Slow Living Radio brings in the New Year by going back to the ultimate basics. Your hands in the ground, giving life to the food that will eventually grace your plates and the plates of others. What more perfect way to get the year off to a more mindful, healthy, tasty, active and sustainable start! May it inspire you to build your own. We have the honor of three esteemed guests: Graham Kerr, Celebrity Chef, Author, Teacher and now gardener; Aaron Keefer, Culinary Gardener for the coveted French Laundry in Yountville; and Matt Gunn, Farm Manager for the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
Graham Kerr(aka "Galloping Gourmet")
AT THE AGE of 76, Graham Kerr decided to rip out his front lawn and plant a kitchen garden. And with that seemingly simply act, he set out to change the world. Again.
“For so many years I lived in the tyranny of the urgent, with deadline after deadline,” he says. “But planting the garden allowed me to slow down and watch the miracle of life and nature unfolding.”
Knowing how fruits and vegetables grow, “I understand food properly for the first time, so I cook with greater understanding and simplicity,” he says. “Now you can’t hold me down. I finally discovered what enthusiasm for food really means.”
Flash of Silver, the leap that changed my world” is more than a celebrity memoir. It contains a powerful remedy for indifference in just one word…resilience!
Resilience has begun to outstrip “sustainability” as the action to be taken to preserve many species, including our own.
Kerr uses his whole life, so far, to show how consumption habits are often formed and how these can, if taken to excess, become harmful to both individuals and to our planet.
Kerr, as the “Galloping Gourmet” was referred to, during his international TV series, as the “High Priest of Hedonism”. He had learned how to eat, cook and profit from some of the finest and richest foods in the World and he used those gifts with enormous enthusiasm and good humor.
Suddenly everything changed as an accident severed his success with one blow.
Searching for a return to resilience for himself and his family he began an ocean sailing adventure that took them 24,000 miles in 2 years. He learned a whole new way to eat and how to “get to his food fast before someone got there first”.
Then follows one of the most observed U-turns ever made by one man. The Kerr’s went from a conspicuous gourmet lifestyle to that of a small family living their lives beyond immediate self-interest and they did this in plain sight!
Following this radical change, the Kerr’s begin to experience another motive and another voice. Their time at sea had introduced them to a life with less distraction from the media and the resulting value of silence when being “set apart”.
Graham uses the literary practice of the “extended metaphor” to enquire how habits are both formed and relinquished. He does this by comparing his life with that of a wild pacific Chinook salmon. Using poetic license, imagination and good science he asks his readers to hear from the salmon…direct and to see how both man and fish have somewhat similar rites of passage.
They are swept “downstream” where they face continuous discovery, some of which are difficult, some joyful…even hilarious.
At no time is the life of either “narrator” without the twists and turns of the unforeseen when life itself is both threatened and then filled to overflowing with love and being loved.
It’s a wild ride as a faith beyond their immediate self-interest emerges as the scent of their natal river begins to provide direction for their way back home, where it all began.
Aaron KeeferCulinary Gardener
The French Laundry
As Culinary Gardener for The French Laundry, Aaron Keefer grows and harvests specialty vegetables for Chef Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc, and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, CA. The desire for excellence goes beyond Chef Keller’s kitchens—Aaron collaborates on a daily basis with each culinary team to ensure that they receive only the very best produce possible.
Aaron’s path toward working for one of the most respected chefs in the world included a series of serendipitous moments, beginning with his first memory of picking sun-warmed strawberries from his grandfather’s farm in upstate New York at age 5. Growing up in a farming culture, he was exposed to the rhythms of the land from a very early age and understood that cultivating with care translated to delicious and healthful food at the table.
In his late teens, Aaron was drawn to the chaos of the kitchen. He liked the idea that a chef could conduct so many moving parts and distill them onto a plate, and ultimately, into a refined experience for the guest. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he moved to California and honed his kitchen skills under Bay Area Chefs Michael Chiarello from Tra Vigne in St. Helena and Julian Serrano at Masa’s in San Francisco. He subsequently became the Executive Chef at Marin Country Club and was later promoted as its Food and Beverage Director.
His desire to continue learning from the best restaurant in the industry led him to do a kitchen trail at The French Laundry. Part of his training involved spending time in the culinary garden, as Chef Keller believes that everyone needs to gain an understanding and respect for where food comes from.
This immersion rekindled Aaron’s childhood connection and led to his transition from cooking to farming in 2009. Accepting the position of Culinary Gardener last January, Aaron continues to strive on a daily basis to make improvements upon the quality of the produce, the soil, and the grounds, in order to supply the chefs with only the very best.
MATT GUNNFarm Manager
The Culinary Institute of America
Matt Gunn is the farm manager at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone. Gunn is responsible for all functions of the college’s four-acre farm, including propagation, cultivation, crop planning, soil health, harvest, and student coordination and education. The farm is located at the Charles Krug Winery adjacent to the campus in St. Helena, CA in St. Helena. Gunn also oversees the herb terrace on the Greystone campus.
Students pursuing a concentration in American Food Studies: Farm-to-Table Cooking in the CIA’s bachelor’s degree program work closely with Gunn during their semester at the Greystone campus. The students plan, prepare, and serve five-course public dinners on Friday and Saturday nights at The Conservatory restaurant on campus, based upon ingredients harvested from the farm.
Before joining the CIA in 2014, Gunn was an assistant grower at Oakhill Farm in Sonoma, CA. He worked for Bob Cannard at Cannard Farm in Sonoma, which provides produce to Chez Panisse, and he studied under well-respected agronomist Bob Shaffer at Kona Keei Farm in Honaunau, HI.
During his career he also worked at Muleheart Farm and Green String Farm in Petaluma, CA and was a volunteer with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms in Argentina and Washington State.
Mr. Gunn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in literature/writing from the University of California, San Diego. He has served as an Americorps Volunteer with the Conservations Corps North Bay, where he also was a crew leader for the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps.