those of you wondering what we have been up to, check out our new Blog here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

True Grits - Chef Instructor Paul Warner

Chef Warner teaches second term culinary students in the PM shift.

How did you learn to cook? 

My mother was a baker.  She baked bread for a local restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts, where I grew up.  The guy who owned the restaurant gave us a mixer and would drop off ingredients and she would make bread at home while she watched the kids and my dad worked.  We would be running around playing and she taught me how to make pies and cakes and breads and by the time I was seven or eight I would know how to make all kinds of things.  The first recipe I memorized was oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  We never had store bought food in our house.  Twinkies were a treat because we never had them.  We’d barter home made cookies for that kind of stuff at school.  A dozen home made cookies – that’s power in elementary school.  But I always knew I was going to be a chef.  I always loved it.  Other members of my family, a few of them were in the food business, there was always food around.  You couldn’t walk into Grandma’s house without being fed.
When did it get serious for you? 

Well, I joined the 4H “Chef’s Club” when I was 12, which was run by the same chef who owned the restaurant my mother worked for.  He would bring in a group of kids and for four hours he’d teach us new stuff everyday.  The first thing we learned was crepe suzettes.  You teach a boy to set food on fire and he’s hooked.  But we learned how to make a roux, all the mother sauces, how to make pasta, a good deal of desserts like crème caramel and chocolate mousse.  We always made some kind of app, entrée, sides and desserts every Saturday for two years.  At the 4H competitions there were animal husbandry and gardening projects and there I was competing in the cooking and baking competitions, and often winning.  We were a farming community.  We always ate fresh-off-the-farm food. 

I got a job as a dishwasher in the same restaurant between my sophomore and junior year of high school.  I worked my way up, and by Christmas they let me start cooking.  I was on the pantry station.  It had an oyster bar, and I was shucking clams and oysters quite a bit.  From there, I moved over to short order and grill.  The first night I cooked on the hot line by myself was because the chef was passed out in the walk in.  The owner was really helpful – we might have fed about 30 people, but at the end I felt great.  I stayed there for a year after high school, then I got a job at a ski lodge in Vermont.  I had been accepted at CIA but had to wait.  After the snow melted, I came home and worked for a couple months hauling bricks for my dad – the only non food job I had (I hated it).  I started at CIA in June of ’79.  I walked up to meet the Dean of Students and as I’m shaking his hand, he told me that I needed to shave my sideburns and mustache or he wouldn’t let me go through admissions process so I had to go back to my car and dry shave.  At CIA, there were master chefs from other countries – it was a whole new world to me.  It was an amazing experience.

What did you do after the CIA?

I met a chef from Royal Orleans in the French Quarter in New Orleans at a job fair in Hyde Park and he hired me.  I borrowed $500 from my uncle and drove down there.  I went to work three days later and on the first day I made fried grits for 2,000 people at a big fundraiser for the Governor.  I had never seen grits before in my life and I would have been happy to have never seen them again after that.  I worked my way up and stayed for about a year.  There were about five languages spoken in the kitchen.  There was Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Italian -- it was the most intense kitchen I’d ever worked in.  I grew up working in restaurants in a town of 400 people.  This was culture shock.  I worked a lot and after work we’d hit the bars.  The social network there is tightly knit, and I met some great people.  I learned many dishes from their mothers and grandmothers, many of whom lived in the Ninth Ward, making red beans and rice, veal birds (a piece of veal stuffed with vegetables and pickles rolled off and braised with spicy gravy), collard greens, etouffe…I’ve learned more about cooking from grandmothers than a lot of the chef’s I’ve worked with.  I ended up pretty homesick and moved back to Massachusetts and got a job in a German bakery making pretzels, pastries, and breads.  We sold a lot of the pretzels to students (there were five colleges in the area) and I swear some students subsisted on those pretzels. 

How did you end up in Portland? 

It was 1982 and I needed a change of pace.  I called an old college friend to wish him Merry Christmas and he offered me a job at the Portland Hilton as his baker where he was the Executive Chef.  I hopped on a plane on Groundhog’s Day in 1983 and I went to work right away.  I was moved to the hot line as Sous Chef and I helped my friend clean house and turn the place around.  I mostly did banquets and ran the kitchen in the hotel. 

Did you stay there?

No, I moved to Richards 5th Avenue on the 21st Floor of the First Interstate (now Wells Fargo) building.  That restaurant closed in ’85 and I travelled for a few years.  A guy I knew named Art Marshall called me when I was working at a bakery, he wanted me to be the Executive Chef in the cafeteria division of the food service company he was running (they supplied food for cafeterias all over Portland – Textonic, Intel, places like that).  Some places fed as many as 1,300 to 1,400 people at lunch.  Their system of cooking was something he called “stick cuisine,” in which each kitchen had a pot and a stick and everything was pre-measured.  He wanted me to go to each cafeteria and teach the cooks how to actually cook (mostly large batch cooking).  These employees had been doing the same thing for 20 years and I had to show them how to do it differently, and they didn’t necessarily want to do it.  I learned a lot about showing a lot of people what to do without pissing them off.  While working for Art, I met and married my first wife.  I got promoted to Executive Chef in the Entertainment Division of Tiffany Food Service, which included Multnomah Greyhound park, Autzen Stadium, OSU entertainment for all athletics, and Portland Meadows.  We seated as many as 900 on the fourth floor of Multnomah Greyhound Park, which was the largest restaurant in Oregon at the time.  I stayed there for six years.

