Chef mentors students in farm-to-table cooking
Mar./Apr. 2015 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Barbara Arciero
Photos by Matt Salvo
Chef Larry Forgione teaches chefs-in-training at The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena.
Larry Forgione was one of a handful of chefs who led the nation's farm-to-table movement in the late 1970s and early '80s. Now, the widely hailed "Godfather of American Cuisine" mentors a new generation of chefs hoping to carry on the tradition.
"I get inspired every day by them," Forgione said of his students at the Conservatory for American Food Studies, located on the Napa Valley campus of The Culinary Institute of America. "What's not happening here is me dictating the menu and having them prepare it."
Instead, the students themselves develop menus around the seasonal bounty of the institute's farm and grown by a select group of local vendors. At the end of each week, their food is put to the test in The Conservatory Restaurant, which is open to the public.
"You have to learn to use 100 percent of your ingredients," Forgione said. "Total utilization is the success of a farm-to-table restaurant."
Matt Gunn manages The Culinary Institute of America student farm, where students plant, nurture and harvest ingredients to be used in their menus.
The 15-week program offers a hands-on education in which the institute's farm plays a key role: The students plant, nurture and harvest many of the ingredients they cook with.
"Working on the farm is not to teach them to be farmers," Forgione explained. "We want them to develop this incredible sense of respect for farming, and it's for them to understand that your farmers, in many senses, become your partners in restaurants.
"There's one adhering principle that all chefs live by—or should live by—and that is you can't have great food without great ingredients."