Posted on Sat, November 01, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Farms and Farming, Seafood,
by Jennifer M. Hall
There was no shortage of story displayed around the room, but as you would hope, the best story was on the plate…plate after plate of Salmon Nation. Al Kowitz, who explained that he went to culinary school (at an age when most are looking to retire!) to learn to cook with local foods, without a doubt taught more than he took away. Yes, he has a better handle on the mechanics now. But what he shared with his peers and instructors about the names, the names behind the names and the flavors of local foods was unparalleled.
Equipped with history as a farmer, Washington State University Extension specialist and doctorate in Communications, Al offered those he touched at Spokane Community College a new relationship with food daily. Not only did he serve ozette potatoes in his graduation menu, he grew them. He was the first student to break stride with the rules and personally source most of his meal. Al made a place at the table for tradition, indigenous culture and creative spirit (see how he plated his courses to match pieces of art).
In the words of one of his instructors, Pete Tobin, Als passion for sourcing local foods stimulated students and faculty to look beyond the current food purchasing paradigm. The Inland Northwest Culinary Academy is a better program when students, like Al, can freely express their commitment to food, while honoring the professions commitment to quality cooking techniques.
As a Slow Food friend and professional colleague of Als, I begged for one of the limited seats to his graduation meal. I dont typically lunch at all, much less like this.
Al gets credit for infusing a culinary school with new eyes and palates toward food, helping lead the Upper Columbia convivium, jump-starting our Spokane River convivium with his community presentation about his 2006 experience at Terra Madre (well before I was ready, mind you) and for quietly, but staunchly fighting for the right of lesser known foods at our tables.
Like the years of life that enrich the flavor of the wild salmon he served, Al shared equally and brought the water hes tasted, the currents hes navigated, the life hes ingested to school. I ask you…student or teacher? Im fairly certain there have never been such coveted seats for a graduation lunch here.