Did you ever think about opening your own place?

Yes, in fact.  When my daughter was 18 months old, we had the opportunity to buy a restaurant.  Unfortunately, I thought I knew more than I did.  We bought a place in NW Portland at the corner of NW 23rd and Overton and named it “Genevieve’s” after my daughter.  We were two blocks away from a new restaurant called Wildwood.  The only time we got really busy was when they had a wait of over an hour.  We had a half vegan menu, half local seafood and free range poultry, and no red meat.  We had an organic juice bar, made own breads and desserts, the food was gorgeous and people who ate there loved it, but we went broke in eight months.  The day we closed was the worst day in my life. 

What did you do?

I went back to Jake’s.  They had instituted a chef training program, and since I had worked there before, I got hired and went through the program.  They sent me to Denver to be the chef at McCormick’s Fish House, but losing the restaurant put me in a funk, and I wasn’t emotionally prepared for a new experience like that.  I moved my whole family there but I worked every day.  My daughter hardly recognized me, so we came back to Portland after about eight months in Denver.  My first marriage didn’t survive, but I did.  I was able to pick up a job with Tiffany Food Service and worked for them at Eastmoreland Golf Course.   An old friend was working at the Washington Park Zoo in 1999 and said the chef there had been let go, so I applied and got the job.

Chef Warner with Packy the Elephant's Birthday Cake

At the zoo, I was Executive Chef.  I ran the restaurant, catering, concerts, picnics, you name it.  The process by which we selected different food items was pretty intense.  When you taste 40 different kinds of hot dogs, you learn that they’re really not all the same.  But the formula we had in place was to get the best quality for the best price and there was a lot of research and negotiation that went into doing that for each food item.  But I had a lot of fun at the zoo.  We did a lot there with a rag-tag bunch.  We diverted up to 40 thousand pounds or more a week from landfills by composting.  We brought on a lot of externs which is how I got to know the folks from OCI.  This job is probably the only thing that would have taken me away from there.  I met (OCI Executive Chef) Wilke a few years ago and told him that teaching students is something I’d like to do.  It’s unbelievably satisfying.  I like to share information and teach and doing it in a real school environment was always appealing to me.  What we’re teaching people here is pretty impressive.  The ones who take their education seriously here can be very successful.  What stresses me most is when students miss class – if you miss a couple days there’s an enormous amount of information you’ve missed out on.  We don’t teach to give them a pass/fail grade, we teach so they actually learn something.  Watching someone go from not knowing how to peel an onion to seeing all these lights go off in the learning process, like flipping an egg or knowing how to tell when a steak is done, for me that’s all the fun.

What’s biggest surprise or challenge?

When I run into a student who is not taking it seriously.  They’re investing time and energy and money, and I have to wonder what they’re doing here.  But seeing that moment when someone who really wants to learn start to “get it” is very satisfying.  The ones who get the best grades in my class are the ones that show up every day and turn in homework.  If you’re going to miss shifts in this industry, you’re going to be unemployed a lot.  Chefs need their cooks to show up. 

Final thoughts?

It’s good to be me.  And I encourage singing in my kitchen.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chef Ramona White Teaches (and Practices) Food Ethics and Social Responsibility

Food Ethics and Social Responsibility (course description) - This dynamic course addresses issues in society regarding the commercialization of the modern farm. Students will have the opportunity to study marketing terms, their legal meaning and consumer perception, consumer protection laws and ethical responsibility, methods of raising/growing food and its social ramifications, and social health issues facing our society as a result of the modern industrialized food chain. Concepts such as sustainability, local, free range, and organic will be explored.

We recently sat down with the new instructor of the Food Ethics and Social Responsibility class, Chef Instructor Ramona White, to ask her a few questions about herself, the class, and how a chef wins the “Hottest Pepper” award from Chef’s Collaborative. 

Why are you qualified to teach the Food Ethics class?

Well, I’m not qualified to teach any class that has the word “ethics” in it.

Come on…

OK, I have a B.A. in Anthropology is the quick answer. The real answer, though, is that I have a hard time thinking of anything more important to me than local food security and supporting local agriculture and your local farmer. Maybe it’s because I like to eat and I love it here. I love the Willamette Valley and Oregon. When I first moved here in 1995, you couldn’t get local arugula. I’ve been a part of Chef’s Collaborative since about 2000 (I won the “Hottest Pepper” award in 2006, which the chef that uses the most local products in their business wins. That year, 100% of the product for my food cart was locally sourced). Because of Chef’s Collaborative, chefs and farmers began communicating and really working together. And the thing is, farmers brought things to chefs they hadn’t seen before and took a chance with things like arugula, all varieties of peppers and tomatoes and all sorts of stuff.

Where do you start with the class?

I start with “What is ‘ethics’?” “What is ‘social responsibility’? Even “What is ‘food’?” Then we start talking about food taboos and the history of agriculture.

How do you make a concept like “food ethics” something tangible and “hands-on” and not just academic?

Let me put it this way. Two out of three of the most intimate acts we do as humans are done in private, at least I hope, but eating is the one thing we do in public and socially. We take it for granted. Someone, somewhere right now is thinking “48 oz. or 36 oz. Big Gulp?” Before coming here, some of our students have never tasted a ripe tomato or a strawberry. We are going to do seasonal tastings each week. Local vs. shipped in product. Fruit, vegetables, seafood, eggs, and locally processed foods.

