|Chef White teaching fresh pasta making|
Personally, it’s taken me a long time to figure out that I didn’t have to be Thomas Keller to be good at what I do and to properly perform a service to the community. And that’s what cooks are, public servants. And we are crafts people more than artists. Crafts are important, and can be just as uplifting as art, but what separates them is that the crafts rely upon consistency, whereas art has the freedom to be more whimsical. When I realized that to be good at what I do, I needed to be a craftsperson and not an artist, it allowed me to add structure and discipline to my approach. When I started a booth at a farmer’s market years ago, I had so many ideas about what to put on the menu. So I created boundaries. Now, I have six criteria that have to be met:
1. It has to be something I want to make
2. It has to be something customers want to purchase and eat
3. It has to be something I’m able to produce consistently and in a consistent manner
4. It has to be of high quality
5. It has to turn a profit
6. The ingredients should be procured locally (whenever possible)
Gales Meadow Farm and give the sauce back to the farmer and she sells it at her booth. Customers sample the sauce on burritos at my booth and we send them to her booth, where they purchase the sauce, thereby supporting her efforts and her farm. This completes the circle. It’s my way of making a commitment to the farmers to support local farms.
In my first term kitchen, when we talk about vegetable cookery, I’ll often bring in a local example of a vegetable that was picked when it was ripe within the last day or two versus something that was shipped – it’s something I want them to understand. The carbon footprint is a lot smaller when you buy things locally, and the flavor value is way higher when it was picked while ripe. Plus, the nutritional value is greater. Being able to support the local economy ensures that we get local product. In the end, so much of what makes good food is about the quality of the ingredients, and knowing how to prepare them in a way that honors the food you are preparing. Add proper technique and skills and the intention to nourish the one you love, and you are guaranteed to make your friends, guests, or customers pleased and nourished.