In August, 2011, I developed the Institute’s first workshop – Foodcrafting 101. I held my breath, crossed my fingers and hoped that someone would sign up. A handful of my previous-life press colleagues were emailed. Then, I waited.
In order to do something creative in the meantime, I focused on the details. Being a lapsed art director, I busied myself creating graphics, obsessed over the company color (Institute Red, as my assistant director Daniel refers to it) and went a bit OCD creating name badges, curriculum binders and swag.
Two busy years have gone by now, along with many to-do lists, but one thing was never checked off. So finally, welcome the Institute’s new dissemination device – The IDT Blog.
A Moment of Reflection
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have chosen the Institute as your foodcrafting home-away-from-home. You now know a little bit more about me (and will continue to learn more through these posts) and I already know a bit about all of you. This is mostly through spending quality time together around the worktable and stove, but also through our pre-class ritual. Alumni, you know all about this – it’s always the same. We ask each student a set of questions: what’s your name? Where did you travel from to get here? And for extra credit, we ask you to tell us about a foodcrafting success or failure. Quite often, there is an expression of remorse that the food preservation knowledge of your mothers and grandmothers has not been passed down to your generation. We share that remorse, and that, my friends, is one of the reasons the Institute exists today.
Highlights of the Past Year
We expanded our course roster to include a number of new classes; Bread Camp - our first two-day workshop; Preservation Homeroom and Extreme DIY (both two-hour single subject mini-workshops); and KrautFest, which included a brilliant and hilarious PowerPoint presentation by our own Erik Knutzen.
We explored our new fascination with deconstructing commercially processed grocery store items by making our own. We made ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and even a Nutella that we dubbed Domestella for the occasion. Students were excited by our Deconstructed Reuben Sandwich class, which grew out of our popular bacon-curing class. Why make your own ingredients when you could easily give up that responsibility to a processing plant robot? Because things made by hand, in particular by your hands, have what Koreans call Son-maht or "Hand Taste,” the signature of the individual who made them.
Our custom classes also multiplied. Our unique curriculum, teaching style and humor were exported to private birthday celebrations, company team-building experiences and even a bachelorette party! We also began testing a demo-lecture version of our coffee-roasting and cocktail-crafting classes in order to accommodate a larger audience. We plan to include these mini-presentations as part of our Institute on the Road project.
We were featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine and won a Best of L.A. award from the L.A. Weekly for “Best Homesteader Crash Course”. We brought new faculty instructors Zach Negin, Rashida Purifoy, Carmi Paulson, Harriet Hayes, Felicia Friesema and Hae Jung Cho into the fold and welcomed new baby goats into our lives at Mariposa Creamery.
We expanded our programing at the Greystone Mansion, our second location in Beverly Hills. (My running joke is that we only teach at historic estates with the word “Grey” in the name.) The Friends of the Greystone committee (and our friends as well) were inspired to completely restore the servants’ kitchen’s vintage stove, which we can’t wait to start using.
Back to the Future
Speaking of locations, we have begun our search for an additional teaching campus. We will still hold classes at Zane Grey and the Greystone but will add a new location which will include a Foodcrafting General Store, offices and workspace for developing new classes.
The coming year will bring a number of new classes we have in the works. Inspired by the popularity of our Nocino Festival, we'll be adding an Amaretto Festival this summer. If you thought the ceremony of turning green walnuts into a delicious liqueur was positively alchemical, the secret ingredients that go into a traditional, handmade Amaretto liqueur will surprise you. (Hint - no almonds are used in this almond-flavored spirit!)
Other new classes to look for will explore fermented beverages; non-toxic home cleaning products; bath and body products; more cured meats (including a Meat Retreat); Bachelor Home Ec (for the male species and those who love them); a coffee-brewing extravaganza, as well as more of the popular Saving the Season series with Kevin West.
Here’s to the Year Ahead
Let’s stay in touch. I’ll be posting recipes and foodcrafter interviews as well as ideas and suggestions from you. I can’t wait to see what the coming year brings, and I look forward to sharing it with all of you!
Photography Credits: anaisdax.com, dustylu.com, davidkiang.com