Saying Goodbye

So, I am going to continue this blog but it is changing gears. Since I’ve finished school I won’t be writing about The Natural Epicurean any more, but I am embarking on a new phase of my learning process. So stay tuned and I’ll keep writing about the good things that are happening, maybe a little bit about what is difficult, and also the things I figured out on my journey.

Below: Before my last day of class.


Below: Before my first day of class. It was colder then. 🙂 

Below: I got to address our guests at the culinary showcase we did in our final month of class. 



Business Skills Classes

In our last weeks of class, we had a parade of business instructors teach us about branding, marketing, web presence, accounting, writing resumes, and more. We also got to choose to to spend four days in a smaller group  with either a personal chef, a restaurateur/food product developer, or a food media expert learning the things that would set us up for success in our chosen career goals.

I chose to work with Amanda Love, a personal chef, and she had many great pieces of information which are going to help me get my personal chef business going. It was great to be in a small group with Amanda because we were all focused on doing personal chef work and got to ask her questions which were on our minds.

That time was really valuable and I appreciate her knowledge and encouragement. In some ways it was my favorite part of the whole school curriculum because it was the timing was so right based on what I needed at that time. It’s really helpful to have connections and mentors in life, especially when embarking on career change.

Below: John Moore of BrandAutopsy talking about developing a brand.


Below: Scott Price of SRP Consulting talks about consumer product marketing. 


Below: This guy, Justin Follin, blew me away with his perspective. He came in to talk about public speaking but what he shared with us was useful far beyond communication. This guy is a straight up life guru. He touched on confidence, emotions, duality of self, meditation, and presence. Half the class was in tears by the end, and I mean that in a good way.


Makin’ Stuff Happen

So, I set the intention that this was a week that good stuff was going to happen for me. It seemed to have worked.

I’ve been out this week beating the streets in the Chefmobile, trying to make some connections to promote my personal chef business. I just spoke to a dietitian today who plans to refer me to one of her clients who eats really bad restaurant food for every meal.

Below: Marketing myself like a champ. Next – urinal cakes. I am also trying to see if UT will rename the football arena currently known as Darrell K. Royal Field to Austin Healthy Chef Stadium. I have connections in high places.


This week I went to a meeting for entrepreneurs called the Holistic Chamber of Commerce. Good people and good connections.

I heard back from my externship site this week I’m starting that work Sunday. Not excited about not getting paid for 160 hours of work. But I’ve had a charmed life so far so maybe this evens things out. And it’s kind of how things go in the food industry.

In really great news, I have a personal chef client! I’m going to begin cooking for him at the end of the month. I met him at the school’s culinary showcase we did a few weeks back. I know he’s going to love it, but I need to do well do keep it going. I suppose that’s true of any work you do.

In other news this week, I got word totally out of the blue about participating in a cooking competition with some fun exposure. I’ll say more once it gets firmed up but let’s just say

Last week, I provided a simple fruit parfait with cashew cream for a corporate function. I made a couple of connections that could turn into paid work for me, which is nice.

Below: The budget for serving ware was not very high, but the food was delicious!


And my band, The Sticky Notes, have secured a few gigs through November and we’re having a lot of fun.

Below: Am I awesome? Yes I am. Having tons of fun playing with the band. Check out a promo video.


Below: A stuffed zucchini I made during the week. The green sauce, a cillantro-lime dressing, was from Christy Morgan’s book, Blissful Bites.



Heart Hospital Follow Up

So, I need to catch up on a couple of things…

We made our presentation to the Heart Hospital of Austin. If you recall, we designed some vegetarian menu items for them to beef up their meat-free offerings. And we did a fantastic job! Some tastings were provided.

Below: Some students presenting on the menu items they designed.


Below: The photos-of-your-food movement was in full effect, even among hospital staff.


Below: Megan Anderson, the hospital dietitian, showed us around the meal service area and the kitchen.


Below: Meal trays with the USDA “myplate” imagery.


Below: The lead cook at the hospital, whose name I’m sorry to have forgotten after this time, gave us a tour of the kitchen. She clearly was proud of the work they do, as well she should be. They feed a lot of people in a short amount of time. They keep the kitchen incredibly clean, as well. A lot of us, however, were surprised at how differently such an industrial kitchen functions compared to our little learning kitchen where every little item, including the hand-grated pink Himalayan salt (which – gasp – not everyone has), is done to order and made from scratch.


