I’m a private chef. Sometimes my new clients are pleasantly surprised when I tell them that I studied international politics in college, and not culinary arts. Yet the transition from studying politics to cooking with local, organic food in private homes is not the windy path that it might first seem.
I grew up in Ohio in a small industrial town surrounded by corn and soybean fields. Mom said that strawberries were too expensive and tasted bad in the winter. It was mostly thriftiness and taste that defined how we ate by the seasons. Yet I learned later that my mom’s common sense actually supported the planet.
Full Belly Farm intern Rawley Johnson watering baby lettuce plants at the farm
From the time I was a little girl, I learned how to cook in the kitchen with my mom. As a young adult I went abroad to live in France and Spain where cooking with local ingredients was the only way most people knew how to cook. My love for local food blossomed as I came into adulthood. I began to make the connection between the farm field and the food on my table.
Full Belly’s baby purple basil plants
Despite this new understanding, I still didn’t know how to reconcile my love for high-quality food with my social justice values. Did I need to abandon politics or food? Interested in nutrition education, I got a job as a health educator working with youth in Oakland. We started a school garden and taught students how to connect food to the seasons. I quickly became aware that the issues were deeper than just individual, healthy choices.
These days, my work is a platform for me to advocate for a healthier food system supported by local farms, like Full Belly. I do all this while nourishing clients with delicious food. I’ve visited Full Belly. I see the positive relationships between the partners that own the farm. I see the way everyone that works there is treated with respec.. Today, almost 10 years after finishing my political science degree, I see the need for my politics to be inherent in my work as a personal chef. Where we purchase the food we eat and if it is accessible are political issues. I advocate for a food system that supports sustainably raised, healthy food in all communities: A food system where people and the planet are deeply respected.
An orchard of fruit trees in spring bloom
I believe so strongly in this link that I created an entire business with the vision of supporting local food systems: The Heirloom Chef.
Here is a link to one of the areas oldest organic farms and personal friends, Full Belly Organic Farm You can order their weekly produce box on their website: