I like food that comes without packaging — preferably just plucked from the ground — and friends who pick up the phone.
I first fell for cooking 36 years ago. I was twelve years old and in the sixth grade. Me and my cronies made applesauce in our home economics class. I skipped all the way home, found some apples and made it all over again that afternoon.
The smell of apples cooking with cinnamon was enough to put me in a foodie trance that I am irrevocably under. Soon after I mastered the omelet and made my parents breakfast in bed more Sundays than they really expected or wanted.
I graduated from first NYU then a few years later, La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, France. I am now spending my time teaching kids. I am the founding chef of four restaurants in Boston and Cambridge (and if you care, I doubt I’ll open another, these sentiments come mainly from my back hind, not necessarily my heart). The restaurants, in order of inception are: The DeLux, Pho Republique, Veggie Planet and Haley House Bakery Café. Haley House where I am currently rooted. It is a non-profit CORI-friendly café in Roxbury, Massachusetts that we opened in 2005. I left the executive chef position in 2008 and now give my creativity and energy to insuring that kids know how to make good grub and can make good grub choices (including homemade applesauce!)
I founded Take Back the Kitchen under the umbrella of Haley House with Kelly Lake in 2007, a non-profit organization that enables inner-city youth to gain cooking skills to help mitigate growing health disparities. I also now work as a consulting chef for the Boston Public Schools developing healthy recipes both for the daily school lunch grind as well as the Farm to School program. I am also the consulting chef for the Boston Public Health Commission helping bakeries and restaurants rid their businesses of trans fats. I am a member of the Mayor’s Food Council but have yet to stand up to the mayor and rant on about Boston’s paltry school food budget.
But wait, there’s more! Keep an eye out for my new cookbook, (Title to come as soon as publisher decides), which will be out in late October 2011. It is about a zany and brilliant 70-year old female farmer who grows the most herbs, weeds, and forages food for chefs, and refuses to enter into a supermarket. It is written season by season and will be very handy for the amateur grower or avid farmers market shoppers. It is being published by Chelsea Green and will showcase my own photographs! Click here for a slide show!
I have authored two cookbooks. My first book, Vegetarian Planet, has sold over 200,000 copies and was nominated for a James Beard award. My second book, Entertaining for a Veggie Planet, did not do as well (I’m not willing to disclose sales numbers but I think the photo of me all dolled up has something to do with it) but it did win both an IACP award and an International Gourmand Award. I was the co-owner of the Veggie Planet restaurant in Harvard Square from 2001 until 2009. Before that I worked at Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston and The Blue Room in Cambridge.
Honors and Awards:
- 2010 winner of the Greater Boston Kimchi Festival
- 2010 winner of Seafood Throwdown at Boston’s first Local Food Fest (link or download Globe article)
- 2009 Gardens for Humanity Visionaries award
- 2004 IACP cookbook award for Entertaining for a Veggie Planet
- 2003 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Entertaining for a Veggie Planet
- 1997 James Beard cookbook finalist for Vegetarian Planet
Everything is fascinating if I have a deadline or need to go asleep. I especially like watching music videos of artists like Neil Young, Dar Williams, and Eric Clapton
Groups, Places, and Movements I Belong to:
- Slow Food USA
- Boston Collaborative of Food and Fitness (BCFF) "We will implement projects in neighborhood with the community partners, (including youth), build community coalitions, and replicate and link these projects across the city, connecting neighborhood work with citywide initiatives. We will leverage WKKF’s investment with in-kind and financial resources from public and private sources. Our strategies serve many goals; categorized in three areas: School Food Systems, Community Food Environments, and Active Living".
- Boston Vegetarian Society: Seeking to make a better world for people, animals, and the earth through advancing a healthful vegetarian diet and a compassionate ethic.
- Chefs Collaborative: Chefs Collaborative is a national chef network that's changing the sustainable food landscape using the power of connections, education and responsible buying decisions.
- Veggie Planet: Harvard Square, Cambridge