My mom worked so I often had to start the family meal. I did a lot of experimenting with cooking, baking, trying different foods. I liked to cook. I ended up getting a scholarship to Princeton and so I went away to school and as a way to earn money I started catering events. And when I got out of school I realized I needed a skill. I had a great education but no skill.
So I applied to a culinary school in Boston but, in the meantime, a friend took me to Martha’s Vineyard and I fell in love with the place and ended up getting a summer job at this old hotel that had a European-trained chef and he took me on as an apprentice. I figured I’d learn more from this chef than I would at culinary school so I stayed through the winter and then for another three years after that working at different places.
I worked cheffing for about seven years, catering, restaurants, and at a retreat center. It was when I started growing things—and working with the soil—that I realized a lot of what I was serving people, cream, butter, and meat, wasn’t very good for them. That’s when my interest in nutrition began.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work and the biggest challenge?
That’s easy: the best part is going into communities, making relationships, and seeing the light bulb go on around change and how it can improve individual and community health. The toughest part: funding. Now, we get smaller amounts of money for shorter amounts of times with a lot more guidelines attached to it.
Does being in Berkeley help or hinder what you do?
Well personally, it’s great because I live a mile from my job, so I get to walk to work. And it’s a great place to live. But we haven’t worked on a project here in years. Sometimes coming from here is a detriment because so often when people hear Berkeley they think: you have it all made and you have no issues as far as food is concerned.
Any projects of note you’d like to mention?
We work with an American Indian reservation community in Arizona who are trying to return to their traditional foods, both growing them and having them served in their schools and senior centers, foods like corn, beans, desert plants. They even opened their own cafe.