It’s Week One for your class. What comparison are you doing?

Well, this week’s comparative tasting is going to be on an American classic – the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, because anyone with kids pretty much has this as a staple in their house. At least it was a staple when I was growing up. I want to compare not just flavor and cost, but also the perception of an item based on marketing and packaging. The Western Family brand is touted as being “local,” but what exactly does that mean? Just because something is packaged here doesn’t necessarily make that product “local,” and there’s no legal definition for labeling your product as such. We don’t actually know the origin of the peanuts in the peanut butter. But the other sandwich will have hazelnut butter, and the hazelnuts are from Oregon. As for the bread, Franz is a local bakery, and we’re using their 12-grain bread which if you read the ingredients closely you see contains high fructose corn syrup. The other bread is NatureBake’s “Oregon Grains” bread. The preserves, same deal. The Western Family one has high fructose corn syrup and the other does not. Still, I want them to think about the fact that choosing Western Family over Jif or Skippy still means that at least they’re supporting the local economy.

What makes a cook or chef an ethical one?

The chefs I admire, like Greg Higgins and Cathy Whims, who were both instrumental in getting Chef’s Collaborative off the ground, are the ones who believe in an ethical responsibility to support local agriculture, being good to your employees, and practicing sustainability. If you say something is local, seasonal, and organic and there’s a perception that it’s going to be of higher quality, then you have an obligation to follow through on your promise. The more we buy from those farmers, the more they can support you. We owe the farmers and then have to represent them in the best light that we can.

What farms and food producers do you think are good role models for the industry?

Gales Meadow Farm grows heirloom vegetables and is a family farm, Kookoolan Farms, SuDan Farm, Fraga Farms Goat Cheese, Sweetleaf Farm --- these are people I know. Of those I don’t know, I think Truitt Brothers, Organic Valley, and Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project are allawesome. The whole local food security thing is important and the bean and grain project is really designed to help with that.

You recently watched the OCI Heritage Pig Project again. What are your thoughts on the project and the documentary?

The project was an amazing project. An amazing idea. To give students the unique opportunity to be able to taste those back-to-back and having them both raised within an hour’s drive of the school, to be able to see the farms, meet the farmers, to see the cycle almost from birth to death and then understand the difference between them and the costing…it was great. There was nothing proselytizing or preachy, it’s like how I teach my class, give them the info and don’t make a judgment about what’s better and give them the opportunity to make up their own minds. It’s like parenting. To be able to do this in an education environment, I think it changed those students deeply. How those students talked about it – it was powerful for them.

What is the goal, the intended educational outcome, of the Food Ethics class?

To become better critical thinkers about what is ethical consumption, in terms of purchasing and selling. How does one make food choices? I want to help them understand that they will be making purchasing decisions and I don’t want for that to be an afterthought. I don’t want to tell them what to think, but I do want them to think about the impact of buying this milk over that milk.

Are there any subject matters that you are adding to the curriculum?

The concept of food security is something we will be talking about in class. It’s more than just hunger and knowing where your next meal comes from.

This is heavy subject matter. How do you instill hope?

Honestly, it’s a big challenge. But every book I assign has an addendum about what any single person can do to be conscientious and part of a solution.  Some of the knowledge is not pretty or sexy but it’s empowering. They’re going to have a lot of difficult emotions and hopefully I will have an impact.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's All the Buzz About?

In February of 2009, OCI Executive Chef Brian Wilke decided that the school would purchase a couple Red Wattle heritage pigs, thus giving birth to the “OCI Pig Project.” At the same time, and not coincidentally, we launched the Food Ethics class as part of the management program curriculum. The project was a success on many levels, but most importantly for a culinary school like ours, it became a one-of-a-kind educational tool. This fact lead the OCI executive team to quickly decide to take on a similar project every year.

Introducing -- the 20011 “OCI Ethics in Food and Farms” project: “Plan Bee.”

Package Bees arriving at Ruhl Bee Supply
Timeline (links to video)
Package Bees ordered – February 2011
Bees Arrive at Ruhl Bee Supply and are picked up – April
Hive Installation #1 at OCI Chef Instructor Dan Brophy’s backyard garden
Hive Installation #2 at OCI graduate Stacy Givens’ The Side Yard Farm annex
Hive Installation #3 at Wealth Underground urban farm

Chefs Brophy, White, Wilke
Q&A with OCI Key Players
Woody Bailey, OCI Jack-of-all-Trades
Brian Wilke, OCI Executive Chef and Director of Education
Dan Brophy, OCI Chef Instructor (and Master Gardener)
Ramona White, OCI Food Ethics Instructor

How did “Plan Bee” originate?

Woody Bailey
Bailey: I think Chef Brophy brought up the idea because he had received a notice for a beekeeping class, and Chef Wilke liked it. So the two of them attended the class at Ruhl Bee Supply and from there, it was on.

Brophy: Keeping bees is a way you can eat locally and sustainably, and sugar is hard to find out in the wild. You can’t grow sugar cane in this climate. Also, as a gardener, more bees means more pollination and I’m very interested in that.

What’s “Plan Bee” all about?

Wilke: It’s another wild idea I let Dan Brophy talk me into (laughs). We want to make our students aware of the importance of bees in the homosapien picture. Einstein said if bees go away, humans have about four years left. The hive collapse issue, people don’t understand how critical it could be. It’s not just another sound bite on CNN. So we purchased a few hives and put them in a few different urban gardens around the area, and we’ll be documenting our experiences trying to grow healthy hives.