We learned a lot about the realities of an mass-production kitchen where the target audience is sick and recovering. We also learned a bit about the realities of limited resources and time. I think it will be a challenge for them to implement many of the menu items we proposed. But it’s heartening that they are thinking about their plant-based options and they seemed to be excited by what we showed them.

Green Island Lunch

I’ve been helping out Rebecca, the owner of Green Island Catering (a vegan catering company), and she started making these pre-packed foods. I got to try one – the stacked enchiladas – and it was truly excellent. The portion was huge and it had this creamy cashew-based “cheese” sauce that was so silky and delicious with a little spicy punch. The enchiladas had beans, corn, zucchini, and rice stacked between corn tortillas. The whole thing is gluten-free, too!

Rebecca is trying to get broader distribution, but she is currently selling them through Daily Juice on North Loop. So check it out and let the manager know how awesome it is!


Eating this reminds me of one reason I decided to almost totally cut out my animal product consumption. It’s because eating plant-based food feels so much more wholesome. It doesn’t feel like a brick in my stomach like you get from meat and cheese. Plus you get more nutrients and when it’s well done you get more flavor, like in these enchiladas!



Time is Flying By

Time is flying by.

Rewind six months or so: I quit my job and started culinary school. Probably the boldest move of my life. Back then, I had not much of an idea what I wanted to do except work with food and support people in becoming healthier. I had no idea how to go about that.

If you read the blog, you know that we had a catering event about 1.5 weeks ago, which was a great success. The lead-up to the event was packed with planning. I learned a ton. Since then, I’ve done a few things… Continue reading

Video Retrospective

I’m in my final week of classes here at The Natural Epicurean. I was lucky to be in such a large, diverse, and wonderful class. Heather Dale, one of my classmates, put this video together as a look back on the people we learned with and the memories we made. Watch and enjoy!

NE Class of February 2012 from The Natural Epicurean on Vimeo.

Watermelon Juice

I’ve spent a lot of time with watermelon recently and I discovered during that time that I love watermelon juice. Why? Because it takes that sweetness and ruby red color and distills it into a concentrated fruit nectar that can slake the most intense of thirsts. Vitamin C? Check. Vitamin A? Check. Lycopene, a health protective phytochemical? You betcha. Processed sugar? Not a drop. You will never think about Powerade again.

How to make it?

Start with one juicy watermelon. Seedless or full of seeds – it doesn’t matter.


Next, peel the watermelon.


Then chop the melon into roughly bite-sized chunks. At this point you’re going to need a fine straining device. The cheapest option is to use paint strainers. Don’t worry, it’s totally sanitary. You can wash them in hot water if it makes you feel better.

Below: Buy a couple of paint strainers from your local hardware store. Much cheaper than rice/almond/nut milk bags you get at natural food stores. I think it was about $2.


Put your watermelon chunks into one of the paint strainers and methodically crush the watermelon chunks with your hands as the juice runs out into a large bowl. You could try putting the chunk-filled bag into a bowl and mashing it with a potato masher, too. Twisting the bag helps put pressure on the melon, like wringing out a towel.


Lastly, view the glory of your watermelon juice! Best served really cold, by my taste.





Street Food – Vietnamese Noodles

Just a strollin’ through the downtown Austin farmer’s market, run by the Sustainable Food Center, I picked up some Vietnamese noodles by True Nature’s Child. They make gluten-free breads and have diversified into other prepared foods. I love Southeast Asian foods – Thai, Indian, Vietnamese. This plate featured rice noodles, tamari, peanut, cilantro, and lime – plus a few squirts of sriracha. Fresh and bright, this is what you want on a hot day (NPR recently ran a story on how hot food actually does cool you off).

Below: Spicy and fresh Vietnamese noodles. Goes well with giant foam tinker toys.


Event Day – Pregame Show

Friday was a big day for us, our 100-plus guest catering event. We had planned it carefully but it was now time to execute the plan. I’ll call this post the “pregame show” because I didn’t really capture the event itself very well. I will share photos of that, though.

Below: Unloading our massive order from Central Market.


20120714-121457.jpg Continue reading