I grew up in Taiwan, a small tropical island in Southeast Asia. My memories of grocery shopping in my youth are of walking to the local markets with my stepmom and grandma. We knew the butcher, the vendor who sold vegetables, the vendor who sold fruit, and, of course, the vendor who sold sweets. Grocery shopping was also about connections. Food means a lot more to me than eating.
When I was working at Flour, the movement of Farm to Table has already started. I then worked at Farmstead Table, a Farm to Table restaurant in Newton Center. At Farmstead Table, I never saw any huge trucks from Sysco drop off produce. We worked with local farmers and used seasonal ingredients. If the farmers had some vegetables that were hard to sell, we would purchase them and use them to create some fun dishes. We constantly changed our menu to reflect what was seasonal. We had entire animals, such as a pig, sitting in our walk-in fridge, and then we would butcher the animal and use every single part including the ears. Nothing would go to waste. Yummy sausage, hearty French quiche, seasonal salad with creative dressings, there was always surprise in the kitchen of Farmstead Table.
My philosophy of cooking and baking is to use the freshest ingredients and then let the ingredients speak for themselves with simple recipes. When I use seasonal produce, I always taste the produce first and amend recipes to custom fit for flavor variations. I decide after tasting how much seasoning I want to add into a recipe. For example, if the fruit itself is already very sweet, I may not need much additional seasoning.
At Cooking Beautiful Lee, I source my produce for classes locally whenever possible. I prefer organic ingredients and want to encourage sustainable farming. I design my class menus to reflect what’s seasonal and regional. I want my students to experience seasons handling seasonal ingredients. Supporting local business and farms is also very important to me. I rely on Boston-area shops, such as Formaggio Kitchen and Wine Stone, to help source the best local ingredients to bring to your table. Plus, believe me, it’s more fun shopping at a place like Formaggio Kitchen or Wine Stone than a chain grocery store!