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Starting out fresh

  • Zachary Stoller prepares tomatoes to be used in a tomato-cucumber green salad with gooseberry vinagrette at the Culinary Institue of America's The Conservatory at Greystone, in St. Helena, Calif., on September 13, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

When Michael Goldenberg first arrived at the campus of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in May, he was struck by the new smells and aromas in the air.

"Right now it's harvest season, so it smells like grapes and wine," said the 22-year-old enrolled in the CIA's bachelor's degree management program at Hyde Park, N.Y.

But after spending 15 weeks studying at CIA's new Farm-to-Table Cooking program in St. Helena, Goldenberg was most impressed by the flavors.

Farm-to-Table At The Conservatory At Greystone

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"I have never tasted tomatoes like the ones here," he said. "And I never ate a kumquat before."

Led by farm-to-table pioneer Larry Forgione of New York, the program aims to show budding young chefs how to walk the walk when it comes to fresh and seasonal cuisine.

"If you don't start with great ingredients," Forgione said simply, "you're not going to have great food."

Forgione came up with the concept while talking to his friend, New York chef Jonathan Waxman, and started working on a syllabus and course guide with the help of organic farmers like Bob Cannard of Sonoma. The CIA fell in love with the idea and ran with it.

"This is the first program of its kind in the country," said Catherine Parker, a manager-in-training at CIA at Greystone. "The students learn that if you're serving a hamburger in November, you can't put a tomato on it."

The epicenter of the program lies just across the street from the CIA in St. Helena, where Farm Manager Christian Dake has created a beautiful production garden on land provided by the Charles Krug Winery.

Dake, a St. Helena native who has grown heirloom seeds for the Baker Creek Seed Company, transformed the empty lot into a crazy cornucopia of heirloom vegetables and beneficial flowers during the past four months.


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