Learning the culinary arts outside the kitchen in Baton Rouge

Sep 17, 2014

Learning the culinary arts outside the kitchen in Baton Rouge

Rita Salman and Kathy Mullin from the Baton Rouge Herb Society were guest speakers recently at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Baton Rouge.  They spoke to the Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts classes about the Society, how to grow herbs and how to select seeds or buy plants. Students also learned about soil preparation, ideal growing periods, watering, harvesting and cooking with herbs.

Learning the culinary arts outside the kitchen in Baton Rouge

Also in Baton Rouge, students recently made an educational visit to Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's.

Program Director Chef Dusty Cooper explains:

"At Whole Foods, we were assisted by Katie Mingo, the Marketing Team Leader for Whole Foods Market Baton Rouge. Ms. Mingo gave the students a tour of the store, speaking extensively about the Whole Foods initiative to guarantee that farmers and everyone in their supply chain is paid a fair wage. She also let the students know that this includes selling the product for a fair price to the customer.

The students were introduced to Organic Produce and the practices of Whole Foods in this area by Mr. Ivory, the produce team leader. He explained to the students that in order for a produce item to be considered organic by Whole Foods, it must remain completely separate from conventionally grown produce from start to sale. If an organic produce item gets accidentally placed in the bin with conventional items, it can no longer be sold as organic; it must be sold as a conventional produce item.

We left the produce section and traveled around the corner to the fish & seafood market area and met the department Team Leader, Charlie. Charlie discussed Whole Foods Market's values as they relate to the freshness and sustainability of seafood. He explained to the students that even though a fish might be in season and available, Whole Foods will not carry or sell it if it is not harvested in a way that leads to long term sustainability and quality.

Our next stop at Whole Foods Market was the meat department, where the students met Chris, the department's Team leader.  Chris spoke with the students about the way Whole Foods Market processes their meats.  Whole Foods does not purchase pre-cut meat, they bring in the entire animal and butcher it fresh every day in their meat market. This gives them the ability to provide higher quality items at a lower cost than other retailers.
We finished our tour of Whole Foods Market by meeting with Fred, the team leader of the Cheese department. Fred gave us a ton of valuable information about the different varieties of cheeses available. He talked with the students about the differences in cow's milk, sheep's milk, goat's milk and buffalo milk. The students sampled several different cheeses while Fred talked about them. They had a goat's milk brie infused with black truffles that was AMAZING!! We also sampled a sheep's milk gouda, a cow's milk cheddar and a delicious blue cheese.

Learning the culinary arts outside the kitchen in Baton Rouge

After we completed our tour of Whole Foods Market, we traveled to Trader Joe's to learn about wines and the products available in their store.

We were greeted at Trader Joe's by Rynne, a very enthusiastic team member. He immediately asked the students if they had ever sampled Trader Joe's Cookie Butter. Since no one had, he stopped the tour and led everyone to the back of the store to the Trader Joe's sample counter and made sure that we all sampled Cookie Butter. WOW!! Peanut Butter consistency with chunks of cookie blended in (and, oh yeah, they now make an ice cream with Cookie Butter swirls)!

We toured the produce and frozen food sections, learning that Trader Joe's was first developed when Joe was at a food service conference. While at the conference, he learned of the many ways the food brokers and supply houses were raising prices and cheating the manufacturers and end consumers. This led to him creating Trader Joe's, where the middle man has been cut out of the equation and all products are either Trader Joe's labeled or purchased direct from the manufacturer.

Once we arrived at the wine and spirits section of the store, Rynne handed us over to Bryson, the department leader. Bryson was another very energetic and enthusiastic member of the Trader Joe's crew. He discussed the different wine varietals and the blending of wines with the students. He told everyone his favorites and even pointed out that on a Saturday during football season, Trader Joe's sells over 70 cases of a wine that they affectionately call "Three-Buck-Chuck". This wine got its nickname because it costs $2.99 per bottle. Most people would shy away from a wine that inexpensive, Three-Buck-Chuck is an award winning wine that Trader Joe's purchases in bulk. The wine was actually used by a major airline, but has been replaced with mini-bottles on planes. This allowed Trader Joe's to pick up a lot of wine very cheaply and pass those savings on to their customers."