How concerned should we be about the health of the honeybees worldwide?

White: Because we depend on bees as a critical part of our food chain, we can’t afford not to pay attention to this. From an educational perspective, any food production process that students get to watch from beginning to the end is fascinating and important to understand.

Brophy: We’re hoping to learn more by going to see Queen of the Sun – but it’s pretty well documented that they’re having a hard time. All three farms we put our hives on are organic producers, and pesticides seem to be a part of the problem, so I think we’re helping out.

What’s your take on the project so far?

Bailey: We’re still early in the process, but I’ve already learned a lot. Like a culinary student coming into term one, there’s so much to learn and so many different levels of education. For example, just in terms of “package bees,” how the queen is introduced to a colony, how they’re distributed, how the hives are built and function, and most of all, the life cycle of the hive. I purchased What Makes Bees Buzz, Bee Hive Maintenance and Bee Maintenance just to educate myself.

Wilke:  I’d never kept bees before. When you’re actually looking at them and seeing and feeling them in the hive, it’s pretty amazing stuff. They’re bees, not dogs, so they don’t exactly sit if you ask them to. When Dan and I pulled the marshmallow out at Wealth Underground, they weren’t interested in us --they were all about the queen bee.

Chef Brophy and Stacy Givens at her Side Yard organic farm annex, installing the hive
Do you have much experience with bees?

Brophy: I’m a beginner but I’ve had native bees living at my place for three years -- I just haven’t known much about what they’re doing. But I put a bee box over the utility box they had made a hive out of and sold my first honey harvest from them last fall.

What’s different about the new hives that OCI acquired?

Brophy: I wasn’t familiar with package bees, but we ordered them through Ruhl Bee Supply and got our three pounds of bees that were shipped from Northern California. All three were installed with only the most minor of inconveniences.

What’s the next step in terms of the OCI hives?

Bailey: Next up is the seven week inspection of all three hives. We’re checking for the health of the hive, that the queen is intact, and that eggs have been laid. We also add another box, another level, to the hive, at that point.

Nolan (left) from Wealth Underground Farm and Woody Bailey (right) installing a hive
Any other reasons why “Plan Bee” is especially interesting or important?

White: Well, the students are going to experience terroir and how what the bees consume affects how the honey tastes. It’s the same with grapes or pigs or whatever, the fact that they get to understand the farming process and witness a farm that is trying to be completely integrative and sustainable as possible by completing as many cycles as possible, especially in an urban setting, on a small scale, is really exciting. The bonus is tasting local honey and seeing the difference between local vs. mass produced clover honey.

Bailey: I’d like to point out how passionate the beekeeping community is about what they are doing. It’s a tight knight community, and there is a lot of information sharing. For example, the sheer variety of honey types is due in part to this community of sharing. For me, the realization of the impact potential of beehive collapse, when you’re talking about 70% of all food produced (source) being contingent upon bee pollination, was an eye-opener. This made me appreciate this beekeeping community even more.

We will continue to post video and other info about Plan Bee on the OCI Facebook page throughout 2011 and for as long as the project continues to have educational value.

Friday, April 15, 2011

(Genetically Modified) Milk Does the Body No Good

by Culinary Management Degree student Michelle Toman

Beautiful green pastures and flowering meadows are a vision of the past. Today’s meat industry looks more like thousands of wire cages and pens, crammed tightly with sick and injured animals who never see a ray of sunshine, or even have room to turn around. Hormones are pumped into animals to induce quick growth, causing their limbs to succumb to the weight before they are given the opportunity to build the muscle to sustain it. Most animals are fed large quantities of corn, which is not a natural diet. Even chickens are foragers, who stay healthy on small bugs, grasses and seeds. Cattle, pigs, turkeys, ducks, geese and other animals require similar foraging diets to maintain health.

Today’s meat industry is focused heavily on quantity and devoid of quality. Problems with filth and poor diet have encouraged growth of contaminates such as salmonella and E. coli. As production levels continue to rise, so do instances of poisoning and even death, related to food borne illnesses.

The ugly fact of dairy and meat (especially beef) is that many large producers are extensively using growth hormones to boost supply. This is not a new issue, bovine growth hormones used in the United States to boost beef and milk production has been the focus of debate for some time now. Those asserting the safety and efficacy of rBST - including scientific institutions, government authorities and the dairy and pharmaceutical industries - have seen their reassurances dismissed and their credibility attacked. (http://www.articlesbase.com/causes-and-organizations-articles/growth-hormones-in-food-507273.html) (rbstfacts.org)

Hormones are used to make cattle grow faster and America’s dairy cows are given a genetically-engineered hormone to increase their milk production. Although the United Stated Department of Agriculture and the FDA claim these hormones are safe, there is growing concern that hormone residues in meat and milk might be harmful to human health and the environment.


