By: Kathryn Dwyer, Culinary Arts Student
One of the major points that attracted me and many of my classmates to Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, the fact that set it aside from the other culinary schools considered, was the focus on sustainable and ethical food production and the farm to table experience. It is a focus that makes the education at Escoffier bigger than just the kitchen; it brings you out of the classroom and into the larger picture of where food comes from and what it means to produce food.
The sustainable and ethical focus during the culinary arts program was a highlight of my classroom education. Discussing the real heart of food, where it comes from and the people who work so tirelessly to produce it, really opened my eyes to the impact the way we manufacture food has on our health and the health of our planet. My chef instructor was incredibly passionate about sourcing ingredients, knowing how food is produced and how that translates into healthy living. He provided us with fascinating lectures, articles and documentaries on everything from sustainable seafood to how the American diet has affected our health. Many of the daily menus during the sustainable and ethical unit were based on “mystery baskets” of produce and proteins that we got to creatively combine into our meals. We were able to translate what we were learning into our daily menus, focusing on respect for the ingredients and our bodies.
While classroom discussion and lecture are wonderful places to start, it was in the practical application of the sustainable and ethical education during the farm to table experience that really instilled its importance. I’m not going to lie; I was apprehensive going into the farm to table program. My cohort was out at the farms in October of last year, following the devastating floods Boulder County experienced last September. Furthermore, this is my first Colorado winter and as our time on the farms began the weather really started to change, snow started to fall and the last place I wanted to be was outside.
The first day was a challenge. We planted garlic in the cold and helped construct giant compost pile made up of layers of fresh manure and produce that was affected by the unsafe, tainted floodwater. It was uncomfortable, dirty, gross work but while we schlepped and shoveled the owner and employees of the farm told us about their experience during the floods. It suddenly became clear that the small amount of discomfort we were experiencing was absolutely nothing compared to the loss they had recently sustained. We touched on the hardships of being a small family farmer in lectures but seeing firsthand how many challenges and how much backbreaking work face farmers everyday, doubled due to the loss and catastrophe of the flood, it became clear what passion and love these people have for the earth and what we eat. I felt honored the farmers were devoting time to us even though they were in the middle of recovering from a disaster that destroyed an entire season of work, and that we could be there in the time of their need to help the little that we could.
We were not shoveling poop and moldy squash everyday, the farm to table experience covered so many aspects of sustainable agriculture, from a recycling center to a goat dairy. We visited a succulent nursery with rare cacti and home where the owner had created a food forest in her backyard, we inoculated sterile sawdust with mushroom spores and learned how to preserve and can food, and one of my favorite days we built a hot water heater from a compost pile! We visited a humane meat processing plant, it was difficult to witness yet fascinating and totally gave me a deeper respect and understanding about how meat is harvested. A few times we prepared meals for everyone on the farm, and at one we created and tested a recipe for farm stand customers using that weeks most in-season produce. We covered a broad variety of topics and places and each opened my eyes to another aspect of what it means to sustainably and ethically produce food as well as how many opportunities exist for people who care about what we eat.
I absolutely feel the sustainable and ethical focus and the farm to table experience are life changing, it is impossible to go back to looking at food the same way. I am sure that with this education Escoffier students will be at the forefront of changing the way we produce and consume food. Having the opportunity get out of the classroom and actually hands-on experience what it means to be a farmer, factory worker, butcher, cheese monger, small business owner, or any one of the important careers we learned about, made the experience at Escoffier much largerthan just the culinary arts. It opened my eyes to so many opportunities and gave me a much deeper respect for food and the people behind it. The farm to table experience and the sustainable and ethical focus were definitely instrumental in making my decision to attend Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, but I did not expect how grateful I would feel for the insight, how much it would effect my daily thinking or how it would shape my dreams for the future.
For more information about our school and Farm-To-Table Program, contact our campuses.
1.866.552.2433 Austin Campus
1.877.249.0305 Boulder Campus