Interview with a Grower & a Cook

I am thrilled to introduce Kate Huston: my friend from the Co-Op; mom to Maia Luna, my daughter’s BFF, and foodie extraordinaire. Kate will be joining our 5-day retreats this year as our private chef, starting with the March 7-12 yoga and ski retreat, and including this summer’s June and July Cowgirl Yoga retreats. We’ll savor a healthy, local gourmet meal with Kate, who will also give a talk on being a farmer, along with tips for eating sustainably. Meanwhile, I give you an Interview with a Grower & a Cook.

About Kate:
Kate Huston is the founder of Waywardraven Farms and Personal Chef Services in Bozeman, combining the growing of produce at her farm with her cooking talents. Waywardraven Farms produces gourmet lettuce mixes for the Community Food Co-Op and local restaurants, along with providing produce for several families in Gallatin County. Her personal chef business was derived from a need for locally grown, nutritious meals for people with special dietary needs. Meals are generally cooked with what’s in season, using produce straight from her garden; she also outsources to other local growers and ranchers.

1. What first drew you to food and cooking?
I’ve been a gardener as far back as I can remember…helping my mother in the garden planting, weeding, and harvesting. Along with the gardening, I grew up with both my parents in the kitchen, concocting wonderful meals for dinnertime (almost all meals were made at home and dinner was a very important family activity) and watching Julia Child, Frugal Gourmet and Victory Garden (I was a PBS junkie growing up).
Moving to Montana ten years ago was a big shift for me, as I grew up in Boston, and attended Museum School to study art education. On a summer job in Big Sky, I immediately fell in love with the wide open spaces, the endless hiking opportunities and most importantly, the people with a strong sense of community and stewardship for the land they live on. With great determination I packed up all my belongings and left for Bozeman, where with great luck ended up with a job as a cashier at the Bozeman Community Food Co-Op.

2. Tell us about your experience at the Co-Op.
I’ve been employed there for over nine years, and it was at the Co-Op where my sense of how food is grown and prepared was radically changed. Not knowing what organic meant at the time, I quickly learned the importance of food grown without herbicides and pesticides, and where food was coming from. After cashiering for a year, I moved on to the produce department, where I met a local grower who was looking to pass on her knowledge of growing salad mix; she took me under her wing, and educated me on the fine art of growing greens without herbicides and pesticides, with crop rotations to maintain healthy soil and continue the growing process. I took to it with flourish and started a small farm called Waywardraven on a 1/4 acre, and started to sell to the Co-Op and a local restaurant. A year later I transferred to the deli department, where with great gusto I began my cooking career as a prep/soup/lunch/dinner/brunch cook. Although not trained formally as a cook, I quickly learned and adapted recipes to my own style, and with it came a following of people who loved to eat what I created.

3. What influences shape your food philosophy?
Learning from experience and by observation, knowing how the vegetables were grown and how the meat was raised by local ranchers all was key to understanding how to create delicious meals that are healthy and easy.
Michael Pollan, my guru, once said that a meal should only have five ingredients to complete it and make it good – I try to adhere to that principle, particularly by leaving out hydrogenated high corn fructose food additives that make food taste like something else (I call this “food on crack”, because all of those chemicals seem to have the same effect on people who eat them: can’t get enough of the msg, because it makes you want more but leaves you feeling really awful afterwards).
And lastly, with the birth my daughter in 2005, it really hit home to me how important it is to eat healthy and as local as possible.

4. How does having a farm influence your food philosophy?
While Waywardraven Farms is not certified organic, I steer free of herbicides and pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and gmo (genetically modified organism) seeds. Some of the farm’s natural crop control methods include beneficial insects, weed pulling, crop rotation and bio dynamic use of farm materials. I’m committed to what I call “beyond organic farming”: I hope to raise people’s awareness about what they are putting into their bodies, and to get them to look beyond the meal presented to them and start to ask where, why, and how the food got there, and most importantly, how it will sustain them (and the land they live on) in a healthy way. And raising my daughter on the farm and around food will greatly influence how she will approach eating, and respect for the land she will inherit one day.

5. What’s your absolute favorite meal?
My absolute favorite meal??? Oh boy, so many, but an especially fond food memory from Boston that I use as inspiration for cooking is simple chicken piccata, with herbed polenta and fresh calamari in a red tomato sauce. It was at a small restaurant in the North End; they would get everything fresh from the farmer’s market, and make their own cheeses and sauces. Also, my all-time family favorite is Beef Wellington, that my dad makes every year for Christmas from scratch, and the Bordelaise sauce that goes with it.