The female sex hormone estrogen was also shown to affect growth rates in cattle and poultry in the 1930s. Once the chemistry of estrogen was understood, it became possible to make the hormone synthetically in large amounts. Synthetic estrogens started being used to increase the size of cattle and chickens in the early 1950s. DES was one of the first synthetic estrogens made and used commercially in the US to fatten chickens. DES was also used as a drug in human medicine and was found to cause cancer and its use in food production was phased out in the late 1970s. But although growing numbers of consumers and scientists have expressed concerns about potential human health risks of this practice, in the 1970’s the USDA and FDA had approved the use of six hormone growth promotants (HGPs) in the cultivation of beef. The six hormones include three which are naturally occurring; Oestradiol, Progesterone and Testosterone and three which are synthetic; Zeranol, Trenbolone, and Melengestrol and one more hormone used to increase milk productivity which is called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH for short) and also known as rBST. (envirocancer.cornell.edu), (articlesbase.com)

As early as the 1930s, it was realized that cows injected with material drawn from bovine (cow) pituitary glands (hormone secreting organ) produced more milk. Later, the bovine growth hormone (BGH) from the pituitary glands was found to be responsible for this effect. However, at that time, technology did not exist to harvest enough of this material for large-scale use in animals. In the 1980s, it became possible to produce large quantities of pure BGH by using recombinant DNA technology (Recombinant DNA is a form of artificial DNA that is created by combining two or more sequences that would not normally occur together through the process of gene splicing). In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), also known as bovine somatotropin (rBST) for use in dairy cattle. Recent estimates by the manufacturer of this hormone indicate that 30% of the cows in the United States (US) may be treated with rBGH. (envirocancer.cornell.edu)

When injected into cows, rBST (also known as rBGH) increases milk production 10-15% and in some cases up to 40%. 2011. (sustainabletable.org)


The hormone rBGH is normally administered to a cow via a hypodermic syringe. The injection is usually made in the animal’s hindquarters near the base of the tail. The increased amount of BST introduced into her body stimulates the cow to increase her intake of food and water. rBGH is designed to be used in synchronization with the cow’s natural lactation cycle. That cycle begins with very high milk production immediately following the birth of a calf. Sometime thereafter, milk production begins to decline and decreases at a fairly steady rate until she goes dry. rBGH is administered to cows just before their lactation cycle begins to go into decline. It has little effect on a cow in the first phase after freshening; the animal is then already at peak production and additional rBGH will generally not yield more milk. (rbstfacts.org)

The six hormone growth promotants are implanted or injected into cattle in various stages of maturity. The FDA, however, does not permit injecting calves with these hormones. The male hormone testosterone and its synthetic equivalent trenbolone acetate, and the female hormone progesterone--including three synthetic derivatives zeranol, 17 beta-estradiol, and melengestrol acetate (MGA)--are either implanted or injected into the cows. Melengestrol is a feed additive and is not injected, but added to the feedstock. Hormones are also said to help the animal improve its nutrient absorption. This translates into feedstock needed for the animal to reach its finish weight (market weight). Hormones help to improve meat quality by changing the distribution of fat, producing the lean meat that consumers desire. (articlesbase.com)

Industrial farms use a number of methods for increasing milk production in dairy cows, including selective breeding, feeding grain-based diets (instead of grass), and exposing cows to longer periods of artificial light. Yet, one of the most common and controversial ways to force greater milk production is to inject them with rBGH. (sustainabletable.org)

Manufacturers benefit from the use of the hormones manufactured by the company because it results in an estimated 12% increase in the US milk supply. However, it is argued that the US did not need higher milk supply. It is said that since the l950s, America's dairies have consistently produced more milk than the nation could consume, the surplus being bought up every year by the Federal Government to prevent the price from plummeting. (articlesbase.com)

Beef producers inject their cattle with growth hormones because they improve meat quality by increasing the development of lean meat and decreasing fat content. This increases feed efficiency thereby allowing more growth with less feed, and reduces costs for producers, thereby reducing the price of meat and meat products for consumers. (copperwiki.org)

In 1987, Monsanto submitted to the FDA a new animal drug application for Posilac, a synthetic growth hormone that increases milk production in dairy cows (also known as an rBST or rBGH). It took Monsanto over six years to bring rBST to market, and Monsanto supplemented the application with studies and reports documenting the safety and effectiveness of the drug. They contend that rBST is a supplement used to help cows produce more milk. Because of the fact that the supplement is injected into the cow and not the milk, they insist that the resulting milk is exactly the same. After reviewing those materials, the FDA approved Monsanto’s application for the use of Posilac in 1993. In January 1994, a Congressional task force concluded that the FDA’s position was adequately supported. The FDA relied solely on one study administered by Monsanto in which rBGH was tested for 90 days on 30 rats. The study was never published, and the FDA stated the results showed no significant problems. (sustainabletable.org)


In addition to approving rBST for public use, the FDA had to determine whether milk from rBST treated cows should be labeled differently than regular milk. Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords asked the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to formally investigate the FDA's approval of rBST in 1998 especially since the FDA employee in charge of labeling guidelines for rBST, Michael R. Taylor, had been a Monsanto vice president. And the FDA researcher charged with evaluating rBST levels in milk had done the same work at Monsanto. (Rosenberg)

Besides enforcing requirements necessary to ensure that the labeling is not false or misleading, the FDA is prohibited from placing some additional requirements on labeling - the agency cannot require labeling based solely on differences in the production processes of identical foods. After an extensive agency investigation, the FDA found that there was no material difference between milk from rBST-treated cows and milk from non-rBST-treated cows, and accordingly it could not impose additional labeling requirements. The standard for determining if two foods are the same is a materiality standard. Materiality relates to nutritional, organoleptic, or functional characteristics of the food. In general, the FDA has not found that foods from genetically modified organisms are different than their conventional counterparts. Therefore, the FDA could not require any additional labeling of rBST milk. (fda.gov)

