April 18, 2014

Janet Rorschach, Chef Instructor

After traveling the world – living and working in places big and small – Chef Janet Rorschach has decided to call Boulder home. We are lucky to have her as the latest addition to our team of Chef Instructors. Chef Janet tells us how an allergy helped guide her to Boulder, shares her love of community, and implores us to “empty our cups.”

Escoffier: You have been to so many interesting places – including the Isle of Man, Copenhagen, Spain, Portugal, and more! What brought you to the Isle of Man?
Rorschach: I was brought there to develop a take away food program at a grocery store chain and lived there for three years. You had to learn about the population and about what they actually wanted to eat. They loved the idea of Italian and French cuisine. And they loved their Indian! What was top seller? They loved their pizzas! But mostly it was very homey British things like puddings and pâté en croûte.

Escoffier: How did you end up in Boulder and teaching at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts?
Rorschach: I’m celiac. I wanted to go live someplace where people were attuned with that eating challenge. I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll give this a shot.” It is a community that is embracing my challenges. And then when I landed in Boulder in 2012, I loved the idea of Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts – fresh food, locavore, and so community minded – I love it!

Escoffier: How does that affect the way you teach?
Rorschach: I can’t always eat the food that the students make so I’m focusing on their technique and ability to grow in their craft: like how they set up their station, how they approach the day, and the ability to have a different way to look at things.

Escoffier: What goals do you have for your students?
Rorschach: I want them to learn how to be present – to be fully present in their project. When you are fully aware of what you are doing, it allows you to self-correct faster like when dealing with measurement conversions.

Escoffier: Any other goals or abilities students will gain under your direction?
Rorschach: First, they will have the confidence to work off of a recipe. They will understand the technique, so when they see a braise (in the recipe) and they know how to execute a braise; they can just do it. Number two, I want to help them organize: the day, their station. What comes first, second…you have a smoother day when you’re organized. Third, when you understand technique and organize your day you actually have fun at what you are doing and are able to engage with the rest of your team. But you have to master the first two first. Four, five, and six: not to burn themselves, cut themselves, or go to the hospital – to make it home safe! (laughing)

Escoffier: What have you learned from teaching others?
Rorschach: There is still plenty for me to learn – you never stop! When I have a free moment, I want to watch [other instructors] teach because I learn so much watching. I have so much more to learn and also to remember. I’ve been in the business for almost 30 years and you forget a lot of things because you get in a habit, so it is important to continue to learn from others.

Escoffier: Do you have a favorite day in the curriculum?
Rorschach: I teach regional cuisine. These days are wonderful! I love teaching about Mexican cuisine. It is one of my favorites because it has been added by UNESCO to the world’s intangible cultural heritage list. Mexican cuisine is about food for the community. Regional cuisine is the perfect fit for me; I enjoy every day. I have this curiosity; I like to know how people eat.

Escoffier: Food for the community – of course you like it! How do you promote community in the classroom?
Rorschach: If I can get students working together as a team, then I am developing community.

Escoffier: What advice do you have for a student entering your classroom?
Rorschach: Empty the cup [free your mind of expectation]. There is so much information that is so easily accessible outside and so many students walk in thinking they know so much already. If your cup is too full you can’t let anything else in. Empty the cup so that we can learn from each other.