Culinary Collection  
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MY STORY

I'll spare you the details of my childhood but suffice it to say that my mom liked to try ethnic cuisines and I was exposed to unusual tastes early on. My Grandfather owned an estate pear ranch [G.H. Anderson Estate] near San Juan Bautista, California and my family had a small garden in the backyard of our home in the East Bay. Both places supplied me with some mighty tasty fresh fruits and veggies. Eating baby carrots fresh from the garden was one of my first food memories.


While the seed was no doubt planted during my early years it, really didn't sprout until I was 18. After traveling to Aspen to visit friends, I decided to hang out for a season and got my first job as a prep cook at Don Giovanni's, a little Italian restaurant in Aspen, Colorado - and ended up staying in town almost five years.


Yes I did ski but my time in Aspen was mostly spent learning how to cook. I was a quick learner and there were a number of very good restaurants there. In the winter the town ballooned from 2,000 to 30, 000. Needless to say, there was a lot of money around and people ate well. My trail of experience led me through the Parlour Car, Maurice's at the Aspen Alps, the Golden Horn, the Copper Kettle, Abbetone Ristorante - ultimately as executive chef at Andre's of Aspen, a very exclusive restaurant and private club. Along the way, I worked with Enrico Salvatore (ex-chef for King Constantine of Greece and Aristotle Onasis), Ermanno Macini (former chef at the Hotel Pierre, NYC), Klaus Christ and Scott Doughty, among others.


I left Aspen to move to the San Francisco Bay Area to - of all things - go to the California Culinary Academy. I was young and impatient, and I wanted to learn everything about cooking as quickly as I could. While obviously much of what I learned was review, I did experience a lot and worked with some great chefs: Jerimiah Tower, Ken Hom, Carlo Middione and Wolfgang Puck. My experience and desire to learn even more built into an unstoppable critical mass and one day I just walked into Chez Panisse and urged the chef of the cafe there, Shelly Handler, to hire me. They weren't even hiring at the time but I told her I would work for free to see if she liked me. To my surprise, I got a call about a week later and began working with Joyce Goldstein in the kitchen. For the next two years I was in heaven. I worked at every station I could (upstairs and downstairs) , absorbing as much as I could. I even took over for Steve Sullivan (of Acme Bread fame) baking for one day a week and, in addition to my other duties, I eventually became responsible for ordering wines for the restaurant.

Chez Panisse changed my food paradigm. Besides the air of creativity permeating the place and Alice's (Alice Waters) contagious energy and enthusiasm, there was this constant undercurrent of uncompromising quality and newness. The menu changed daily and experimentation was the norm. Jean Pierre Moulle, the chef at the time, was extraodinary but so were all the members of the team: Lindsey Shere, Todd Koons, Mark Peel (of Spago and Campanile), Patricia Curtain, Peggy Smith, and Sarah Tenaglia (among others).

Fast forward a few years, after traveling in Europe, going back to college, then dabbling in some other creative endeavors, in 1993 I founded Blackbird Food Company (named after an old Beatle's song). My cooking interests and style had changed considerably since my early years, now focusing on healthier ways to achieve good taste and eliminating excessive sugar, cream and butter from my ingredient selection. I experimented with many products but eventually focused on freeze-dried foods. The purity, healthfulness and texture of the ingredients intrigued me and this type of food was consistent with my committment to encourage people to eat more nutritious foods. I tapped into my culinary experience and created Crunchies®, the first freeze-dried product line specifically positioned as a snack. I went on to develop many innovations in this new snack category, including grilling vegetables to increase their flavor naturally, using protein-rich edamame, creating a proprietary process for seasoning freeze-dried products, creating the first comprehensive organic product line and I even produced the first organic puff dried carrots in the world. The packaging I used, besides having an atypical large window to show off the product, had a unique and 'friendly' look and it was made from a revolutionary material that increased the shelf life by 6 months.

Crunchies® was eventually spun off as a separate company and I divested my interest in early 2008. The Culinary Collection is a line that I created in 2002. It was put on the back burner while I focused on snacks but it has always been a favorite. As a chef, I constantly look for ways to simplify my cooking and still end up with a flavorful dish. This Culinary Collection line does that. Stay tuned for many more innovative culinary products.

While this page has been mostly about my history, the reality is that many people have contributed - and continue to contribute - to the success of my companies. My original staff of Elena, Isabel and later Marta were the backbone of my production for many years. My graphic designer and friend Jeff Harris, owner of Buffalo Bros, and his wizard employee Roy are responsible for bringing my visual ideas to life. In 2002 Christie Communications, my PR firm at the time, got the company some great initial exposure. Greg Hartman and his team at Oasis Sales and Management did a spectacular job of getting the product line launched nationally. Without making this sound too much like an Oscar acceptance speech, I can say that I never could have done it alone. More pictures and information about my teams, both past and present, are on the Team page.