In International Dairy Foods Association v. Boggs, the 6th Circuit determined that Ohio’s 2008 law prohibiting the labeling of milk from non-rBST treated cows was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The court based this decision in part on its finding that the two milks were in fact different, thus overruling the FDA’s prior determination. The court cites three reasons milk produced by rBST-treated cows is different: increased levels of the hormone IGF-1, a period of milk with lower nutritional quality during each lactation, and increased somatic cell counts in the milk. The court further noted that higher somatic cell counts indicate milk is poor quality and will turn sour more quickly. (ohioaglaw.wordpress.com)

Later, the FDA advised that milk from untreated cows could be labeled as such, but recommended the inclusion as a disclaimer that accompanying the statement “from cows not treated with rBST” with the statement that “No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non rBST treated cows.” The FDA continues to assure consumers that rBGH is safe for cows and humans, despite evidence to the contrary. (sustainabletable.org)

The FDA, which approved rBST, requires a package insert that lists 16 harmful medical conditions that rBST increases. Some examples: The use of Posilac may result in reduced pregnancy rates, cows injected with Posilac may have small decreases in gestation length and birth weight of calves, may result in an increase in digestive disorders such as indigestion, bloat, and diarrhea, cows injected with Posilac had increased numbers of enlarged hocks and lesions (e.g. lacerations, enlargements, calluses) of the knee, and second lactation or older cows had more disorders of the foot region. In some herds, the use of Posilac has been associated with increases in somatic cell counts, cows injected with Posilac are at an increased risk for clinical mastitis. This potentially fatal mammary gland infection is the most common disease in dairy cattle in the United States. This disease can be identified by abnormalities in the udder such as swelling, heat, redness or pain. Other indications of mastitis may be abnormalities in milk such as a watery appearance, flakes, clots, or pus. "Mastitis 101 – The Basics, UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Extension." (vetmed.ucdavis.edu)

The USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System 2002 study said that “cost and animal health were major concerns” identified in all regions of the country by farmers. A 2008 study on the California dairy industry found that “current and prospective users still had concerns about the effect of rBST on the health of their herds . . .” and in a survey found that 15% of farmers cited high veterinary costs as a “very important” reason for disadopting rBST. (vetmed.ucdavis.edu)

RBST has been shown to evoke a response in all cows that receive it. However, the range of that response will vary among individual animals. In some cows, the resulting increase in milk production will be considerable. In others, it may be less pronounced. A farmer may decide that, in some animals, the cost of supplementation as well as the cost of the increased food and water the animal consumes may not be offset by the increased milk she yields. Cows that receive this hormone typically last only two lactation cycles before they are slaughtered and non-rBGH cows normally produce milk for 4-7 years and can live as long as 10 years. (vetmed.ucdavis.edu)

Despite warnings from scientists, such as Dr. Michael Hansen from the Consumers Union and Dr. Samuel Epstein from the Cancer Prevention Coalition, that milk from rBGH-injected cows contains substantially higher amounts of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1, and despite evidence that rBGH milk contains higher levels of pus, bacteria, and antibiotics, the FDA gave the hormone its seal of approval, with no real pre-market safety testing required. (consumersunion.org)

There are also questions whether hormone residues in the meat of "growth enhanced" animals and can disrupt human hormone balance. rBGH is said to be responsible for a number of health issues ranging from premature puberty in children, causing developmental problems, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer due to the increased antibiotic residues and elevated levels of IGF-1. (Rosenberg)

Children, pregnant women and the unborn are thought to be most susceptible to these negative health effects. Hormone residues in beef have been implicated in the early onset of puberty in girls, which could put them at greater risk of developing breast and other forms of cancer. A recent study found that women who routinely ate beef were far more likely to give birth to boys who grow up to have lower-than-normal sperm counts. Other health concerns, especially in regards to women, is how this genetically modified hormone can interfere with a woman’s sensitive hormonal system and could also affect human reproduction as it is currently doing to cow’s reproductive system. (sustainabletable.org), (copperwiki.org)

In a 1998 assessment by Health Canada (Canada’s equivalent of the FDA) determined Monsanto’s results of their 90-day study showed concern and reasons for review before the approval of rBGH. The unpublished rat study Monsanto supplied to the FDA for drug approval claimed no rats absorbed rBST in their blood stream--hence there was no need for long term toxicity studies--but Canadian scientists who obtained the study discovered that 20% to 30% of the rats did absorb rBST with biggest concentrations in the prostate and there were also thyroid cysts. (Rosenberg)

Both Canada and the European Union explicitly turned down use of rBST due to adverse animal health impacts. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Expert Panel of rBST, set up by Health Canada, found that that use of rBST was associated with an increased risk of various animal health problems: mastitis up by 25%, infertility by 18%, lameness by 50%, and culling by 20-25%. Health Canada announced in January 1999 that it “had to reject the request for approval to use rBST in Canada, as it presents a sufficient and unacceptable threat to the safety of dairy cows.” A scientific committee in the European Union found that “BST use causes a substantial increase in levels of foot problems and mastitis and leads to injection site reactions in dairy cows. These conditions, especially the first two, are painful and debilitating, leading to significantly poorer welfare in the treated animals. Therefore from the point of view of animal welfare, including health, the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare is of the opinion that BST should not be used in dairy cows.” Today, 25 nations of the European Union, Japan, Australia and Canada have all banned the use of rBGH due to animal and human health concerns. (organicvalley.coop)


