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March 2011

Not all chefs work in restaurants.

Not all chefs work in restaurants. Name this month's Unknown Gastronome and their establishment and you could win a ticket to our next Mystery Meet.

How did you get started in the culinary industry?

After a year of Hotel Management School in Atlantic City, I moved to Santa Barbara, CA. Unable to find a job in a hotel, I took the first job I could find, as a cook. That was it. I changed my major to Culinary and never looked back.

Tell us about the different jobs you've had over the years.

I started at a small cafe making salads. Next, I picked up a lot at a 25 acre resort in Santa Barbara. Banquets were my main focus. Once I finished school, I made the mistake of taking a chef job at a small restaurant. I thought I ready but I was WRONG! Four years in San Francisco put me on the right track. I learned about local and seasonal cooking at Restaurant Lulu, one of my favorite jobs still. Next I worked at Patina in Los Angeles for 3 years. I learned the most intense cooking there. I was promoted to Sous Chef for the catering kitchen. We did everything from small dinner parties to movie premieres to the Emmys. I really did get to see it all. Cooking with friend Suzanne Goin at Lucques helped define my style further.

I started a small kitchen garden during a brief stint at the Mayflower Inn in CT. Arriving in Boston, I knew I wanted a change. I tried a Mon-Fri corporate cafe, no good. Restaurants, I had had enough. An old boss told me about _______ and it was a perfect fit. I know where my food comes from, and who grows it. This is my dream job!

Describe a typical day in your life.

On my days off: kids to school, coaching baseball, guitar lessons, swimming lessons, karate, PLAYING, and plain old family fun. And sometimes some cooking.

At work: write out the prep list for the day's production. Talk to owners about what is coming off the farm for me to use. Planning cooking demonstrations, classes, and other events promoting the farm.

What is your organization known for?

We are a 127 year-old family run farm. We grow almost 200 different vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers using the IPM method (intergrated pest management). We believe in giving back to our customers in many different ways. And we are know for great customer service.

What projects have you been working on lately?

I have been writing articles about vegetables. I would like to continue to expand on this to a larger audience. I have written a book proposal. I have been wanting to write a cookbook for a long time, so we will see what happens. We are also going to tape a few cooking videos for the web. There are a few more projects, but I'm not ready to share yet. You'll have to wait and see!

Share your proudest career highlight with us.

  • Last year we had two "Dinner in the Fields." I have been working on this for 4 years. Bringing people together, in the fields, to eat what is being harvested that day, has been a dream for a long time.
  • Working at Restaurant Lulu when it was named best restaurant in the city (San Francisco).
  • Starting a kitchen garden at the Mayflower Inn.
  • I did a 14-course dinner last spring. I feel that that dinner was the best cooking I have ever done.

What is your favorite dish on the menu at your establishment?

  • Spring: Goat Cheese and Lavender Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables.
  • Summer: Southwestern Corn Chowder. Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho.
  • Fall: Cauliflower and Cauliflower Mushroom Gratin. Carrot and Pomegranate Soup.
  • Winter: Butternut Squash Hummus. Kale, Mushroom, and Squash Lasagna

Tell us about a dish that didn't make it onto the menu at your establishment. Why not?

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Heirloom Tomatoes. People take our food home to eat and this one just didn't travel well. I might have sounded a little out there for some folks as well.

Tell us about the best meal you've ever had.

At my wedding. We had the reception at Primo in Maine. I had worked with the chef, Melissa Kelly and told her she could make anything she wanted to. The variety of flavors was incredible! And she was using produce from their garden, perfect for me. I will always remember that night, for many reasons.

What are some of your favorite Boston restaurants?

Craigie on Main. Pigalle. Anna's Taqueria. Clio. No 9. There are so many great places that I really need to go to.

ANSWER: Todd Heberlein of Wilson Farm

Published March 1st, 2011