April 30, 2014

Culinary Arts student Jessica Nealis invited her father, Paul, to join us at the Austin campus today for her Farm To Table® Roundtable lunch where she and her classmates were able to prepare food from our local farm partners, host those farm partners as guests, and talk with the partners and their Chef Instructor about the Farm to Table® Experience. Paul was nice enough to let me interview him after the meal today and to give us some insight on his perspective as a culinary student’s parent:

Escoffier: Paul, what did you think when your daughter told you she wanted to go to culinary school?
Nealis: Well, I wasn’t very surprised because she was raised in a household were we did a lot of cooking and she always liked to cook.

Escoffier: Were you hesitant at all or worried about the decision?
Nealis: Somewhat. Because when I was young, I worked in a 4-star restaurant and I know it’s a lot of work. But I thought, “If she has that drive, she can do it.” The more she comes home and cooks for us, the more I see that she really has that passion.

Escoffier: Have you noticed any changes in her since she started the program?
Nealis: Oh, yeah. She never leaves the kitchen now! It’s definitely helped her with that drive. I can tell it’s all she wants to do.

Escoffier: What’s your favorite thing about having a future chef in the family?
Nealis: Well, obviously, it’s all the great food! Really though, I think it’s getting a different spin on all the old family recipes we use. I have a brother-in-law who makes this world famous roast beef sandwich and she took his recipe and got away from the canned stuff and said “This is how we’re going to do it” and it came out really, really well (we haven’t told him that part yet). I love that we’re amending those family traditions.

Escoffier: Do you have any advice for other parents sending a kid to culinary school?
Nealis: I think it’s a great thing. Even if they don’t end up working in a kitchen for the rest of their lives, they’re learning such a valuable skill. And the Farm To Table® component really takes it to a new level. I didn’t realize that not everyone is accustomed to gardening and taking the produce from your garden into the kitchen. Being here today kind of showed me that these students are really getting to see the other side of things when they go to these farms and actually work with the land to produce the food they’re going to use to cook. It’s great to see the farmers be so open to take these future chefs under their wing and share their experiences.