Nutrient flows from animal production systems are also of particular environmental concern. Only a proportion of the cow's daily intake is captured in milk, with the remainder excreted via feces and urine. Dairy manures therefore contain appreciable quantities of nutrients and production in a ratio that is inefficient in meeting crop nutrient needs. Applying sufficient manure to fulfill nutrient requirements may saturate the soil's production-holding capacity, allowing excess to transfer into water courses via surface runoff and increasing the potential for erosions to occur. (sustainabletable.org)

Carbon dioxide is recognized to be the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas, with emissions from animal agriculture resulting from two main sources: livestock metabolism and fossil fuel consumption. The total reduction in global warming potential conferred by rBST supplementation of one million dairy cows is equivalent to removing ≈400,000 family cars from the road or planting ≈300 million trees. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Fossil fuel consumption raises two major environmental concerns: atmospheric pollution and resource sustainability. As a consequence of the reduced herd population and total feed requirement from rBST supplementation of one million cows, the energy required from fossil fuels (cropping only) and electricity for milk production is decreased by 729 × 106 MJ per year and 156 × 106 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, respectively. To put these figures into context, the savings in gasoline alone would be sufficient to power ≈1,550 passenger cars, each traveling an average of 12,500 miles per year. Furthermore, the total fossil fuel British thermal units (BTU) and electricity savings would provide sufficient annual heat and electricity for ≈16,000 and 15,000 households, respectively. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

To date, the U.S. has yet again allowed Monsanto the freedom to unleash its possibly lethal products on the unsuspecting consumer. And so, it comes down to a battle between the FDA (and its supporters) and those who don’t follow the FDA. Proposed bans on rBGH-free labels are not to protect the consumer, they are to protect Monsanto’s pocketbook.

Manmade chemicals and genetically modified foods pose very serious health issues to your family. This is why it’s very important to learn what chemicals and ingredients are being put into packaged and processed foods in order to take greater control of your health and life and to help to avoid serious health issues.

Purchasing meats in the grocery store is not the only source of concern. Most restaurants, fast food suppliers, and even children’s lunch menus at school are in question. Don’t be afraid to ask where the meat your child is being fed at school comes from, and don’t be afraid to challenge these sources if you don’t agree with them. Anyone who is willing to take up the fight to demand safe food for their families can help diminish some of the problems caused by mass meat production.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Sound and Fury on the Line

by Laramie Bradbury, Culinary Management Degree student Laramie Bradbury

The sound is silent. I can hear myself breathing. Moving at two hundred miles an hour and still standing in the same place. My heart is pounding, creating the drum beat that sets the pace. The machine on the counter sounds like a train chugging away into the night spitting paper out of the top. My brain categorizes the steps to complete the ticket. Call the order out. I wait for my teammates to sound back from different locations in the kitchen. Pull the plates. I set the appropriate plates on the counter as a reminder of the ticket without need to look at it again. My inner monologue repeats the recipe in my head as my arms and hands operate by muscle memory. Heat the pan. It takes a matter of seconds due to constant use-check. Add oil. It reaches the proper temperature in about 30 seconds. Timing is critical, every step I make could be the mistake that stops the whole night. Meanwhile, I reach under the counter and grab pre-portioned meats, vegetables, sauces for sides, etc. Add proteins. I give them a quick toss to evenly brown all sides and add salt. Toss the veggies in. Flame bursts out of the pan, screeching due to the water vaporizing. The flame warms my face and my eyes reflect the flame. I let out a mischievous grin. The flame dies down. Add stock aromatics and a little reduction sauce then cover. Steam bursts through the lid causing it to rock back and forth because the constant use has warped the aluminum. Has the sauce reduced? Taste. Taste. Salt. Taste. 30 more seconds. I grab a hot plate from the oven without using a towel. My skin is as warm as the oven. Sweat beads up stinging my eyes and clings to the rim of my clothes. Slice the bread. Toss it on the grill and lather with garlic oil until warm. One small handful salad, 2oz vinaigrette, giving a quick toss it goes down on the plate. I silently sing the “Meat Song” as I finish the plate “The meat goes down on the bread, then I put the veggies on, it smells so good, through my nose, I want to eat it all night long!” The song changes slightly depending on my mood and the plate. Wipe all of the finger prints off the plate. Set it in the window. It’s followed closely by the plates from the other workers. Ring the bell. Adrenaline is pumping through my veins. I don’t even see who takes the plates – already too busy with the next ticket. The silence is surprisingly loud as the night roars by in the blink of an eye.

(written as extra credit for English 115)

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Poet in our Midst

An Interview with Donald Dunbar, English Instructor in the Management Program

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

English Instructor Donald Dunbar
Where are you from?
I grew up mostly around Ann Arbor, Michigan, and did my undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin. I then escaped the Midwest, which is awful, for Tucson, Arizona, where I got my MFA in Poetry from the U of A. As for my family, I have a younger brother who lives in San Diego and a younger sister in Austin, Texas. My parents live in Michigan but they’re going to try out living in France in 2012.

I was a pretty typical nerd growing up. I loved reading and computers, and got grounded a few times from each (my parents packed up my books at least once). The food scene was pretty great. My mom cooked pretty fantastic dinners every night, and my sister--who’s a culinary school grad--and my brother were both quick learners. I didn’t really start cooking until three years ago when I moved to Portland and started learning from my housemates. I haven’t cooked meat since I spent four hours uselessly torturing shish kabobs in Montana, but I’m an eating-out omnivore.

Nowadays I spend most of my time writing poetry. I’ve published a bunch of poems in magazines, and two little chapbooks online, and co-run a reading series called If Not For Kidnap. When I was a kid I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be into poetry. I thought poetry was stupid and boring. I thought I was going to be a programmer, which I did not think was boring. But I accidentally got into a poetry class and have been doing it ever since.

What was your path to working at OCI?
I had been travelling for about a year after graduate school. I lived alone in a cabin in the Upper Peninsula (Michigan) for three months in the fall. The only time I saw people was when I went to town to get groceries. It was pretty wild. Then I spent the first part of the winter in Florida with my grandfather before going to Europe for three months. I spent most of my time in Germany (where my brother was living) and Portugal, but also visited London and Amsterdam. I mostly travelled by myself. When I got back to the states, I made my way out to Portland.

I had difficulty finding paying work when I first moved here and then again for a summer after the restaurant I had been working at in Northwest Portland closed. After an unemployed summer that was great for my writing but terrible to my bank account, I started looking for work. I was in a cafe with a friend and we opened up the weekly with the Free Will Astrology and both our signs had been circled by someone. Mine read something like “If you spent half as much as much energy on your professional life as you do on your personal life you’ll be a great success.” So for the fiftieth time that summer I opened up Craigslist, but this time found an ad for an adjunct English teacher at Pioneer Pacific in Clackamas.

I worked at the Clackamas campus for ten months or so, and came to OCI to teach one class on loan. As the term ended Chef Wilke pulled me aside and said, “Hey why don’t you come teach for us full time?” The next term I started teaching and sitting in on management classes to better understand the program. From the first class I was really interested, and learned a lot. It was very interesting to learn all these solutions and approaches to the problems I had noticed working at restaurants throughout college, and I got to understand the principles that the management curriculum is designed around. The ethical and sustainable approach to leading a restaurant, the direct involvement with the students that every instructor and administrator has. I was already glad to be here but that’s how I came to feel really proud.

Which classes do you teach?
I teach three English courses and a communications course (Diversity Issues in Communication). I’ve developed each of my classes from the ground up, getting them to really complement the business side of the management program and the students’ pursuit of culinary knowledge. But I’ve also got total control over how I teach, which is very important to me. School was very boring to me when I was growing up.

English 115 is a blast. We basically do a bunch of writing, and rather than try to re-learn formulas we’ve all forgotten, we focus on improving writing skill and learning how to be more active readers. Many of the assignments are focused directly on developing skills necessary for restaurant writing--correspondence, menus, business plans, marketing--but we do a lot of weird stuff in the class. Surrealist writing exercises, collaborative writing, and the final exam... English 121 is called English Composition, and we interpret that through a term-long blog project. Each student formulates a blog project that they design, update, and learn to utilize for professional networking. They’re pretty awesome, the blogs we’ve had so far. Right now there’s a student blogging reviews of Portland food carts, one developing a blog exploring the many aspects of cake creation and sugar artistry, and another one written by a mother of five reporting on the chaos that is her kitchen at home. I could go on. English 221 is a research paper class. Students choose topics related to food, farming, restaurants, etc. and learn skills for structuring a long argument. Topics range from microbrew beer to vertical farms to the raw food movement to traditional food preservation methods. I learn so much about food, all about food, it’s always an education for me too. In Com 150 we discuss food as a major aspect of culture, and develop different ways to understand what make up our cultures and how we and others are affected by that. This knowledge is particularly useful for someone running a kitchen, and I think anyone taking their position of authority seriously should seek to expand their understanding of it.

Why did you structure your curriculum the way you did?
Everyone has got their own skill at communication, and their own goals. This structure makes it so I can help the student identify what those are in English 115, develop them for an audience in 121, and apply them to furthering their own and other people’s knowledge in 221. I’m hearing or reading at least one piece of writing from each student every day in both 115 and 121, and reading various drafts of their research paper in 221. Com 150 then examines how what we value affects how we communicate and how we interpret other people’s communications.

Management students performing a group sketch.
For the most part, the people taking the management program came to OCI to learn to cook or bake. What is their reaction to taking English classes?
Chefs are creative people, so usually most everyone is on board pretty quick. There are a lot of different skill levels, from people who could pretty easily publish stories or articles to people who’ve failed every writing class they’ve ever taken. But there’s so much to discover. Everybody can improve their skill at communication, simply because there’s so many different ways to do it, with so many different effects. Some students get comfortable with the basics and learn to have confidence in their ability to write, and some students further hone the finer points of it. It’s like the term one culinary student who hasn’t mastered knife skills and the term one culinary student who has worked in a profession kitchen for a decade--there’s always more to learn. And I think everybody realizes the importance of good communication skills. The ability to communicate ideas and emotions to other human beings, and to persuade and entertain people, is what separates us from cows.

Do students ever tell you whether or not your classes have helped them?
Oh yeah. It’s a rewarding job.

Do you notice differences between culinary and baking students, or how they get along in class?
No, not really. All classes are built so much on group interaction that by the third day it doesn’t matter what program the student is in. They’re all just management students in my classes.

What do you do when you’re not at work?
Listen to a lot of music.

Where can your poetry be found?
Poetry journals like Action, Yes!, Slope, Poor Claudia, and absent.

Any final thoughts?
Writing is fun when it’s not stressful. Even if you don’t take one of my classes, I totally encourage you to take ten minutes and write something just for yourself. A mysterious package arrives on your doorstep. What’s inside it? What happens then?